The 2008 Toyota Camry LE goes from snark fodder to a downright respectable choice for this car shopper.
I never thought much of Toyota Camrys. As a long-time favorite of the much older drivers in my neck of the woods, I never gave the Camry a second glance. Plain. Boring. Stodgy. Frumpy.
And popular. The Camry is one of Toyota’s best sellers and a leading contender in the busy mid-size sedan segment, so they can’t suck that much. I mean, really.
My neighbor’s son-in-law has his 2008 Camry LE up for sale and I’m feeling my way back into the car market.
What did I have to lose? I made arrangements for a test drive.
My community is the perfect test chamber for a car: the streets serve up a combination of wide open stretches, hills, speed bumps, crappy conditions, cul-de-sacs, and even a roundabout thrown in for good measure.
While the car lurched a bit during initial acceleration (red flag #1) it had no trouble darting up the winding roads on my way to a hilltop housing tract where most of my testing would take place.
The 2.4 liter, 158 hp 4-cylinder engine handled the uphill haul well with little to no fuss.
The Camry was nimble as I worked my way up the curving road. I love cars that offer a smooth ride while being agile and sure-footed at the same time. Good road manners do count.
While the cabin wasn’t as quiet as I had hoped, it was still bearable.
Once I reached the top of the hill, I headed for a cul-de-sac. Front wheel drive cars are prone to CV boot issues, and I wanted to rule that out from the beginning. After a few tight turns in a circle left and right, with radio off and windows down, there was nary a peep. Sweet. Onward.
The steering was tight, and this car has an excellent turning radius, something I missed from my Volvo-owning days. Braking was another story as the brakes were grabby (red flag #2).
The car had a distinctive pull to the left (red flag #3) as I drove a straight line with hands off the wheel. Low tire? Crappy alignment? A future million-dollar fix? Hard to tell without a thorough pre-sale workup.
Vanilla interior, thy name is Camry
The interior was dutiful and bland, but holy moly, was it spacious. I could easily seat two tall adults in the back seat with plenty of head and leg room, sloping roofline be damned. The driver’s seat was a perfect fit. I had plenty of head and leg room.
The plain interior has an upside: it serves as a canvas for some personalized touches. I could easily make this car mine with some simple tweaks.
Controls in the center stack were well-placed and ridiculously easy for me to use. I popped in a Strauss CD and the sound quality was glorious.
However, visibility in this car isn’t just bad, it’s terrible. Had I not been as vigilant as I was, I easily could have sheared a fender or two while backing out of a parking stall. Rear visibility is just awful. I would need lots of road hours to get used to it.
I deeply and sincerely hope to hell subsequent Camrys have better visibility. Thankfully, backup cameras are now standard as of this year.
Aside from the car’s drawbacks, I found it to be a likable, potentially viable option for a driver like me. Of course, the thought of shouldering both repair bills and a loan payment made me sick to my stomach; over 93000 miles on the odometer, so an eventual big-ticket fix isn’t that far-fetched. Eep.
Stay tuned, as the seller and I will be arranging for a pre-sale workup and I’ll be digging into the maintenance records.