The Camry Collection, Part 1

I know. Although it’s not really as fast or interesting as some of the other cars I’ve discussed recently, the Toyota Camry plays an important role in many people’s daily lives, with millions upon millions being sold in its lifetime.

Today I’ll be ranking my top 20 favorite models of Camry. I was initially going to rank all of the generations, but upon realizing how many there were in total, (including facelifts, special editions, and the Thailandese models to name a few), I had to settle for top 20. So grab the wheel (and paddle shifters apparently when it comes to the more recent models) and drive through my selection.

Feel free to look up these generation numbers and see how your ranking compares.

The Rankings

20. XV40

Eh. That pretty much sums up what I think when I see this generation. It looked kind of awkward in my opinion, like it didn’t really know what it wanted to be. Some might say “At least there’s still the reliability that comes with the Camry name!”, but in this case, they might be wrong. Certain model years had an engine problem where the car would rapidly accelerate for no apparent reason, which, you know, could be a hazard for traffic and your life. Luckily, there was a recall for this. So if you own an XV40, get your hands on one of the replacement brake systems!

19. V10

While a V10 engine Camry has never come out of the factory, we still have the V10 generation Camry which was the first generation of them all. With a need to globally compete against the Accord, an army of sedan and liftback models spread outwards from Japan. The life of the Camry had begun. In terms of sheetmetal, it followed that 80s boxy look, which was quite unremarkable.

18. V20

With the V20 the Camry took a step forward in minor improvements. Still being pretty bland looking, I think that the late 80s Accord wins the points for design this time around. Also it was rebadged as a Holden, so I guess that counts for something.

17. V30

While the rest of the world got to sit with the V20, Japan exclusively got the V30 models, which completely reworked the outer designing. It had that long back light which sort of fizzled out in the 90s but has been greatly reemerging in recent years.

16. XV10

Have you ever wanted a widebody Camry without messing around the parts market, straight out of the factory? Well, here you go. Except replace widebody with “slightly wider V30 body”, and you get the XV10, a V30 for the rest of the world. It’s not anything too special, but the term “widebody Camry” definitely helps bring it to 16th.

15. V50

If you didn’t know, most of the above models could also be purchased under the name of “Toyota Vista”, a simpler version of the Camry which cost a little less. Despite the V50 being a Camry generation, it was only sold as a Vista. It came in your standard sedan body, and also came in the Ardeo form, which was a wagon. It looks great, but it builds off of the…

14. V40

…which saw significant design changes from the V30 and XV10, placing it higher. It became more blocky, but not in the bland 80s styling. It’s too bad that the Accord looked really close to it at the time, making it less distinct in the midsize sedan segment.

13. XV50

There’s a pretty visible difference between this and the XV40, so I guess that’s nice. It just doesn’t really look too good to me. It was the first Camry to feature paddle shifters on the SE models and above, which seems a little unnecessary on a Camry, but it’s a cheap way to practice your shifts when you’re off the track for those trackdayers out there (not really). Overall it still looks better than the XV40, but I won’t mention the facelift, as there’s a higher place on the list for that…

12. XV40 Prestige

Congratulations Toyota, you made the XV40 look good, even if that meant making it resemble nothing like an American XV40. Prestige model Camrys are completely redesigned to fit a luxury market, because in Asia, the Camry is a luxury fullsize sedan! Talk about changes. Gone are the days of compact Celica-Camry! Anyways, it looks good, and it’s too bad that it isn’t offered in America.

11. XV30

Where I live, this thing is everywhere. It looks nice enough, runs reliably for a very long time, and had a complete redesign from the XV20. The new platform it was on is the K Platform, which was used on the Highlander and Sienna as well. It may have placed higher on my list, but you’ll see.

10. Celica Camry

Here it is: the car that started it all. In 1979, the Celica gained a four door model on its lineup, with the Camry name attached. While it doesn’t look like much, I appreciate it for starting the popular Camry lineup, even if that comes in the form of a car 1/3 longer (Prestige). And with that, I put the list to a close until the next part, happy driving everyone!

Image Credits

All Images: Toyota, Mad4Wheels

Koenigsegg Quant: An Abandoned Project

Only three of these sun-fueled concept Koenigseggs exist, which is too bad.

Time to talk Koenigsegg, however, today isn’t about the upcoming Gemera or the insane top speed of the Jesko Absolut, but rather a step back to 2009. A new, creative model was in the development stage, and concepts were already being shown to the public. So…

…What Happened?

As I’m sure many of you know, Koenigsegg is a Swedish car manufacturer known for producing some of the fastest hypercars on the planet. In 2009, with the Agera’s debut on the horizon, another project was at hand.

The Koenigsegg Quant, a four seater solar powered sports car, was being created in the development stage. Koenigsegg partnered up with NLV Solar to make the car, a company whose technology would allow it to harness solar energy as a source of power. With a suggested top speed of 170mph and a claimed range of 300 miles, the Quant was in theory, amazing.

