Narrow California 1, the Pacific Coast Highway, clings to ramparts of the Santa Lucia Range along the Big Sur Coast high above the Pacific Ocean. The breathtaking route, chiseled into steep slopes dotted by towering green redwoods with a white mist hovering above the expanse of Pacific blue currents, extends for a hundred miles from Carmel-By-The-Sea at the northern tip to Cambria at the southern tail.
|1. Toyota offers an optional V6 for all Camry LE, SE and XLE trim levels.
2. The 3.5L V6 makes 268-hp, with fuel economy rated at 19/28 mpg (city/hwy).
3. SE models come with an aero kit, 17-inch wheels and a sport-tuned suspension.
4. All 2010 Camry models feature a slight redesign with a new front grille, larger front air intake and new headlights.
5. V6-equipped models start at $25,315, with the SE V6 priced from $29,770.
Spectacular vistas of mountains and sea along the convoluted coast lure a multitude of tourists each summer and the route often clots with sightseeing vehicles which reduce the flow of traffic to a snail’s pace.
However, on one morning so early that most Big Sur travelers are still snoozing, we find a clear lane down the Pacific Coast Highway while steering the latest edition of best-seller Camry, the Kentucky-built mid-size sedan from Toyota.
A SPORT CAMRY ON THE OPEN ROAD
Our shapely Camry SE (’09 mode shown), containing a new 3.5-liter V6 engine and more sophisticated equipment for safety, navigation and comfort than you can quickly enumerate, takes over the winding road, dominating the asphalt with rock-solid stability expressed through precisely carved turns and spurts of speed down the infrequent straightaways.
Not only does the car propel its riders in a confidence-inspiring manner, but it envelops them in an elegantly stylish package that contains a host of safety gear and luxurious cabin features to position the car close to the realm of Lexus, Toyota’s elite upscale line.
The Camry’s exterior package is sleek and shapely, yet it reflects subtle lines and subdued paint shades in the manner of an upscale vehicle. With a dominant face and broader grille there’s also a larger lower intake valence for 2010 to further increase the car’s aggressive stance – something past generations of Camrys most certainly never had.
The headlights are new as well and the taillights have a slight redesign for this mid-cycle refresh.
LEXUS DNA IN THE CAMRY
The Camry’s ride quality has traits of a luxury vehicle. A four-wheel independent suspension with MacPherson struts up front and dual link aft seems firm yet forgiving even on irregular pavement like the bumpy blacktop we encounter on the PCH winding down the coast toward Cambria.
And Toyota has tapped into the Lexus bag of NVH (noise, vibration, harshness) tricks to insulate and isolate the passenger compartment of the Camry from external discord and mechanical chatter.
Elaborate safety systems, either passive or active, appear as standard equipment with this car. The cabin is surrounded by hidden air bags; up-front inflators for front seats plus seat-mounted side air bags and one more to shield the driver’s knee, then curtain-style air bags tucked above side windows front and back.
On tap to help stop the vehicle are four disc brakes tied to the anti-lock brake system (ABS) with electronic brake-force distribution (EBD). Additional electronic vehicle controls include vehicle stability control (VSC), which corrects lateral skidding, plus traction control (TRAC) to check wheel spin and a brake assist (BA) system to add maximum braking pressure during an emergency stop.
V6 POWER IS TOP-OF-THE-LINE
Much as before, the Camry is offered in five trim levels including: Camry, LE, SE, XLE and Hybrid. The Camry Hybrid features a 2.4-liter, 4-cylinder engine and Hybrid Synergy Drive system to make187-hp.
The standard powertrain for the Camry is a new 2.5-liter in-line-four engine that produces 169-hp at 6000 rpm, plus 167 ft-lbs of torque at 4100 rpm. It also gets a six-speed automatic transmission for maximum fuel economy. In keeping with the SE’s sporty nature, it gets a more potent version of the same engine with 179-hp and 171 ft-lbs of torque.
A 3.5-liter V6; Toyota’s 2GR-FE engine, becomes the optional power upgrade for Camry’s top three tiers; LE V6, SE V6 and XLE V6. It romps with 268-hp at 6200 rpm and the torque pushing to 248 ft-lbs at 4700 rpm. All V6 models come with a six-speed automatic with intelligent shift control and sequential shifting, helping to deliver a reasonable 19/28 mpg (city/highway) rating.
The Camry SE V6 stocks plenty of gear; from power controls for windows, door locks and mirrors, to cruise control, a tilting leather wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, unique sport fabric seats and front/rear cupholders with a center armrest.
The sporty Camry SE has the chassis dropped with taut suspension tuning and a body kit with front and rear spoilers and rocker panel moldings plus 17-inch aluminum wheels and 215/55/17 tires to help give it that more dynamic driving experience you might want for a drive on PCH.
Unfortunately, the Camry is more luxury than sport, even in its sportiest SE trim, with a cushy ride and overly relaxed steering.
Pricing for the SE model starts at $24,405 for the 4-cylinder, and rises to a more significant $29,770 for the V6.
Since its first appearance in 1983, each successor in the Camry line has enjoyed significant improvements in the four critical areas of comfort, safety, fuel economy and roominess. The 2010 Camry SE V6 offers all the benefits of a regular car, but adds a bit of a sporty flare to lessen the impact of driving a practical, family sedan. Think of it as having your cake and eating too.
2008 Honda Accord EX-L Navi Review 2010 Ford Fusion Sport Review 2009 Mazda6 Review 2009 Nissan Altima 2009 Hyundai Sonata Review 2009 Chevrolet Malibu Review 2010 Suzuki Kizashi: First Drive 2010 Dodge Avenger Review