2011 Toyota Camry Review and Prices
- Recall crisis triggered a drop in gold-standard resale value
- The family car driving enthusiasts try to avoid
- Dashboard displays for climate controls fade from view in bright sunlight
The 2011 Toyota Camry is the best car for you if you’re liberal-minded enough to drive a conservative car – and haven’t lost faith in Toyota.
The 2011 Toyota Camry is a rerun of the 2010 Camry and carries over the mild facelift and more powerful four-cylinder engine included in its “mid-cycle” freshening. All 2011 Camrys incorporate throttle-pedal modifications designed to prevent unintended acceleration, the problem that forced Toyota to recall millions of cars, pickups, and SUVs during early 2010. Included in the recall were 2007-2010 model-year Camrys and residual values -- one of Camry’s historic strengths -- tumbled as a result. Toyota badly mishandled the response to reports of unintended acceleration in its cars. But we believe the automaker is taking the appropriate steps to protect its reputation for reliability and that the 2011 Camry belongs on any midsize-sedan shopping list.
Should you buy a 2011 Toyota Camry or wait for the 2012 Toyota Camry? Wait for the 2012 Camry if you want the all-new, next-generation version of a midsize car that’s defined good transportation value. The 2012 Camry will also be further distanced from Toyota’s recall catastrophe, and that should benefit its residuals. Buy a 2011 Camry if you’re in immediate need of a roomy sedan whose main surprise may be just how refined it really is. The 2011 Camry should carry juicy discounts as Toyota tries to make up for sales lost during the recall and as dealers clear inventories for the all-new 2012 model. The best way to get the full value from a 2011 Camry would be to keep it for more than six years or so, beyond the point at which resale prices would be tarnished by the unintended acceleration mess.
2011 Toyota Camry Changes back to top
Styling: The 2011 Toyota Camry will carry over appearance changes given the 2010 Camry, the first for this design generation since it debuted for model-year 2007. As before, Camry comes in a single four-door sedan body style that begins with a base CE model and climbs through the volume-selling LE trim, sporty SE grade, and top-of-the-line XLE model. Slotted between the LE and XLE is the 2011 Camry Hybrid. Style changes associated with the 2010 mid-cycle freshening were mild. All models got gently revised grilles and all but the Hybrid gained larger headlamps and revised taillamps. New wheel designs were part of the updates. Camry’s styling doesn’t look dated but it might look dowdy next to aggressive new sheet metal worn by the redesigned 2011 Hyundai Sonata and the fresher face of the 2010 Ford Fusion. To distinguish the Camry SE model from other Camrys Toyota gives it’s a black instead of silver grill, fog lamps, and subtle aero body addenda. Dimensionally, the 2011 Camry is square in the middle of the midsize-sedan field, but it makes wonderfully efficient use of cabin space. Camry is Toyota’s best-selling car and for calendar 2009 – before the unintended acceleration controversy – it was America’s top-selling car, too. Its basic structure is engineered to serve Lexus, Toyota’s premium division, where it’s the foundation for that brand’s most popular car, the ES 350. That helps account for Camry’s uncommon ability to isolate occupants from unwanted noise and unpleasant road surfaces.
Mechanical: The 2011 Toyota Camry will continue with two conventional gas powertrains and a gas-electric hybrid system. All models have front-wheel drive, which places the weight of the engine and transmission above the front tires, a traction benefit in slippery conditions. Camry’s four-cylinder engine is rated at 179 horsepower in the SE model, 169 in the other trim levels. All but the CE are available with a 268-horsepower V-6. The four-cylinder engine comes with a six-speed manual transmission or a six-speed automatic; the V-6 comes only with a six-speed automatic. The 2011 Toyota Camry Hybrid teams a four-cylinder gas engine with an electric motor for a net 187 horsepower. It saves gas because it can drive at low speeds on electric power alone and can automatically shut off its engine at idle, then immediately restart it at a touch of the gas pedal. The hybrid system uses a continuously variable automatic transmission and recharges itself with no plug-in required. All 2011 Camrys come with four-wheel antilock disc brakes an antiskid system. Also known as vehicle stability control, antiskid minimizes chances of sideways slides and teams with standard traction control, which enhances grip away from a stop. The SE model has a firmer, sport-tuned suspension.
