Curbside Rental Service: 2013 Toyota Camry LE – Rebel Without a Clause


For what now seems like decades, I have heard so much yammering about how the Toyota Camry is an absolute gem of a car, a car that has enveloped all the passions and inspirations of mankind into one composite lump of steel and glass.

After putting 1,100 miles on one driving to the CC Meetup in Auburn, Indiana, I must confess that I concur with these relentless exhortations about the greatness of the Camry.  However, I agree for different reasons.

For years, people have always rebelled to some extent against those who sired and/or raised them.  It is simply human nature.  So for those of us who grew up in the pillow-topped, tufted velour, smooth riding comfort of various Detroit offerings, a pronounced alternative was in order.  Enter the Camry.


The Camry has been selling like ice-water in Hades since seemingly forever.  After spending seventeen or so quality hours in this guardrail colored example, I believe I have figured out the utter brilliance and simplicity of Toyota’s methodology in building and selling this car.  The most ingenious plans are often the simplest, and theirs is a doozy.

My deduction is that Toyota has simply mimicked or modified many of the proven elements of automotive design and dynamics seen in various Detroit cars of the past forty years.  Of course, they have put their own spin on it in a ruse to make it appear more original to those rebellious types who purchase the Camry.

Let’s discuss these various facets on an individual basis.


The steering wheel is critical to the driving experience and this is the steering wheel of my rental Camry.  Looking at it, it has about 78 various buttons to distract me while I should be driving.  From my desire to stay safe on the crummy portions of I-70 between St. Louis and Indianapolis, plus the spastic drivers always traversing the interstates, I didn’t bother to familiarize myself with their functions.  But looking at it reminded so strongly of another steering wheel.

grand prix wheel

Doesn’t the Toyota tiller remind you of this Pontiac’s?  Yes, there is a difference, as the Pontiac wheel has large buttons aimed for near-sighted drivers but the results are the same:  There is a bumper crop of buttons on each wheel, most of them serving the same purpose.  These buttons are as abundant as rubber at the Firestone factory.


Perhaps the seat fabric shouldn’t be an issue as there is generally a fair amount of it eclipsed when being sat upon.  In the case of this Toyota, that is likely a good thing.  I can’t help but wonder what dramatic and messy physiological reaction one might experience from staring at this seat fabric for too long.  But again, this is a repetition of previously used design elements.

1976 Chrysler-09

Doesn’t it seem to be reminiscent of the Castillion seat fabric from a 1976 Chrysler, a seat fabric that could also induce projectile physiological reactions?  Even Mr. Chrysler himself, JPCavanaugh, commented how the seat fabric of this pulse-quickening Toyota was a contemporary take on 1970s era seat fabrics.  While some of you may interpret this as a slam, it is truly a compliment of the highest order.  1970s fashion is so often talked about as being so undignified, but there is nothing as dignified as how Toyota has taken a stand to be independent and fearless – the way Chrysler was for years upon end.


As an aside, the designers of the Camry interior are such a creative bunch.  Looking at the dash reminded me how I needed to buy shaving cream before our soiree on Saturday.  How did my brain reach this conclusion?

mach 3

As a Mach 3 user, the shape of the dash reminded me of my razor.  Even Mrs. Jason had the same realization.  Toyota must own stock in Gillette.  Sorry; I digress.


As one who is rather finicky on his seat adjustments, I am always thrilled to encounter a car seat that grants me the ability to sit up high along with being a wee bit more vertical than the average Jason.  In turn, I also don’t like having my arms too far elevated as the blood tends to drain after a while; thus, I like to adjust the steering wheel as far down as possible.  This is my eye view when situating myself in a comfortable position in the pilot house of the Camry.

Okay, so the speedometer is blocked by the steering wheel between 25 and 115 mph.  That’s just like the majority of every other vehicle I have ever driven, so this Toyota certainly provides an assurance that I will be in familiar surroundings.  This must be comforting to those people who are always trepidatious in driving something different and seek the reassurance of familiarity.


From all I have heard and read, I knew to expect a delectable driving experience while navigating this Camry over the rivers, hollers, and valleys between my house and Auburn, Indiana.  It provided me a truly sparkling sea of tranquility. In fact, the sea was so deep and vast, the Illinois Department of Transportation provided a message board in one of their umpteen work zones reminding me to quit snoozing and stay awake.  How thoughtful!  As I jolted awake upon seeing the cornea incinerating flash of the message board, I experienced perhaps the largest epiphany of my life since figuring out the deal about Santa Claus!


This Camry drives just like a W-body Impala!  It has the same numb power steering, the same languid acceleration, and many of the same driving dynamics!  Those folks at Toyota are freaking geniuses!  Had I rented an Impala, it would have cost me another $8!  I was able to experience the same flaccid feel I have experienced in the 4,328 W-body Impala’s I have driven in my lifetime all while saving money.  I was simply fooled by the jazzier upholstery and sterling reputation of Toyota.  Why would I want to experience anything like that recall infested Impala?

Lover's Leap Car

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Oh wait.  Wasn’t there some sort of kerfuffle involving the Camry a few years ago?  Can’t be; this is a Toyota.  It’s all hogwash as despite my best efforts, I could not replicate any form of sudden acceleration in this Camry.  Anything to besmirch a giant; Toyota’s are infallible, aren’t they?

Jacked f250

After exhaustive research, I have determined this car also provides its own unique appeal to those pickup driving, beef eating and corn-fed Midwesterners like myself.  For so many years, some number of us (but not me) enjoyed the auditory delights provided by a pickup with a raised suspension, straight pipe exhaust, and truly knobby tires that sing like an incarcerated criminal being offered immunity.  We have a lesser amount of environmental concern around here, so we could drive stuff like this without anyone having a second thought.  Truly a rolling phallus, these were popular with a certain subset until fuel prices sailed past $2.50 per gallon.

On any concrete or open graded asphalt pavement, this Toyota is able to replicate the kidney shaking ride and eardrum lacerating tones provided by pickups such as this Ford F-250 seen above.  Careening across I-70, with frequent changes between asphalt and concrete, this Toyota with its worn tires was caterwauling like a goat with a bloat.  It so reminded me of the rattly pickups of my youth!


All these juicy morsels are rolled up into one exhilarating package that is even so revolutionary as to instigate the Next Great Thing – stitched vinyl!  Friends, this will be the plasti-wood of the 21st Century.

Toyota is shrewd beyond compare.  They have taken a whole host of styling and driving components that people have railed against for years and successfully recycled and repackaged them into something people are clamoring to purchase.  Just don’t tell these buyers they are purchasing a facsimile of cars they have rebelled against.