My Car: 2003 Toyota Camry XLE

I drive a 2003 Toyota Camry that my parents bought new in October 2002. It was my mother’s car until I was old enough to start driving in March 2013. This car currently has about 94,000 miles and still runs great. I have been able to achieve close to 35 MPG on the highway several times, but city fuel economy is pretty bad – around 21 with the AC on, and 26 without.

I love cars with good automatic transmissions – and this is one of them. Having only a 4 speed transmission means that the car is rarely “hunting for gears” and it only takes a few shifts to reach the final gear. Interestingly enough, the U241E transmission in the Camry has no overdrive gear whatsoever – the car’s overdrive is performed entirely by the differential’s final drive gearing.

The only problems with my Camry are that the garage door opener (Homelink) stopped working a few years ago – something probably got shorted out or some of the soldering came apart, and I have yet to investigate the problem. The rearview mirror rattles a bit and probably should be tightened. I’ve repaired some of the stone chips on the car using a Toyota OEM “paint pen” but still have some work to do on that. I think that the windshield seal is starting to go bad since it sounds creaky every once a while in cold weather. With all of the marks and micro-scratches on it, it could use a replacement anyway. Mechanically, the car has issues with its valve seals resulting in smoke occasionally coming out of the exhaust during a cold start, and the brakes overheat and start to squeal quite often. I’ve replaced three out of four of the hubcaps with original OEM specimen of the “Cavity I” design which came with the car – but the final one yet to be replaced has two of its clips broken off and makes a rattling noise from time to time.

My Dad’s 2015 Toyota Sienna XLE

My dad replaced his 2007 Toyota Sienna – which was an awesome vehicle – with a 2015 Toyota Sienna in May 2015. The 2015 refresh of the Sienna is way better than the previous generation which began in 2011. We had one of those as a rental car once and the interior quality was abysmal and the radio and climate controls were terribly laid out. The new Sienna is better in every way and still uses the super-reliable 2GR-FE engine which I have come to love so much over the years. The Sienna is a true sleeper; you can drive around all day perfectly fine never getting past a quarter throttle. The power is always there, even in the low end. The new Sienna with the 6AT (U760E) also gets great fuel economy. We have averaged 27 MPG on highway trips several times.

The leather seating looks nice and is fairly durable, avoiding accumulating a glossy texture over time and not stretching out too much compared to other seating. However, the Sienna seating does seem to have some structural issues, since the 2nd-row seats are kind of noisy/creaky. The passenger seat also makes a “clicky” noise of its own. Fortunately, I remember reading somewhere that Johnson Controls, the seating contractor/vendor for Toyotas built in the USA, has revamped some of its seating technology, so hopefully these issues will be rectified in future generations, including the TNGA Model Year 2018 Camry.

My Mom’s 2013 Toyota Camry SE

The 2013 Camry is a good car, but I still like my 2003 model better since it has a better driving feel and acceleration seems less laborious since the throttle is programmed less towards efficiency than the new Camry. The exhaust note is changed as well and doesn’t sound as turbo-esque as the 2AZ-FE engine of old. The 2AR-FE also no longer has the torque > horsepower characteristic that I appreciate in my Camry. But the 2013 is still dependable as ever and has only had one problem – a leaking shock absorber in the rear which was replaced easily under warranty. I see a lot of Camrys from this generation with exhausts that have paint peeling off – only time will tell if this one will encounter that same problem. Considering it hasn’t happened yet, I’m unsure whether it will start to erode or not; it could just be a singular model year that is susceptible to that issue.


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