Toyota seeks to shed vanilla image of top-selling Camry

Monday, January 9th 2006, 3:18 pm
By: News On 6

DETROIT (AP) _ Seeking to put an end to the idea that the No. 1 selling car in the United States is too vanilla for many who drive it, Toyota on Monday unveiled the fully redesigned 2007 Camry.

The new Camry has a sleeker, more refined look, with a lower roofline and longer wheelbase than its predecessor. It will come in five models, four of which are scheduled to hit dealer showrooms in early March. The fifth is the first hybrid version of the Camry, which is expected to go on sale a few months later.

``Camry's new style is athletic and elegant,'' said Don Esmond, Toyota Motor Sales USA's senior vice president of automotive operations. ``It is infused with new energy and is better proportioned.''

Pricing is expected to be announced later, but Esmond said the new Camry will maintain the Toyota tradition that each new Camry should offer better value and more car for the money than the previous one.

The Camry has been a perennial top seller, with 2005 figures showing it was the best-selling car in the United States for the fourth year in a row, and eight of the last nine years. It again topped sales of the Honda Accord and other mid-size competitors such as the Chevrolet Impala.

Since it was introduced in the fall of 1982, Toyota said it has sold more than 6.5 million Camrys in the United States.

Like many of its counterparts, the Camry has evolved from its boxy and utilitarian beginnings to a more stylish exterior and refined interior. But reliability, affordability, good gas mileage and improved safety have been among the key factors in its continued popularity.

``We went from basing our decisions on what is the definition of a Camry to focusing our energies on what a Camry can be,'' Esmond said. ``For the first time in a long time, designers pushed the styling envelope.''

The new Camry is designed to give the feel of a bigger interior. And it has optional touches in the XLE model that include fabric coated with a substance extracted from silkworm cocoons that's billed as a moisturizer with natural healing properties, meant to be gentle on the skin that touches it.

The standard four-cylinder, 158-horsepower model is expected to get 24 miles per gallon in city driving and 34 on the highway, while mileage for a 268-horsepower V-6 is estimated at 22 in the city and 31 on the highway.

The 192-horsepower Camry hybrid is expected to get 43 miles per gallon in the city and 37 on the highway.