The Toyota Camry may well be the best selling car in America but it is also head and shoulders above most of the pack in the race to be named the dullest car in the land.
Even the newly redesigned 2007 Camry has lots of, well there is just no other way to put it, dull moments.
The Camry that Toyota gave us to test drive is a 2007 4-door LE sedan. With a handful of options, the Camry costs $24,728 with an advertised fuel economy of 24 miles per gallon for city driving and 33 miles per gallon on the highway.
We drove the four-cylinder Camry along the same roads and almost the identical distance as we drove the Prius the week before and the car achieved 32.4 miles to a gallon.
The Prius, you may recall, produced 43 miles to a gallon.
We had asked Toyota for the non-hybrid alternative to the Prius and Toyota told us the Camry is that car despite our protests that the less expensive Corolla is a more suitable Prius alternative.
Since they are Toyota's test cars, we took their word for it. So here is the match-up between the Camry and the Prius.
Easy on the Knees
The Camry seems to be aimed at aging baby boomers whose knees are starting to wear out. The car is easier to get in and out of than the handicapped shower stall at a health club. When the comfort and ease of driving is combined with the car's innate boredom, one begins to think about keeping a supply of Red Bull at hand to maintain focus.
The driver's seat has the hint of a lumbar support built into the backrest and there are airbags everywhere you look.
No fewer than three sets of airbags are spread around the Camry as well as a special airbag for the driver.
There is the driver and front passenger advanced airbag system know as SRS, driver and front passenger seat-mounted side airbags, front and rear side curtain airbags, and a driver's knee airbag.
Along with the airbags the car comes with ABS and the child restraint or LATCH system is standard as well as direct air pressure monitoring. The test vehicle also came with the $640 optional vehicle stability control with traction control.
The updated Camry may be dull but it is safe, at least on paper.
It's dependable too. Over the years, the Camry has gained a reputation for dependability as one of the best-built cars on the road. The Camry sales success suggests people like the package even though the car is not an adventure to drive.
Our test drive of the Camry LE demonstrated a car that is straightforward and easy drive with no surprises. In short, good transportation for gridlocked city and suburban driving. The car seems engineered to deal with heavy traffic while not appearing to be the least bit threatening to all of the other people stuck in traffic. This is an important feature to help avoid road rage in short-tempered areas like Southern California and the Washington, D.C., region.
By the end of the week, we were almost persuaded that the Camry really is Toyota's conventional alternative to a Prius. We drove the four-cylinder Camry 278.8 miles producing 32.4 miles to a gallon over the same roads and distances as the Prius, which produced 43 miles to a gallon.
The Camry we tested sells for $21,080 without options. Our test car carried $410 worth of aluminum alloy wheels, a $1,000 JBL sound system, $940 of power moonroof and personal lamps, $650 for stability control with traction control, $199 for a trunk carpet and $449 for satellite radio.
The total sticker price was $24,728.
Both the Prius and the Camry stack up as good people movers in traffic-choked metropolitan areas. The Prius is designed to move people with a high level of fuel efficiency. The Camry is designed to move people with a little more comfort while surviving the wear and tear that constant gridlock can inflict on a car.
Nevertheless, the Prius costs almost $800 less than the Camry and given a choice between this Toyota Camry and the Toyota Prius, I would choose the Prius hands down.
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