Some products are so good they eventually define even the competition. You say 'Coke' to refer to any soft drink, you say 'Jeep' to mean any kind of off-road SUV. Now, it's happening to the Toyota Camry, too. Sure, those who still thumb through old school magazines full of cars they'll never be able to afford see the Camry's success as a flaw, often calling it generic or deriding it as a car for ?the masses.? Well, actually that's true; the Camry is for the masses, more people buy the Toyota Camry each year than any other passenger car. Now, either all those people are misinformed, or the car sells well because it's just plain good. We're inclined to believe it's the second one.

The 2011 Toyota Camry is a mid-sized sedan that offers most shoppers exactly what they want, a reasonably priced car that's durable, comfortable and gets good fuel economy. For those who simply need a spacious interior and a dependable ride to and from work each day, the Camry is the sensible choice.

 

Lots of Choices

The Camry comes in a variety of flavors; base, mid-level LE, sporty SE and the slightly luxurious XLE. There's also a hybrid model. Part of the Camry's appeal is that even for the base car's $20,000 price tag, you still get a well-built sedan that will seat five adults comfortably. And while it features just the essentials like a four-cylinder engine and a manual transmission, an automatic transmission is an option. On higher-end models like the LE and above, a 3.5-liter V6 can be ordered in place of the 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine.

Both the four- and six-cylinder engines are among the best in their class. The smaller engine is good for 169 hp and delivers that power in a very smooth, refined manner. Many four-cylinder cars are noisy, but not the Camry. The V6 produces 268 hp and the nearly 100 extra horsepower can be felt right away. The V6 Camry accelerates with authority yet remains Lexus-quiet. The V6 is rated at 20 mpg city / 29 mpg highway while the four cylinder with an automatic transmission is rated at 22 mpg city / 32 mpg highway.

 

Comfort Over All

Handling is not sporty at all, but it's not sloppy either. The Camry feels like exactly what it is, a car that places a comfortable ride over sharp handling. The Camry's interior remains remarkably quiet even on the highway, with very little wind or road noise. Anyone who wants a little extra edge from a family sedan should opt for the Camry SE as it has a slightly sportier feel.

Inside, the Camry's seats are comfortable both front and back, and the rear seat offers plenty of legroom even for tall adults. In the lower trim levels, the interior won't fool anyone into thinking it's a luxury car, but in XLE trim, the interior details give the car a premium feel. The XLE gets high-end features like simulated wood trim, leather wrapped shifter and steering wheel, automatic dimming rear view mirror and JBL stereo with a USB port.

Options are plentiful on the Camry. Although premium cloth seats are standard on the XLE, most on the road have the optional leather seating. Other notable options include the navigation system; it's part of a package that also includes a rear parking camera, Bluetooth, satellite radio and an in-dash four CD changer. At just a hair over $1,000, it's a worthwhile addition for two reasons - Toyota's navigation system is very good and super easy to use, plus $1,000 is a bargain considering other automakers can charge as much as $3,500 for similar packages.

The Toyota Camry is one of those rare cars that seem to define an entire group of cars. A long time ago, the Chevrolet Impala was the go-to car for American families. More recently, the Toyota Prius came to essentially define the term ?hybrid.? Now, the 2011 Toyota Camry has become the textbook definition of ?family sedan.? Hundreds of thousands of families pick the Camry each year and with good reason - it's an affordable car you can count on year after year.

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Brian Moody heads up the AutoTrader.com editorial team. An automotive writer and presenter for more than 12 years, he's contributed to such media outlets as CNBC, Edmunds.com, Fox Business, Speed TV and The Today Show.

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