Is this the best car in the world?
Not necessarily this car, but the 2002-2006 XV30-generation Toyota Camry in general. Is this Camry better than all the rest?
It doesn’t handle like a modern Mazda 6, doesn’t stop as well as a modern F-150, doesn’t have the perceived interior quality or features of a modern Honda Fit, and has suffered greatly from the effects of alloy wheel corrosion over the last winter.
But the 2004 Toyota Camry LE V6 we told you about last fall just made its way through another harsh, Prince Edward Island winter. Another 7,000 miles were smeared across its odometer. One trip was taken all the way from Prince Edward Island to Toronto; another from Prince Edward Island to Hamilton, Ontario, and another from Prince Edward Island to Mont Tremblant, Quebec.
Credit a single oil change.
This 2004 Toyota Camry LE V6, owned by my in-laws, is one of two cars in their fleet. Their 2013 Hyundai Elantra is presumably the safer long-distance choice: theoretically more reliable, somewhat more fuel-efficient, blessed with SiriusXM and heated leather.
But on the pre-Christmas trip to Toronto, a larger trunk to haul gifts for numerous grandchildren was deemed necessary. Call up the 12-year-old Camry — 340,000 miles under its belt — for an early winter trip across great swathes of Canadian landscape, not the Elantra. Was there any reason to doubt the Camry would return my mother- and father-in-law home to Prince Edward Island (for actual Christmas with their favored grandchildren: my kids) without a glitch, a hiccup, or an ailment?
The Camry wasn’t called upon for much service while resident in Prince Edward Island, but my father-in-law’s solo trip back to Ontario (and back again to PEI) in the dead of winter likewise went off without a hitch. Was there any reason to believe it wouldn’t?
But that wasn’t nearly enough of a test for the Camry in its 13th winter, with roughly 342,000 miles displayed on its odometer. So with a ski trip planned in Mont Tremblant, my parents-in-law were forced — forced I tell you — to take the Camry to Quebec because the snowboard owned by their son who they’d be meeting there “fits better in the Camry.”
Mind you, it fits in the Elantra, too. But it fits better in the Camry, they say.
Which I believe is code for, “We would rather take the 210-horsepower V6.”
The Camry was back home in Prince Edward Island again this weekend. Having collected the weight of many months’ worth of salty highways, my father-in-law finally decided to wash it Saturday night before he once again drove the Camry out of province on Sunday. Clean inside, the Camry’s greying grey paint does a decent job of camouflaging the exterior filth. Sort of.
I drove the Camry extensively on Saturday. Less than a mile into our latest Camry experience, I was boring my wife with praise of the buttery smooth and shockingly lusty V6. But that was nothing compared to the shift quality of the five-speed automatic, which — 13 years since production — is so very much in its groove that upshifts are more easily defined as scrolls than shifts; that downshifts are only enacted once gears can be cradled by Tempur-Pedic mattresses.
Apart from an early winter oil change, the Camry has gone without maintenance. But if my wife’s parents are determined to see this car through another PEI summer and another PEI winter, the Camry will need some work done soon.
I’m no Bozi Tatarevic, capable of identifying sounds via TTAC Slack chat onomatopoeia, but I’m hearing the distinct tenor of a failed tie rod end.
Yet at more than 347,000 miles, having endured some of the continent’s harsher conditions and never having been granted the privilege of living a garage queen’s lifestyle, an oil change and a tie rod end are surely a fair price to pay for another winter.
This 2004 Toyota Camry LE V6 is not the best car in the world. No Honda Odyssey-owning, Mazda MX-5-loving soul could say so.
But in the words of TTAC’s Camry-lauding Steph Willems, “Imagine buying that car new, knowing what awaits.”