For many of us, we’ve always known life with the Toyota Camry around. It’s one of the foundational cars in the US. If you didn’t own a Camry at one point, you certainly knew someone who did. The Camry has evolved since its humble beginnings, and if you take a look at any Toyota Camry dealer, you’ll see just how far it’s come. The notable and maybe forgotten moments of the Camry’s history are worth reminiscing and may even make you appreciate the Toyota Camry more.
Almost 40 Years Young
Believe it or not, the Toyota Camry has been around longer than many millennials have been alive. Debuting in the US market in 1983, the Camry has served millions of drivers from all walks of life. From commuting to school drop-offs to retirement, the Camry seems to satisfy driver’s expectations for nearly 40 years now. There aren’t many models that make it this long in a market of drivers that always demand more. The difference of the Toyota Camry is it has continued to evolve and still does, to what drivers need.
What does the evolution of the Toyota Camry look like? It looks like eight generations of change, improvements, and engineering. The first generation began in 1983, and we’re currently in the eighth generation. One of the biggest changes to the Camry is its size. When the Camry was first introduced to the US market, it was considered a compact sedan. Over the years, it’s grown in size to be a powerhouse in the midsize sedan segment.
The second generation of the Camry launched in 1987 with a slightly larger Camry that gave drivers and passengers more interior space, but it wasn’t until the third generation in 1992 when the Toyota Camry moved to the midsize sedan segment. Drivers showed their approval for the change as sales continued to skyrocket through the 1990s. Each generation, we see the Camry get a little larger, faster, and more equipped. A major reason for this is early on in the Camry’s life, Toyota began producing Camry vehicles specifically for the North American market.
The Camry & Its Spinoffs
We all love a good spinoff, and the Camry certainly has had its own spin offs over the years. This may come as a surprise if you’re used to the Toyota Camry that’s on the market today. While today you will just find a four-door sedan, there once was a Camry two-door coupe, convertible, and wagon. Some lasted longer than others, but they all left their mark.
With the launch of the second generation Toyota Camry in 1987, a Camry wagon was introduced. That station wagon body style was especially popular in the 1980s, so the Camry wagon fit right in. Eventually though, Toyota let go of the wagon body style in the late ’90s as people turned to the more sleek style of cars.
The next spinoff to make its run with the Toyota Camry was the two-door coupe. This Camry coupe was giving off all the sporty vibes for the mid-’90s. Intentions were good, but this style of the Camry only lasted a few short years. All is well, though, because Toyota would have another chance to add more sport to the Camry.
In 1999, the coupe came back better as the Toyota Camry Solara. It featured a more sleek design and even offered a convertible version beginning in 2000. The Camry Solara had the option for a lot of premium features, too, making it a dream car to cruise down the highway in the early 2000s. The Solara had a good run, including a refresh in 2004, but ultimately was laid to rest in 2009.
A version of the Toyota Camry that’s stuck around for good is the Camry Hybrid. The Camry Hybrid first debuted in 2007 with the Camry’s sixth generation. It’s continued to improve over the years and is still available today, with several different Camry models available as a hybrid.
Best Selling Sedan in the US
This may not come as a surprise, but with all the fierce competition out there, it might. The Toyota Camry spent many years as the top-selling car in the United States. The Camry’s reign as the best-selling sedan began around 1997 with the launch of the fourth generation Camry. Even with the shift to SUVs and away from cars in recent years, the Toyota Camry remains wildly popular. As other car manufacturers move to produce only SUVs, Toyota still believes in its beloved Camry, but that doesn’t mean the tough competitors are backing down either.
Probably the biggest competitor to the Toyota Camry is the Honda Accord. These two midsize sedans constantly work to outpace the other. Even though the Honda Accord was around before the Toyota Camry, the Camry quickly caught up to the Accord and eventually surpassed it in sales. Many other competitors have since gone away, and there are certainly other big names in the segment, but the Accord and Camry are the ones that trade for the top after all these years.
In 1988, the Camry surpassed a major benchmark in sales, with over 200,000 units sold in a year. Less than ten years later, it would become the best-selling car in the country. This wasn’t just a one-year thing either. For 18 years, the Toyota Camry was marked as the top-selling sedan in the United States.
We’ve discussed the history of the sportier versions of the Camry found in the coup and Solara, but overall the Camry has always had an extra spunk that some might miss. Ever since the beginning, the Camry has increased its horsepower with each new generation. Starting out at a mere 92 horsepower, the Camry has steadily increased its performance to an available 301 horsepower in today’s Camry.
The point is, the Camry has never been a sedan that just hums along; it prioritizes performance. For example, in the third generation Camry, we see the Camry feature more powerful engines than before, like the 3.0L V6 engine. Another significant increase was with the sixth generation engines that could produce around 268 horsepower. More recently, the Toyota Camry has an actual model dedicated to the best engine power and performance available in a Camry.
In 2020, the Toyota Camry added a Camry TRD model to its lineup. At first glance, it looks like a legitimate sports car, and that’s on purpose. Now you can have the looks that match the 301 horsepower performance with this 3.5L V6 engine. High performance and that sporty flare have always been a part of the Camry’s history and look to be a big part of its future.
A Strong History Leads to a Bright Future
It’s hard to predict what the future of the Toyota Camry will be, but if it’s anything like its history, it will surely be around for the long haul. Like any other vehicle, the Camry had things that didn’t work and portions that became its foundation long term. Next time you walk into a Toyota Camry dealer, you’ll have a greater knowledge and respect for the sedan that has made its mark for decades and still charges on.