Features: The 2011 Toyota Camry will boast a standard-equipment list that covers the comfort and safety essentials, with a nice dollop of convenience-tech, too. Air conditioning is standard, as is a steering wheel that tilts, telescopes, and has audio buttons. Cruise control, a height-adjustable driver’s seat, and power windows, locks, and mirrors also are included even on the base CE model. All but the SE have split-folding rear seatbacks. Every 2011 Camry comes with head-protecting curtain side airbags. Leather upholstery, power sunroof, navigation system, and remote engine start are among the options, though not all are available on every model. Optional or standard on every model is an audio system that includes Bluetooth hands-free phone connectivity, integrated satellite radio, and USB linking for iPods and other MP3 devices. The 2011 Camry Hybrid has Fraichir cloth upholstery, a combination of silk protein and synthetic fiber that Toyota says is gentle to the skin. Camry SE models come with 17-inch alloy wheels. All other Camry models have 16-inch wheels, with XLE models sporting alloys and CE and LE having steel wheels with plastic wheel covers.
2011 Toyota Camry Test Drive back to top
From behind the wheel: Drive it like you understand it, and no other midpriced midsize can match Camry’s refinement. That said, no 2011 Camry will never be confused with a sports sedan. This car aims for -- and delivers with great success -- a stable, predictable driving experience. The four-cylinder engine satisfies virtually any everyday acceleration need, and the smooth V-6 exceeds most.
Except for the ability to move silently at low speeds and shut off at stops, the 2011 Camry Hybrid performs much like the conventional four-cylinder model, so its fuel-saving character is pretty transparent. Its continuously variable transmission, or CVT, performs the duties of an automatic but with a rheostat-like delivery of power rather than with stepped gear ratios. With all the benefits of Camry’s sound design and only a few exterior badges to call attention to its gas-electric powertrain, the Camry Hybrid is a fine way to go green without broadcasting it.
Any Camry can be legitimately criticized for going a little heavy on the Novocain. Steering is numb and feathery light. In fast turns, CE, LE, XLE, and Hybrid models suffer tire squeal, nose plow, and pronounced body lean. The Camry SE’s tauter suspension tuning enhances road feel and quells some body lean, but the antiskid system tends to activate prematurely for a car with sporty ambitions. It dampens engine power and applies braking well before the SE approaches maximum cornering grip, frustrating the driver’s capacity to use this model’s higher handling limits.
Dashboard and controls: Camry’s main gauges are big and vividly illuminated. Dashboard controls operate with uncommon smoothness. Certain displays can frustrate, however. The instrument panel monitor that shows climate system settings can wash out in bright sunlight. And touch points on the navigation screen double as audio controls, needlessly complicating their use.
The Camry Hybrid comes with a dashboard screen that can illustrate the real-time energy flow between the gas engine, electric motor, nickel-metal-hydride battery pack, and even the brakes (where friction is tapped to recharge the battery). It’s entertaining, but potentially distracting.
The interior of the 2011 Camry is bright and airy, but running your hands over the instrument panel and cabin walls reveals some lightweight plastic panels. It’s far from a deal-breaker, but does reveal some cost-cutting that Toyota would do well to correct for the next-generation Camry.
Room, comfort, and utility: This is what a five-passenger midsize car ought to feel like. Camry’s seats strike a rare balance between support and softness. Head room is generous all around. Only if a front seat is rolled all the back to accommodate a truly tall driver or passenger is rear leg room compromised. The rear bench is plenty roomy for two, and three adults fit if they’re willing to rub shoulders. A nearly flat rear floor aids comfort.
There’s no excusing Camry’s shortage of steering feel, but the payoff for modest cornering limits is a suspension that soaks up bumps with only distant notice of their passage. This sedan is composed at highway speeds, too, though you’ll need to be in an SE model to avoid mild porpoising motions when the road surface gets wavy.
Camry’s cabin breaks no ground in small-items storage space, but does furnish a sizeable glovebox and front center console and sufficiently useful bins and door pockets. The trunk swallows a family of four’s weekend luggage but the lid’s intrusive hinges will crush bags placed in the corners.