Design wise, the car is… interesting? I haven’t really formed an opinion yet on the design, but I think it’s been growing on me. The only thing that really indicates that it’s a Koenigsegg is the front bumper. Also, Hyundai apparently wasn’t the only manufacturer to provide an intriguing door setup a decade ago, as the Quant had two gullwing doors, providing access to both front and back seats.

It’s sad to say that the Quant never left concept form, as NLV abandoned the project. In 2014-15, the Quant F and Quant E hit the show floor as concepts, but that didn’t seem to revive the project. Seeing as NLV is out of business now, I doubt we’ll see another Quant anytime soon, if ever.

If the project had actually been produced, I think it would have been a nice success. Does the bankruptcy of NLV mean the end of solar power for Koenigsegg? I hope not. Maybe applying solar power to future hypercars could generate unheard of top speeds? If anyone could figure out how to boost performance of their cars through solar energy, I couldn’t see Koenigsegg stepping away from the challenge.

Image Credits

All Images: Koenigsegg, Mad4Wheels

Cars Around Town, Part 2

A 2000 M Coupe that is well maintained

Does the driveway look familiar? Welcome to part two of the Cars Around Town mini series. As mentioned in the conclusion of part one, here is the second car.

Who and What

Today’s car is the BMW M Coupe. Being from the year 2000, it’s around the mid cycle area for the model, and it’s owned by the same guy who had the Ferrari I wrote about. It represented an alternative to the Z3 M Roadster, and it was rarer. It’s funky looks have been a primary target for jokes, but I honestly think it doesn’t look bad.

History

Since the M Coupe was the first of its kind, the closest history would be the predecessors to the Z3 M, since they’re almost the same car. This ranges as far back as the BMW 303 from the 1930s, but its more famous relative, the Z1, is when the general shape began.

As far as performance goes, the Z3 M and M Coupe went through three engines in their lifetimes, the S50, S52, and S54, the latter being used in the M3 at the time. The horsepower ranged from the 200s and 300s depending on the engine, and under 5,000 total M Coupes were produced, making it pretty rare. I think I’ve only seen one or two out on the road excluding this one, which further proves my point.

Conclusion

Thanks once again to the man who let me photograph his cars. The M Coupe was a great sports car that was perfect for you if you wanted a smaller car in the “M” category. It’s lifespan was short but led on to the next generation by being a coupe model of the Z4 M. Unfortunately since last year’s Z4 redesign, there hasn’t been much mention of a coupe, only renderings. Since BMW could make more money by releasing a coupe model, I certainly see one coming soon.

Image Credits

All photos: Aaron M. Rodgers

Cars Around Town, Part 1

Let this 308 Quattrovalvole welcome you into the “Cars Around Town Mini Series”

To get right down to the point, I’m going to be sprinkling a few short articles here and there about the cars in town that I photograph with permission from their owners.

Who and What

Today’s car is a beautiful Ferrari 308 Quattrovalvole from 1985. It’s owned by a guy that I’ve met before, who has a nice garage complete with a lift and space for five cars. Being made in ’85, it was the last year of production for the 308. While only producing around 230 horsepower, the V8 inside lets out a loud growl that only a Ferrari could possess.

History

The 308 was the successor of the Dino, a legendary Ferrari, one of the first to be easily accessible to the public. It was designed by Leonardo Fioravanti, the man who was responsible for the styling of multiple famous Ferraris, like the Berlinetta Boxer. Some of you readers might recognize it from the original Magnum, p.i. show, as it was featured throughout its lifetime.

It wasn’t too cheap of a car, so if you didn’t want to pay the full price you could opt for the slower 208 models, which had a very similar look. Something interesting to see are the visual and internal differences between the US and European versions, and a keen eye can point them out. Since the Euro spec performs better, it will usually be priced higher on the market. I find it pretty surprising that the 308 actually had Rally Group 4 and B class models made, since “Ferrari” and “Rally” aren’t used in the same sentence often.

Conclusion

I want to thank the person who let me take photos of their car (you know who you are), which served as one of Ferrari’s first mass produced vehicles, and helped start the road to where the brand is today. I will be doing another article soon of a second car at the photo shoot.

Image Credits

All Photos: Aaron M. Rodgers

Bentley Continental GT: July’s Car of the Month

Bentley’s Continental GT wins the Car of the Month award for its essential contribution to bringing Bentley back.

Ah, Bentley. Most know the company to either be an expensive luxury car manufacturer or the company that made “the fast, green car”, aka the Speed 8, which won the 2003 24 Hours of Le Mans. That win is most likely what boosted Bentley back on the map of the automotive world in the 21st century, after a near six decade absence. The Continental GT holds some of Bentley’s racing past in its tires and adds it to their newer luxury status. Here is how it has earned the title of Car of the Month…

The Roots of the Car

After winning Le Mans around five times in the 20s, Bentley was absorbed by Rolls Royce and their parts were used in their cars. Later on the company Vickers bought the Bentley name and began releasing luxury cars under it. A decent amount of cars were released including the models of today like the Continental and Mulsanne, but also with lesser known cars like the Brooklands and the Azure that never made it past 2003. Well, they did have short lived revivals in 2006 but that’s out of the question. This is where the GT’s legacy begins.

