Introduced as sportier siblings to the mainstay midsize Camry sedan, the Toyota Camry Solara coupe and convertible quietly enjoyed a reputation for being reliable, well built and pleasantly styled, if not excitingly so. For most family sedans, such qualities are certainly considered desirable, but when it comes to coupes and convertibles, we think that a little fun and pizzazz should figure in as well. The Camry Solara never offered much in terms of excitement, but that didn't prevent it from being a popular choice for a midsize two-door.
For both generations of the Solara, rear-seat room was generous and safety ratings and feature content were impressive. Smooth four-cylinder or V6 power resided under the hood, and overall the Toyota Camry Solara was reasonably priced and offered great value considering all that it delivered.
If you're looking for a sport-oriented coupe or convertible, the Toyota Camry Solara isn't going to be your best choice. And the most recent Camry Solara convertible's traditional fabric top can be seen as a bit dowdy given that many competing models from the same time period offer retractable hardtop designs. But if you treasure overall quality, value and comfort, there are few coupes or convertibles that put it all together as well as the Camry Solara.
Most Recent Toyota Camry Solara
The most recent Toyota Camry Solara was the second-generation model and was sold from 2004-'08. It was based on the 2002-'06 Camry sedan and was available as a midsize coupe or convertible in SE, SE Sport and SLE trim levels.
The standard engine on the Camry Solara coupe was a 2.4-liter four-cylinder rated at 157 horsepower and 158 pound-feet of torque, mated to either a five-speed manual or a five-speed automatic (four-speed prior to '06). Optional on coupes and standard on convertibles was a 3.3-liter V6 rated at 210 horses and 220 lb-ft of torque. Prior to 2007, horsepower ratings will appear to be greater; however, this was due to a change in the way horsepower is measured rather than an actual output change. No manual transmission was available with this smooth engine, but the automatic was a modern five-speed with a manual-shift gate for those who like to select their own gears. On the road, the Toyota Camry Solara's suspension tuning delivered a comfortable ride. The added stiffness of the SE Sport model gave it enough capability to provide some fun through corners while still maintaining the civilized ride quality of the other models.
The base SE was decently equipped with most modern convenience features, while the Sport version added a firmer suspension, 17-inch wheels, an exterior body kit, xenon HID headlights and unique interior trim. The top-drawer SLE provided a few extra luxury-oriented standard features. Major options included stability control and a navigation system (which was upgraded for '07).
The Solara's front seats offer plenty of room for even the tallest drivers, but the rear seats are still best reserved for short trips. While Solara coupes can seat three passengers snugly in back, the Camry Solara convertible can accommodate just two. The Solara convertible's standard power top could be raised and lowered in just 10 seconds, and it stowed neatly under a tonneau cover that matched the color of the interior.
Past Toyota Camry Solara Models
The Camry Solara originally debuted for 1999 and was produced through 2003. Mechanically, it was related to the 1997-2001 Camry sedan. Toyota hoped its new two-door would appeal to consumers who wanted the style of a sporty car but the room and comfort of a larger, more practical vehicle. In the first year, only the coupe was sold, but Toyota added the convertible version for model-year 2000.
For this Camry Solara's run, Toyota offered the familiar SE or SLE trim levels. Initially, Toyota offered either a 2.2-liter, 135-hp four-cylinder engine or a 3.0-liter, 192-hp V6. Either engine could be had with a five-speed manual transmission or a four-speed automatic. For 2002, Toyota introduced a new 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine with 157 hp. Revised front and rear styling was also introduced that year. For 2003 and beyond, Toyota discontinued the manual transmission option for the V6.
At the time, we commented favorably about the Toyota Camry Solara's roomy cabin and smooth engines. Downsides included a lack of driving or styling excitement and the absence of some higher-end features, such as stability control and a navigation system.