2011 Toyota Camry Prices back to top
The 2011 Toyota Camry’s base price range is $20,480-$30,130, which represents an increase of about 1.5 percent over 2010-model-year prices. The 2011 Camry’s base prices start slightly below comparable models in the lineups of such key rivals as the 2011 Honda Accord and 2011 Chevrolet Malibu and marginally over those of similar 2011 Ford Fusion models. However, all these cars are subject to frequent factory incentives and benefit from tough dealer competition. In addition, options can cause actually transaction prices to vary significantly.
Base price for the 2011 Toyota Camry CE model (Toyota sometimes refers to this as the “base” or “Standard” Camry) is $20,480 with manual transmission and $21,530 with automatic. (All base prices in this review include the manufacturer’s mandatory destination fee. Toyota’s fee for the 2011 Camry is $760. The fee may vary for Toyotas purchased in Southeastern and Gulf states.)
Base price for the 2011 Toyota Camry LE with the four-cylinder engine is $21,935 with manual transmission, $22,958 with automatic. The 2011 Camry LE with the V-6 engine starts at $25,650 and comes only with automatic transmission. Among standard features the Camry LE model adds to the CE is remote keyless entry and a power driver’s seat. And all Camry V-6 models have chromed-tipped dual-exhaust outlets.
The 2011 Camry SE base price is $23,250 for four-cylinder models equipped with manual transmission and $24,250 with automatic. The 2011 Camry SE V-6 starts at $26,241 and comes only with automatic transmission. Among standard features the Camry SE adds to the LE model are the 17-inch alloy wheels, unique exterior trim and seat fabric, leather-wrapped steering wheel and gearshift knob, aluminum door sills and pedals, and – for additional structural rigidity – a fixed-back rear seat with a center pass-through instead of a folding seatback.
The 2011 Camry XLE base price is $27,010 with the four-cylinder engine and $30,130 with the V-6; all XLE models come with the automatic transmission. As the top-of-the-line Camrys, XLE models include in their base price heated mirrors, a power moonroof, fog lamps, dual-zone automatic climate control, power driver and passenger seat, and Homelink integrated garage-door transmitters. Also standard on XLE models is a leather-wrapped steering wheel that incorporates auxiliary audio, Bluetooth, and climate controls. The 2011 Camry XLE four-cylinder models have the Fraichir cloth seating fabric while XLE V-6 models have leather upholstery; both get imitation-wood cabin trim.
The 2011 Toyota Camry Hybrid’s base price is $27,335. It’s equipped similarly to the Camry LE model.
Among notable options, available on the Camry SE, XLE, and Hybrid models is a voice-activated DVD navigation system that displays on its dashboard screen a rearview backup camera. Depending on model, the navigation system costs $1,080 or $1,700. Bluetooth cell phone and music-streaming connectivity and the USB iPod port are included with the navigation system and also with the optional audio-system upgrades available on the LE, SE, XLE, and Hybrid models.
Among other extra-cost features, the power moon roof is optional on the 2011 Camry LE and SE and costs $890 on four-cylinder models and $480 on V6s. Leather upholstery is optional on automatic-transmission SE models, on four-cylinder XLEs, and on the Hybrid; cost is $670 or $1,210, depending on model. Options exclusive to the XLE include remote keyless entry with pushbutton start and, on leather-upholstered versions, heated front seats.
2011 Toyota Camry Fuel Economy back to top
EPA fuel-economy estimates for 2011 models were not released in time for this review, but don’t expect 2011 Toyota Camry mileage ratings to vary from the 2010 numbers. That means the 2011 Camry with both the 169- and 179-horsepower versions of the four-cylinder engine should remain among the most fuel-efficient midsize cars, with EPA ratings of 22/33 mpg (city/highway) for manual transmission, 22/32 with the automatic.
Fuel economy ratings should also be unchanged for 2011 V-6 Camrys, at 19/28, and for the 2011 Camry Hybrid, at 33/34. All Camrys use regular-grade 87-octane gas.
2011 Toyota Camry Safety and Reliability back to top
The 2007-2010 model-year Camrys were subject to a safety recall to fix gas pedals that were hard to depress, slow to return, or remained partially depressed. These Camrys also were eligible for Toyota-furnished replacement driver-side floor mats to prevent interference with the accelerator pedal. Some 2010 Camrys prone to brake fluid leaks also were recalled.
