Largely due to its solid reputation for quality and reliability, Toyota's midsize Camry has been the best-selling car in America for nine of the past ten years. Although the Honda Accord continues as the Camry's main rival, a host of new sedans, including the Mazda MAZDA6 and Chevrolet Malibu, threaten to chip away at the champion's throne. To keep ahead of the pack, the 2009 Toyota Camry remains one of the most style-conscious Camrys to date, with an abundance of interior room and marked improvements in the areas of steering, braking, handling and ride comfort (although in the sportier SE the tuning is biased more toward crisper handling response). Engine choices include a 158-horsepower 2.4-liter four-cylinder or a 268-horsepower 3.5-liter V6. There's also a hybrid model which is reviewed separately.
YOU'LL LIKE THIS CAR IF...
If you're you looking for a midsize sedan that offers outstanding quality, excellent resale value and a proven record of reliability – and you don't mind driving the same car as millions of other Americans – the 2009 Toyota Camry is for you.
YOU MAY NOT LIKE THIS CAR IF...
If you're looking to stand out in a crowd, the Camry is not the car for you. You can find similar features and a more stylish package in such cars as the Mazda MAZDA6, Saturn Aura and even the equally abundant Honda Accord. All three of these models, by the way, also come standard with traction control, which is an extra cost option on the Camry.
WHAT'S SIGNIFICANT ABOUT THIS CAR
The CE trim is now referred to as the Camry.
The 2009 Toyota Camry drives much like most family sedans, not too sporty and not too soft. The base car tends toward the soft side, but the LE and XLE are crisper and more athletic. Most fun to drive, at least on smooth roads, is the lower and stiffer SE sport model, which has added structural bracing, firmer springs, shock absorbers, bushings and anti-roll bars, better steering feel and even an underbody aerodynamic treatment for enhanced high-speed stability. The latest Toyota four-cylinder engine provides adequate power with good fuel economy, while the muscular V6 is a powerhouse, good for a zero to 60-miles-per-hour burst in less than seven seconds.
OUR FAVORITE FEATURES
Plasmacluster Ionizer HVAC
According to Toyota, the dual-zone automatic climate system standard on the XLE and Hybrid reduces airborne odors, mold spores, microbes, fungi, germs and bacteria inside the cabin by creating positive and negative ions that seek out and surround them.
Star Safety System
The standard integrated braking system includes ABS, Electronic Brake force Distribution (EBD) and Brake Assist (BA). Seven airbags are also standard, but Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) with traction control is optional.
Like the exterior, the Camry's interior is more modern and stylish than in past versions. The windshield base is far forward, allowing for a low two-tier instrument panel. The seatbacks feature a slimmed-down design and front-seat adjustment travel is generous. The Camry's interior measurements equal or in some cases better those of the Honda Accord, offering more rear seat head room and legroom, and on XLE trims, a reclining rear seatback. Instruments are large and legible, with differing illumination depending on the trim level. The controls are easy to read and operate, storage cubbies are plentiful and there are two 12-volt outlets in the console.
The 2009 Toyota Camry's appearance is a departure from the upright styles of previous generations. Sharing Toyota's swoopier new sedan look with its larger stablemate Avalon and upscale cousin Lexus ES, the Camry's length is unchanged, but its stance is more stable with its wheels pushed farther toward the corners. Its hood, flanks and decklid surfaces have a complexity and character not seen in previous Camrys, and its headlights are the high-tech projector-beam style. Toyota calls the Camry "athletic and modern," and we don't disagree, although the sporty SE, with its lower ride height on bigger wheels and tires, black honeycomb grille, smoked headlamps and aero appendages, looks much more athletic than the other models.
NOTABLE STANDARD EQUIPMENT
The base Camry offers power mirrors/locks/windows, air conditioning with a pollen filter, cruise control, tilt/telescopic wheel, auto on/off halogen headlamps, daytime running lights, 60/40-split fold-down rear seat, 16-inch wheels and six-speaker 160-watt digital audio with CD-MP3 and auxiliary input jack. Standard safety features include Toyota's Whiplash Injury Lessening (WIL) seats, four-wheel disc brakes with Antilock Braking System (ABS), Brake Assist and seven air bags. The uplevel LE adds an eight-way power driver's seat, remote keyless entry and the option of a V6 engine. The top-level XLE adds alloy wheels, 440-watt eight-speaker premium audio with six-disc CD and Bluetooth, dual-zone automatic climate control, leather interior (V6 only), wood-grain trim, a power moonroof, four-way power passenger's seat and a 40/20/40 reclining rear seat (with fixed center pass-through).
Probably to encourage buyers to move up to other models, the only substantial option available on the base Camry is the highly recommended Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) with traction control, which is also available on LE, SE and XLE. Additional major options for most of these models include a JBL premium audio system with Bluetooth, power moonroof, leather interior, heated seats, navigation system and the "Smart Key System" with push-button start (on the XLE with V6).
UNDER THE HOOD
The 2008 Toyota Camry features a standard DOHC 16-valve 2.4-liter Variable Valve Timing "with intelligence" (VVT-i) four-cylinder engine and an optional new DOHC 24-valve VVT-i V6. The Hybrid model marries a 147-horsepower Atkinson-cycle version of the four-cylinder to a 40-horsepower electric motor.
2.4-liter in-line 4
158 horsepower @ 6000 rpm
161 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 21/31 (manual), 21/31 (automatic)
268 horsepower @ 6200 rpm
248 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4700 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 19/28
2.4-liter in-line 4 with Permanent Magnetic Synchronous Electric Motor
147 horsepower @ 6000 rpm / 40 horsepower @ 4500 rpm (187 combined horsepower)
138 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4000 rpm / 199 lb.-ft. of torque @ 0-1500 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 33/34
The 2009 Toyota Camry has a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starting around $20,000, which includes destination, a four-cylinder engine and a five-speed manual transmission. The sporty SE starts around $22,500, while the XLE V6 stickers for close to $29,500. The Hybrid starts around $27,000. Toyota believes its strong reputation and resale values justify aggressive pricing, so be sure to check the New Car Blue Book Values to see what consumers are actually paying. We project that the Camry LE will retain an excellent resale value over time, beating by a wide margin the values of both the Ford Fusion SE and Chevrolet Malibu.