Walkaround and Interior

By June 11, 2007

Walkaround

Boring and bland are out. Flash and dash are in. Well, maybe not quite, but the 2007 Toyota Camry design is more laid back, less boxy.

The front end is fresh, with sharp points, curving cut-lines and entertaining surface planes. The hood dips broadly across the middle, pushing visual heft out over the bold front fenders. The grille wears a Toyota emblem prominently above softly slanted, horizontal slats. The one-piece fascia blends all the diverse elements into a smooth aero-look that's several steps away from the pro forma, overly inoffensive, just-another-midsize-car-from-Japan look.

The side aspect is less fashionable, somewhat bulky looking with a high beltline, symmetrical windows and square doors, graced with a barely discernible character line running through flush-mounted door handles. The wheel openings are circular, which on a car with a lower profile might suggest sporty intentions, but on the Camry draws attention to the vast expanse of sheet metal between them and instead whispers, “sedate.” An odd, but increasingly popular, miniaturized rip on the BMW 7 Series squared-off trunk lid finishes the side profile.

That bustle-like hump gives the trunk's trailing edge a minimalist aero-lip that invites the inference it's there to reduce rear lift at high speeds. The SE boosts this inference with an honest spoiler. An oversize Toyota emblem perches atop the license plate recess. Proud taillight lenses mirror the headlights' outline, angling down and inward across the trunk lid seam to end in sharp points that stylistically mesh with the curved lower lip of the license plate indent, again closely tracing the pattern set by the headlights and grille. The bumper wraps around the back end, seamlessly capping the corners beneath the taillights and sweeping over and under to a soft, horizontal indentation that, on the V6-equipped models, finishes in cutouts on each end for the chrome-tipped, dual exhausts.

Interior Features

While the outside of the 2007 Camry has been touched with a splash of pizzazz, the inside has been brushed with shades of elegance. The treatment is not quite up to, say, Lexus-level luxury, but especially in the top-of-the-line XLE, the new Camry definitely raises the bar on mid-price, midsize sedan interior polish.

Everything about the new Camry's interior speaks refined function. Speedometer and tachometer are large and circular, easy to scan, save for brief periods at dusk and under certain types of street lighting, when the luminescent instruments on all but the SE can wash out to the point they're almost unreadable. Those in the SE, which are black on white, avoid this eye-straining fade.

Controls for audio and air conditioning are easy to control, clearly labeled and logically positioned in the center stack, with audio above and climate below. A welcome touch is separate on/off switches for the audio and navigation system. This is a departure from most other systems today, which have a single on/off switch, meaning if you want the nav system but no audio, you have to crank the volume all the way down.

Cup holders and assorted covered bins and cubbies are located conveniently about the center stack and console. A large glove box spans the lower dash between the center stack and passenger door. Only the front doors get map pockets, which are fixed, hard plastic. A similar material forms the magazine pouches on the backside of the front seatbacks. A covered storage bin in the fold-down center armrest in the rear seat doubles as cup holders; on the SE and XLE, it conceals a pass-through to the trunk. Despite a fully finished trunk, there are no pull downs inside to spare fingers the grime and grit that can accumulate on auto bodies in winter.

The cabin is trimmed in a brushed metallic finish in the CE, LE, SE and Hybrid. Real-looking wood grain is used inside the XLE, including surrounds for the inside door latches. The fabric upholstery combines breathable, waffle-texture insets with smooth bolsters and backing. The leather upgrade isn't quite kid glove, but it does feel expensive. Seat bottoms are markedly short on thigh support, however. And the mouse fur-grade headliner disappoints.

Much of the two inches added to the wheelbase of the 2007 Camry over the '06's has been translated into more room for people, although not necessarily in quantifiable, industry-standard measures. On paper, rear seat legroom is up by only half an inch, but a redesign of the rear seat floor space and of the base of the front seats has delivered more usable foot room. Front seat legroom is up a miniscule tenth of an inch, but front seat travel has been increased by more than a half-inch. This may not sound like much, but it's a couple clicks on the manual track, or a tap or three on the power button and that makes a big difference in our sense of roominess. The dash has been pushed away from the front seat, giving the cabin a more airy feel.

Rear seat passengers in the XLE enjoy a luxury heretofore unheard of in the class: reclining seatbacks. This latter feature exacts a cost in trunk space, which in the XLE drops by more than 2 cubic feet from the '06's quite respectable 16.7. The 2007 Camry CE, LE and SE models offer 15 cubic feet of trunk space.

Tempering the feel of roominess in the new Camry are direct comparisons with the competition. Today's midsize sedans are roomy vehicles. In headroom, for instance, the new Camry betters only the Chevrolet Malibu in both front and rear seats; it matches the Ford Fusion, but trails the Honda Accord and Hyundai Sonata by almost an inch and a half in front. Camry loses to all four in front seat legroom. Camry offers more rear legroom than the competition, however; only the Malibu tops it and only by a fraction of an inch. Camry is mid pack in hiproom, about equaling the Accord and Fusion, beating the Malibu but trailing the Sonata. In trunk capaci