Warning: This data is written for the 2002 model.

The Camry Solara is Toyota's 5-seat coupe. Aimed dead on at people who want to have their cake, and eat it too -- the people who want a fairly practical car they can comfortably haul their friends/family/victims around in, but still have a remaining twinge of immature hunger for style and sport left in them that their spouse, children, or job failed to crush and extinguish.

The Camry Solara comes in both coupe and convertible models, the convertible option running you about 4-6 thousand US dollars over the equivilent coupe model. The car is not flashy, particularly compared to the Toyota Spyder. It kind of exudes a feeling of "I'm adventurous, but I'm too shy to admit it."

As one may expect, the convertible flavor comes with more costs than just the price tag. Additional weights and supports are placed in the base of the car to compensate for the lack of a roof to rely on as a brace, giving you one or two less miles to the gallon. There is no option for manual transmission as with the coupe, and you are considerably more restricted in your choice of colors. Additionally, the convertibles are in lower production, so you will almost certainly have to endure a wait if you have very specific desires.

The car adopts a definite "snob-mobile" appearance when in white or grey, particularly when given the leather interior or convertible top. Miraculously, it fails to do this in photographs. Actually, Solaras in general fail to appear as they do in photographs, even of the non-promotional variety -- sometimes for better, sometimes for worse.

The Solara (both convertible and coupe) comes in three model grades. A brief summary of the differences in terms of key features as we work our way up the food chain:

It's a worthy note that almost all of the standard features for the SLE are availible as options for the lower grades. The side-impact airbags and traction control will appeal nicely to safety nuts, however, and people who enjoy sitting on cow corpses will find the leather interior very comfortable.

The gas mileage is nothing to write home about.

  • SE: 22mpg in city, 30mpg on highway

  • SEV6, SLE: 19mpg in city, 26mpg on highway

  • Deduct two mpg for convertible models.

A much-copied review floating about the Internet complain of excessive wind noise in the convertible model. In point of fact, the wind noise was very quiet and negligible in all three Solara convertibles I have driven. I suspect the reviewer got a lemon, particularly since he complains of the soft-top letting rain into the car.

Invoice prices for the Solara:

  • SE coupe*: $17,912

  • SEV6 coupe*: $19,999

  • SLE coupe: $22,779

  • SE convertible: $23,428

  • SEV6 convertible: $25,724

  • SLE convertible: $27,957

  • * manual transmission; add $700 for automatic

The Solara is a fairly nice car if you want a coupe or convertible. It's main weaknesses lay in its terrible blind spots (overcome only with great difficulty by strategic orientation of the mirrors), and lack of ability to act as sporty as it looks. Those interested in a car like this would do well to also consider the Chrysler Sebring.

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