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pj8708

Camry Experience

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Over the last few months, my wife and I have chosen to rent a Camry on three separate occasions. Anyone, in my opinion, who calls the ES350 a glorified Camry has never driven one for more than a day or a simple test drive.

We found that it's not a bad car at all, but to compare it to the ES is pitting two cars that are simply in different class's. The Camry rides stiff and jolts over the bumps. It does drive true and easy on the interstate at highway speeds and has good acceleration. About that word acceleration, you can easily break your neck from the whip lash you get when you try to EASE into the gas pedal from a dead stop. It can barely be done. I'm not the expert like most of you, but by the end of our trip to San Diego and Florida, we were ready to push the damn thing over a cliff over this one problem of just trying to start out smoothly from a stop light without lurching into traffic. What is the problem?

The controls were easy to use and the air cooled quickly, but controlling the temperature and keeping it even was problematic. Gas mileage was so-so, about 21mpg highway/city combined. We drove a lot in town. The steering wheel and seat position were too short for me for long trips compared to my ES. The driver side front window made an unholy noise when going down, quiet when going up.

The drive-trains have one annoying habit. As you slow down to a stop, you feel every single down shift until you hit second gear. Then it is smooth. This action gives you the sensation that the car is lurching forward as your trying to break. It really freaks you out until you get used to it.

It isn't a bad car as I said, but it's no Lexus either. The next time someone says the ES is just a glorified Camry I think I'll ask them to actually drive them both.

Paul

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2001 was the last model year in which the Camry V6 and the Lexus ES were mechanically virtually the same car. Since then the Camry V6 and Lexus ES have grown further and further apart -- especially beginning with the ES350.

My wife and I, and especially her since she fly/travels almost weekly, rent a lot of cars and usually try to get a Camry like the Camry we rented for about a week in the Monterrey CA area last year. Unfortunately, most rental Camry's are sparsely equipped four cylinder cars. A fairer comparison would be between an ES350 and a high specification Camry XLE V6. But actually, the rental Camry 4-cyl car last year was very nice to drive -- I drove it "vigorously" (screaming around curves with tires sometimes squealing) at least 100 miles on the winding coastal highway 1 -- it handled great and felt more sure footed than my LS.

I don't think the ES was ever sold in the U.K. or Europe but I do remember that the Camry V6 sold in the UK in the late 90's / early 00's had a higher level of equipment than the nicest Lexus ES sold in the U.S. The Camry, however, was no longer sold in the U.K. after the IS200/300 was introduced there.

Too bad rental companies don't or no longer rent Lexus cars. I'll never forget picking up a rental car at the Seattle Sea-Tac airport in 1990 shortly after I bought my first Lexus. There in a stall near whatever cheaper car we were picking up was parked a rental LS400 almost identical to the one I had just bought. I remember my wife glaring at me when I said we should have rented the LS400. That was the first and only rental Lexus I've seen.

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I too Jim remember back in the early 00's Hertz offered Lexus as an option then it went away and I always wondered why. Now they offer Mercedes, Infinity, Volvo, Cadillac, etc, all REAL expensive to rent. Your so right about the trim level on the Camry. It is really bare bones. Given your experience with rentals, do you have a make/model you would suggest trying next time?

By the way, I decided to put Michelin X-ICE Snow tires on this winter since as you know we've had a fair amount of snow and ice this season. They are just great, and very smooth riding and very quiet. Excellent traction.

Smile next time your driving through!

Paul

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Smile next time your driving through!

Paul

We don't really mean to do it on purpose but we've gotten some significant rental upgrades by being choosy and patient. Even through my wife is a "frequent flyer" or whatever you want to call it with car rental companies, she gets free upgrades mainly when they don't have the type of car she has reserved.

If the car type you reserved is not available, upgrades are usually available if you are patient and pleasant. Although I didn't care for it at all, my wife and I got an Infinity M35 a few years ago for a 2-week rental when Hertz ran out of full size sedans (we wanted a Camry) and all they had left were SUV's. I don't consider an SUV an acceptable vehicle and we were promptly offered the Infinity at no extra cost.

I've done something similar outside the U.S. When I specifically reserve an automatic transmission medium price car and none are available, I get a much nicer larger car that comes standard with an automatic transmission and at the same price as the lesser car I reserved.

Rental car companies can be flexible especially if you are a frequent customer.

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Yeah I was very surprised with the differences. I have a coworker who has a Camry Hybrid and I expected it to drive and ride pretty similarly to the ES, but was surprised that it was hard riding and a good bit louder.

Toyota interior quality has slipped in recent years too, compared to an Accord or Hyundai Sonata the Camry has very cheap plastics and seat materials too...

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