Making yesterday’s list of unlikely manuals is the sixth generation (XV40) Toyota Camry, a car that can be best described as a reliable and cheap 2000s version of a 1990s Buick. It is not a remotely sporty car to drive in any circumstances, styling is bland, but it should get you to your destination every day with minimal fuss and a little bit of fuel ‘n’ oil. Find this 2007 Toyota Camry CE here on eBay offered for $7,991 from a dealer in Houston, TX.
I’ve spent some time behind the wheel of one of these sub $20k when brand new) modern Camrys and I can tell you that the brakes are mushy, steering is loose, and visibility is awkward (really big angled A-pillars swallow entire cars on a standard US 4-way stop intersection…and forget seeing anything out of the porthole in the back), but the ability to get to and from your destination with a big load of people or junk is commendable. The stock radio is a strange backlit piece exported from a classic Star Trek set, the seats are flat, but otherwise everything is pretty simple and fit the basic definition of a “car”.
What makes this Camry a bit more than the average beigemobile is the fact that a 5-speed manual shifter sits between the front seats (Toyota switched to a 6-speed manual for the base Camry in 2010). It puts about 158 horsepower from the stock 2AZ-FE 2.4 liter 4-banger to the front wheels. The 2AZ-FE isn’t a bad engine, and a few from the factory suffer from excessive oil consumption — but Toyota (startlingly) did the right thing and offers a free fix to all owners through 2016 regardless of miles.
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