The 1992 Toyota Camry launched the third generation of this popular nameplate. The major news was an increase in size that took Camry from the compact-car class to the midsize category. Unadventurous but attractively rounded new styling, larger engines, introduction of a coupe body style, and the gradual addition of standard airbags also were parts of the story.
1992 Toyota Camry
A redesign increased the wheelbase of the 1992 Toyota Camry by less than an inch, to 103.1, but the car's overall length stretched 6 inches (to 187.8) and width swelled by 2 inches (to 69.7). Weight naturally went up, ballooning by some 250 pounds, but that was partly offset by stronger engines.
The base four-cylinder was now a 2.2-liter twincam design with 135 horsepower. The V6 was a new 3.0-liter twincam unit rated at 185 horsepower.
Sedans went on sale first, in base DLX (formerly Deluxe), midline LE, and new top-line XLE trim levels. The slow-selling all-wheel-drive All-Trac did not return. A sporty SE sedan followed a few months later, as did DLX and LE wagons, newly sourced from Toyota's Kentucky plant.
A five-speed manual transmission was standard on DLX and SE sedans. A four-speed automatic transmission was optional on those models and standard on all other Camrys.
The standard driver's airbag met the government's passive-restraint requirement without motorized shoulder belts, which had drawn a cold shoulder from consumers. The bag was designed to deploy from the steering-wheel hub to provide chest protection in a frontal collision. Serving active safety, antilock brakes were now optional for all Camrys.
The new SE sedan sported a rear spoiler, higher-speed-rated tires on alloy wheels (versus steel rims), a slightly firmer suspension, and sport bucket front seats. The top-line XLE catered to luxury lovers with optional leather upholstery and additional standard features including power sunroof and power driver's seat. Wagons offered a newly optional third-row seat that upped capacity from five to seven passengers. Toyota's Lexus luxury brand again offered a gilded V6 Camry sedan in its new ES 300.
Previous Camrys had earned Consumer Guide Best Buy ribbons, and the larger third-generation did too. "Workmanship is like the proverbial bank vault, noise levels are low, and ride is comfortably absorbent. Handling is competent for a family car, though you notice body lean in tight, fast turns," the editors said. They termed acceleration "brisk" with the V6, only "so-so" with the four-cylinder engine. But fuel economy was deemed "good either way...What's not to like? A hard, overly raked rear seatback, restricted vision directly aft -- and cost...But if not the best dollar value, Camry is tops for refinement and quality."
1993 Toyota Camry
DLX models were rebadged DX, acquired color-keyed body side moldings, and offered an oak-color interior. Bronze-tint glass was newly optional for all models.
1994 Toyota Camry
A two-door coupe body style arrived in four-cylinder and V6 DX, LE and SE versions. It was basically a sedan with a different roofline and slightly lower stance. All 1994 Camrys adopted a standard passenger-side airbag. Also new was an aluminum-block 3.0-liter V6 with 188 horsepower, three more than the previous iron-block engine.
Most Camrys were still sold with automatic transmission, which gained new electronic controls that adjusted shift action to match driving style: faster, snappier shifts with more aggressive driving, smoother changes with gentle use of the throttle. Cruise control and power windows/locks/mirrors were now standard for SEs, instead of optional.
1995 Toyota Camry
The DX wagon did not return as a choice for the 1995 Toyota Camry line. Other models received subtle appearance changes, plus structural upgrades designed to meet the government's more stringent side-impact requirements for 1997.
Antilock brakes became standard on the top-line XLE sedan, but remained optional elsewhere. The mainstay 2.2-liter four-cylinder lost five horsepower (to 125) due to retuning for stricter emissions limits in all states.
Camry got a big brother this year in the 1995 Toyota Avalon. With seating for six versus Camry's seating for five, the Avalon was in effect Toyota's first "full-size" sedan. It was built alongside Camry in Kentucky and packaged Camry's V-6/automatic-transmission powertrain in a stretched Camry platform to do battle with popular domestic large cars like the Buick LeSabre and Ford Crown Victoria.
1996 Toyota Camry
Aside from the usual adjustments to colors and prices, The 1996 Toyota Camry was a carryover. Toyota stretched the car's "design cycle" from four model years to five to save some money, but there was no effect on Camry sales, which had been climbing fast since 1993. This year's total was the highest yet: nearly 359,500 units.
Toyota Camry Reliability
Air conditioner (1992 and 1993 model years): A problem with the expansion valve causes the air conditioner to gradually lose efficiency.
Automatic transmission (1992-96): The "A-40 series" automatic transmission may shift harshly because rubber check balls shrink, blow through a plate, and become dislodged.
Coolant leak (1992-96): Head-gasket failure on 3.0-liter engines allows coolant to enter the cylinders.
Hard starting (1992-96): A "cold soak" (prolonged interval between starts) may cause hard starting, due to ignition-coil voltage leaking to an inappropriate ground.
Suspension noise (1992-95): Front and rear sway-bar bushings were redesigned using a self-lubricating material.
Trunklid (1992-96): The trunklid may not stay fully open on sedans with a spoiler; adjusting the support torsion rod should cure the problem.
Toyota Camry Safety Recalls
1994-96: Insufficiently tightened steering-wheel nut may cause steering vibration and looseness; nut could eventually come off, causing steering wheel to separate from shaft.
1996: The plastic holders for taillight bulbs on some cars can deform due to heat from the bulb.
It was clear Americans had a taste for the larger, more powerful, and better-equipped Camry. Find out on the next page how Toyota would capitalize on that appetite with the next-generation Camry.
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