2007 Toyota Camry LE review: Making it in Manhattan

2007 Toyota Camry

2007 Toyota Camry

Manhattan wouldn’t seem a likely test drive venue for the 2007 Toyota Camry LE. The streets, running across the island, are narrow and clotted with delivery trucks and other double parkers. And on the avenues, our test Camry LE had to contend with suicidal cabbies, pavement surprises and the gridlock caused by drivers who believe that their going that way will be helped by blocking people going this way.

One would think, then, that there must be better places to test the 2007 Toyota Camry LE, Manhattan being such a car unfriendly place.

Well, unfriendly Manhattan was not. Inhospitable, perhaps. But New Yorkers were distinctly taken by our baby blue—ok, Sky Blue Pearl—Camry LE. The parking lot attendants near the Jacob Javitts Center raved about the Toyota and its styling. Toyota designers had nailed their goal of ridding the all-new 2007 Toyota Camry of the stodgy exterior of its predecessors.

Then there was the bicyclist on Central Park West who, while we were stopped at a light, couldn’t take his eyes off the Camry. Or maybe its driver. The light changed, thank you, and I’m picking up my wife at the Museum of Natural History. We head south on Columbus Ave. and 9th and then wend our way over to Rockefeller Center and a parking garage in Midtown where expensive cars are not uncommon.

Much attention was given to the 2007 Camry on the way, and it received a nod of approval from the attendant at the garage under some building somewhere about 51st and 6th Avenue. He parked it up front where he could keep an eye on it. Do valets in California treat Camrys that way? Have valets—or garage attendants—ever treated any Camry that way?

We’re impressed. The new Camry is sleek, with a body-color grille and slicked-back headlamps, curves and a wedgy profile. The interior follows the same theme. It’s Camry on an acid trip. The dash top melts into the center stack, flowing over the dash front like a Dali pocket watch. The speedometer overlaps the tachometer, and on our Camry LE, the audio system controls are backlit in soft turquoise pastel. Most peculiar, Alice.

However, the 2007 Camry is still a Toyota, so there’s the usual plethora of bins and cubbies for your assorted oddments: a slide-out tray to the left of the steering wheel, a larger bin on the center console, two more on either side of the center stack, a “garage door” bin below the HVAC controls, plus an 12v plug and an “aux” plug for the audio for whatever cutting edge accessory audio unit you have.

2007 Toyota Camry headlamp

Headlamps on the 2007 Toyota Camry headlamp are swept back.

The Camry LE’s front seats are supportive for everyday driving and the back seat comfortably chair height with extra toe room under the front seat for generous legroom. The seat fabric in the LE is grippy but the beige and diamond pattern is the elevator music of upholstery. There’s an odd bin molded into the back of the center armrest, not big enough to hold anything and too horizontal to keep anything in.

 

Toyota increased interior room by shoving the wheels further towards the corners, increasing track and wheelbase, while keeping overall length the same. At the same time, Toyota engineers increased chassis stiffness, and that combined with the 2007 Camry LE’s compliant suspension that over Manhattan’s, um, sometimes uneven street surfaces gave a ride that a New York cabbie would have trouble putting into words. Or at least into English.

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John is a veteran auto writer, first published in Custom Rodder magazine in 1980. Since then, he has been published in all the big car magazines, including Car and Driver, Road & Track, Motor Trend, Auto Week, Automobile, plus a variety of others, including but certainly not limited to Automobile Quarterly, Collectible Automobile, and Special Interest Automobiles. John’s work has also been featured in a number of consumer and general interest magazines such as Consumers Digest, Popular Science and others. John has written four books, including a history of the Mazda RX-7 (selling for more out-of-print than it did new), buyers’ guides for Mazda, Datsun/Nissan and Volvo cars, and is co-author of 365 Cars You Must Drive with Motor Trend editor Matt Stone, and his work has been translated into Italian, Estonian, Portuguese, Russian, and Bulgarian. John is recipient of the prestigious Ken Purdy Award for Excellence in Automotive Journalism, awarded by the International Motor Press Association, and the Golden Quill from the Washington Automotive Press Association. John has three adult daughters and has been married for more that four decades to Mary Ann, Distinguished Professor of Mathematics at East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania.