Toyota made some additions to its Camry line this model year. But thank goodness the automaker didn't tamper with the Camry's solid, quality feel.
The test car, a 1988 Camry Deluxe V6 sedan, showed that even with a new power plant, the Camry preserves its admirable reputation. In a 1987 survey by the California research firm J.D. Power & Associates, the Camry was rated No. 1 in customer satisfaction in its market segment.The survey was based on responses from owners of 1986 Camry models. In addition, Motor Trend magazine gave the Camry high marks last year, saying in part: What we loved best about the Camry was the quality feel. Solid and well-engineered.
Consumer Reports also rated the car highly. A survey showed 1984-86 models performed much better than average when comparing repair reports. The magazine also noted the Camry has been one of our top compacts for several years.
That helps explain sales of 186,633 Camry cars last year, up 23 percent from 1986's 151,767. Toyota notes that 66 percent of U.S. Camry buyers choose the car for its dependability.
Company spokesman Edd Snyder said Toyota had no projections for 1988, but the automaker has built a plant in Georgetown, Ky., to produce Camry cars. The first Kentucky Camry rolled off the line in May. Regular production starts this summer, with 20,000 expected to be built this calendar year. The plant's capacity, however, is 200,000 vehicles annually.
Since their introduction in the 1983 model year, Camry models have been imported from Japan. Buyers' median age is 43, with median annual income of $48,000, the auto company says.
Seventy-six percent of Camry buyers are married, 60 percent are college graduates, and 58 percent are in managerial or other professional occupations, according to Toyota, Japan's largest carmaker.
Fifty-one percent of the buyers are male.
For 1988, Toyota has added an optional V6 engine as well as an all-wheel-drive model. The lowest-priced Camry starts at about $11,000 and has neither of those features.
Toyota says among the Camry's major competitors is the Ford Taurus, which also comes with an optional V6 engine and is priced about the same as the Camry Deluxe V6 sedan ($15,000 to $16,000), when the same features are added.
Another competitor is the Honda Accord, which resembles the Camry on the outside, except the Camry does not have retractable headlights.
The 1988 Camry Deluxe V6 sedan test car was comfortable, and comforting. It was easy to slip into and drive off in - there was nothing really surprising.
Instead, the ride just confirmed the Camry's reputation as a solid, pleasant, all-around car. The dashboard gauges were large and easy to read. The suspension was stable but also afforded a cushioned ride.
The engine, the first four-camshaft, 24-valve V6 mounted transversely in a front-drive car, was superb, especially in overdrive. A driver could turn on the overdrive with a button on the gear selector and thereby boost fuel economy and get a smoother, quiet ride.
The test car had a four-speed automatic transmission. Cloth upholstery was neatly styled. Fit and finish outside was just as pleasing.
The trunk was spacious, while the rear seats might be snug for three adults. Leg room in the back was adequate if the front seat was up nearly all the way and OK to cramped if the front seat was back all the way.
There was a pullout, two-cup holder below the front-seat ashtray that was a thoughtful touch. The driver also could lock all the doors and turn off the power windows with switches on the driver door arm rest.
The only part of the Camry that took some getting used to was the automatic shoulder belt system. After a driver enters the car, shuts the door and turns on the ignition, the front seat shoulder belts automatically follow a track across the door and move to the body. The belts allow free movement, but retractors lock the belts automatically in a sudden stop or impact. The belts also move back away from the body when the door is opened.
I got hung up in the belts a few times, until I got used to them. My purse got hung up among the belts a few more times. And, because of my size - 5-feet-4 - the belt rested annoyingly against my neck. I pulled it down a bit to move it to a better position. (And even with the automatic shoulder belts, front seat passengers have to manually put on their lap belts.)
Another problem in the Camry also may have to do with my size. I moved the driver seat up a ways to comfortably reach the pedals. But then the remote trunk release and fuel filler door release buttons were nearly under the driver seat and difficult to reach. Still, those are small complaints for an otherwise well-thought-out, pleasant car that seemed easy to live with.