Publicity surrounding these serious safety issues was in stark contrast to Toyota’s image as a builder of dependable automobiles. The recalls targeted several models from Toyota as well as from the company’s premium Lexus brand. Sales of affected models fell, and prices of used examples dipped. Evidence that consumer confidence in Toyota and Lexus is permanently damaged, however, will take years to determine.
In the near-term, the safety recalls did not have an effect on some base-line measurements of safety and reliability, including government crash-test ratings and the most widely respected customer satisfaction ratings.
Government crash-test ratings award a maximum five stars for occupant protection (safercar.gov). The 2011 Toyota Camry earns the maximum five stars for driver and passenger protection in a frontal impact, and five stars for front- and rear-passenger protection in side impacts.
In its most recent surveys, which involve model-year 2009 vehicles, J.D. Power and Associates ranked Toyota about average among all car brands for overall quality during the first 90 days of ownership. J.D Power (jdpower.com) is the leading automotive consumer survey firm. The 2009 Camry also was rated about average in initial quality by owners surveyed.
For overall dependability -- measured as problems encountered by owners of three year old vehicles -- the Toyota brand received the highest possible marks in J.D. Power’s survey. Similarly, owners of the 2006 Camry awarded it top grades for dependability during the first three years of ownership.
2011 Toyota Camry Release Date back to top
The 2011 Toyota Camry and 2011 Toyota Camry Hybrid went on sale in early 2010.
What's next for the 2011 Toyota Camry back to top
Toyota’s model cadence pencils in the next-generation Camry as a 2012 model. Economic tribulations can alter timetables, of course, but Toyota needs to defend Camry’s position as America’s best-selling car. The competition isn’t sitting still, and chances are slim that Toyota would take any chances by delaying a Camry redesign.
The seventh-generation Camry is certain to return as a four-door sedan, probably slightly longer and wider than today’s model, and with a bit more interior room. Expect four- and six-cylinder engines with perhaps a fraction more power but almost certainly better fuel economy. Toyota considers its space-age Prius hybrid a midsize car, but that doesn’t preclude the return of a Camry Hybrid for those who want to save gas and cut emissions without calling quite so much attention to themselves.
The Toyota Solara was basically a two-door coupe and convertible version of the Camry, and some new iteration is probable unless Toyota decides projected sales volumes simply don’t warrant it. Indeed, think of the Camry’s core engineering as a stem that supports several offshoots, including Toyota’s recently revamped flagship, the 2011 Avalon sedan, the Lexus ES 350 sedan and RX luxury crossover SUV, and the latest offshoot, the 2011 Toyota Venza crossover. Introduced for model-year 2009, Venza plays the role of a Camry station wagon, but goes SUV-trendy with a high seating position and available all-wheel drive. Look at the flavor of Venza’s aggressively swept-back sheet metal for a preview of the next-generation Camry’s styling.
2011 Toyota Camry Competition back to top
Honda Accord: If Camry’s the default conservative choice, Accord is the go-to pick for athletic road manners in a midsize car. Accord paces Camry with four- and six-cylinder gas engines, but isn’t available with hybrid power. Honda offers Accord as a roomy sedan and as a coupe with a cramped rear seat. Both are highly satisfying on the road thanks to Honda’s engineering-centric approach to design. Accord is due for a mid-cycle freshening for model-year 2011, with the next all-new version expected in model-year 2013.
Ford Fusion: With deft model-year 2010 updates to power, styling, and features, Fusion noses ahead of the Chevrolet Malibu as the top all-around American-brand alternative in the midsize category. Fusion comes only as a sedan, but offers four- and six-cylinder power, available all-wheel drive as an alternative to front-wheel drive, and a state-of-the-art hybrid rated at a class-topping 41/36 mpg. Fusion won’t be fully redesigned until after model-year 2012.
Nissan Altima: A restless teen to Camry’s middle-age mature, but just as roomy as the Toyota and priced competitively. Altima’s styling is clean and aggressive. Handling and acceleration are selling points but at the cost of a little too much road and engine noise. Altima comes as a sedan and as a less-roomy coupe with four- and six-cylinder power and, in California and selected Northeastern states, as a gas-electric hybrid sedan. Mild appearance and equipment tweaks for model-year 2010 will carry Altima to its next full redesign in model-year 2012 or 2013.