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2002 Toyota Camry Solara REVIEW

Edmunds.com logo Edmunds.com 4/6/2017

Con: Expensive, Camry name doesn't inspire visions of excitement, no manual offered with SLE trim.

Pro: Roomy cabin, convertible version, reliable Camry genes, delectable V6.

Edmunds Say: Stuck on the old Camry platform, the Solara coupe offers little when compared to all-new '02 Camry and its modern features, unless you want a convertible.

What’s New: More power is in store from a new 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine. On the outside, Toyota has added a redesigned front grille and bumper, new headlights and taillights and a bolder rear bumper. A new appearance package (only available on the SE Coupe) includes alloy center caps for the wheels, a three-spoke perforated leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, black trim and Black Pearl emblems. Rounding out the changes are standard daytime running lights, optional seat heaters (coupes only) and a trunk-opener function for the keyless remote.

Review: Toyota has an all-new 2002 Camry this year, and it looks to be significantly better than the previous one. While the 2002 Camry Solara has "Camry" in its name and has freshened front and rear styling, don't be hoodwinked; the Solara is still built on the previous Camry platform, and will likely continue this way until the Spring of 2003.

Is this a bad thing? Not necessarily. With its own distinctive sheetmetal and a convertible roof option, the Solara does have its own particular attributes. Available in two trim levels, SE or SLE, and in your choice of coupe or convertible formats, Solara looks like a promising package. Under the hood you will find either a 2.4-liter 157-horsepower four-cylinder engine (new for this year) or a 3.0-liter 192-hp V6.

Either engine can be had in the SE model, but the premium-grade SLE comes only with the V6 and an automatic transmission. For buyers looking to get the maximum "sport" out of the Solara, the SE V6 with a five-speed manual is your best bet. Note that the Honda Accord Coupe V6 does not offer a manual transmission, or a convertible top, for that matter. Yessireebob, Toyota does give the consumer a wide variety of choice.

For handling duty, Toyota takes the previous Camry's basic suspension and makes it stiffer by increasing the damping rates and adding a brace that joins the front strut towers together. It also reinforces the transom between the trunk and the passenger compartment and stiffens the front and rear suspension mounts for improved overall body rigidity. Additionally, the Solara features a steering system that is more sport-oriented than the Camry's. However, the Solara is still geared for comfort. If you're looking for true handling excellence, check out the Celica or even the sport-tuned '02 Camry SE.

The interior is quiet and full of high-quality switchgear laid out in a logical manner. Cloth upholstery is standard, with leather available on SLE models. The pricey convertible features a power folding top, automatic-down power rear-quarter windows and a glass backlight with defogger. Too bad a proper seal between the windshield and roof was overlooked, giving our test car a hackneyed feel.

Safety is high on Toyota's list of priorities when it comes to the Solara, but the stuff that matters is optional. Base SE models don't come with standard ABS. Optional side airbags can be ordered on any model. If you purchase an SLE model, traction control can be checked on the options sheet. You can also get a JBL audio system, so long as you opt for the leather package. The anti-theft and engine immobilizer system is restricted to SLEs, while SEs come standard with a six-speaker cassette stereo.

Ultimately, the Solara is an older two-door Camry with more aggressive styling and minor suspension differences. Style takes precedence over utility. This makes it an OK choice, but the new Camry is clearly a better car than the old one. Go with the convertible if you seek something a little more whimsical.

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