Different versions of the Continental began coming out, such as the Continental R, which became one of the most expensive production cars of the early 90s. Sub models of the R were released later, including the S and T Continentals which provided more performance. In the late 90s, Volkswagen acquired the company, along with other popular names like Lamborghini and Bugatti. (I seriously doubt that the Continental GT has Huracan door handles, hope you’ve read that article)

The GT is Born

In the same year that the Speed 8 Race Car won 24 Hours of Le Mans, the first generation of Continental GT was born. Bentley priced it around half the price of the R model from the 90s, which opened it up to people with “less” money. It shed its former sharp, blocky appearance for a sort of sloping body style, complete with large back lights, and equipped with a bold front grille.

The GT led Bentley forward into the luxury car market by springing off many sub models such as the Continental GTC (Grand Touring Convertible) and the Continental Flying Spur, which went off to become a main Bentley model later on. Higher performance versions also arrived later, such as the Supersports edition.

Gen 2 arrived in 2011 and was dethroned as a flagship model by the new and improved Mulsanne. That certainly didn’t stop it from spawning a dozen or so more special editions, even joining the GT3 category of racing in 2013. The gen 3 version of the GT was introduced in 2018 and further refined all of the car’s aspects, making it look much more premium.

Why it’s the Car of the Month

The Continental GT deserves to be the Car of the Month because of its large role in bringing Bentley back. The original Continental outlasted all of the many other Bentley models from the 90s, and used the trail that the Speed 8 Race Car started to build the company back up as a performance tinted luxury brand. It took the name of Bentley and added to its meaning, essentially making it July’s Car of the Month.

Congratulations, Continental GT.

The Scoring Board

Performance: 6 | Luxury: 8.5 | Looks: 9

Performance: Why it gets a 6…

The GT gets a 6 in Performance because it packs an extra punch with the luxury Bentley is known for, but the car’s immense weight holds back the W12 engine inside from going all out.

Luxury: Why it gets an 8.5

The GT gets an 8.5 in Luxury because its interior is mostly handmade, with all sorts of fabrics and patterning made manually each day. While the inside isn’t exactly a Rolls Royce interior, its exterior definitely stands up to the competition in terms of unique and premium design choices.

Looks: Why it gets a 9

The GT gets a 9 in Looks because in my opinion I love the exterior and its slope-like ways that make it differ from the boring rectangular 90s Continentals. The only reason it didn’t get a 10 is because I prefer mid size coupes over its large form.


Image Credits

Dark Gray Bentley Continental GT: Jannis Lucas, on Unsplash

Blue Continental GT: Cam Bowers, on Unsplash

BMW 6 Series: Why it Was Once the Best BMW

In my opinion, of course.

Where it All Began

Jumping in to replace the old BMW E9’s of the 70’s, the 6 Series began it’s multi-decade journey onto the street and track. The body was longer than the old 5 Series and kept its grand tourer body style from the E9. Aside from that, it didn’t bring much else to the table, but provided potential to build off of.

After production of the first gen ceased in 1989, it wouldn’t be until 2003 that a new 6 Series would see the world. The second generation resembles why I particularly enjoy the 6 Series the most. Once the cars began to roll off of the assembly line, the 6 Series entered a great state of controversy, mostly due to it’s new design and user unfriendly iDrive system, according to Car and Driver.

Risky Innovation

This different design was seen throughout the lineup of 2003 BMWs, but the 6 Series particularly stood out. Designer Chris Bangle was behind all of this controversy, earning the back end of the car the title of “Bangle Butt” (Its a real thing, look it up). This new curvy styling may have been rated harshly by some, but I appreciate BMW for taking that swim into unknown waters by producing what they felt right about. If you particularly enjoyed the design, BMW also produced an “M” edition of the car, complete with a carbon fiber roof and around 500 horsepower.

After the gen 2 wrapped up in 2010, the next 6 Series had an odd start, releasing a convertible edition of the car before the coupe, however this generation had far less criticism, and even went on to win multiple awards. If the second gen was a rough, jagged block of wood, gen 3 would be smooth and sanded. The design was definitely different but still maintained some of the curved gen 2 qualities.

Now we come to the current generation of 6 Series, which is where I really don’t care for the car’s looks anymore. While the coupe retains the gen 3 style, the new “Gran Turismo” body type is sort of funky. I guess that they were aiming for something in between a sedan and a wagon? While it is definitely something different again, its hard to distinguish it from the 3 Series Gran Turismo and the 5 Series version. It loses its old touch (and headlights) but then again, wasn’t that the point of the gen 2? Perhaps I’m in the wrong here then, but what it lost was its unique style, seeing as the 5 Series and 3 Series GT were designed with the same layout, at slightly different sizes.

In Conclusion

… while the BMW 6 Series went through an odd shift in design throughout its life and was subject to mixed impressions, it also stands as a beacon for future designers to look back upon, possibly encouraging them to take similar risks to bring a potentially popular style to the table. Its also standing strong in present day, so be prepared for more sudden changes in the future.


Image Credit

All Images: Arteum.ro, on Unsplash