I was driving around the other day when a car caught my attention, and not in the usual way. Normally, cars catch my eye by virtue of them being interesting or unusual, or compelling in some striking way. This car caught my eye because my brain has been damaged by writing these Meh Car articles for over a year, and now voids of blandness on four wheels can get my attention because they’re so uninteresting. This time that car was a Toyota Solara.
Actually, the car is technically called a Toyota Camry Solara, but, like so many things about the Solara, nobody really gives a shit. Here’s the one that caught my eye; I took a picture, and was a bit surprised to find the camera was able to capture an image of something so generic looking:
Wow, that’s a generic-looking car. Even being a coupé, ostensibly a more exciting form of car, it’s boring. What makes the Solara so vigorously meh is that it was supposed to be a more exciting car. A more zesty version of the staid, reliable Camry.
Our own Raph wrote about the Solara with similar wonder a few years back: this car was designed to have Camry reliability with a more stylish, engaging design, something that could actually elicit desire instead of the Camry’s staple attraction that comes from reading many, many issues of Consumer Reports and making spreadsheets and pro/con lists.
That’s what makes the Solara so incredibly meh: the point was to inject some excitement into the Camry, and all they managed to inject was enough anesthetic to amputate two of its doors. Somehow, Toyota’s designers created a coupé that was at least as boring as their sedan.
I bet the Japanese Council of Boredom Cultivation gave them their highest award that year for this achievement, the coveted Taupe Ribbon.
I mean, look at this thing; it’s the visual equivalent of a mouthful of unseasoned, boiled sorghum:
That’s a 2000 model. Toyota’s crack team of visual-interest murderers that made up the Camry design team took another crack at it in 2003:
Mmmmm. Inoffensive! They gave their pursuit of excitement another go in 2005:
Fucking hell. Their inspiration wall must have had slices of turkey cold cuts on it and sandpaper packaging. Maybe they also had photos of a few suburban parking garages, too.
Of course, there wasn’t much wrong with the car, technically. It had an entirely competent and reliable drivetrain from the Camry, and had two inline-four and one V6 engine options, making a range of power from 135 horsepower to a reasonably high 200 horsepower.
The suspension was more tuned to comfort than handling, and as a result driving it wasn’t terribly engaging. Sure, you could find them with five-speed manuals and I’m sure you could manage to have some fun, but there’s so many better and more interesting ways to get your automotive rocks removed.
Oh, there was a Solara convertible, too, which is remarkable because making a convertible meh is no easy task. For this era of car, the Solara had to duke it out with the Sebring for the title of Mostest Boringest Droptop, and that fight was a real clash of Titans.
Toyota tried to play up the alleged excitement of the Solara in their ads, sometimes relying on the fact that it could be had as a convertible, like in this ad that was seemingly targeted at people who sucked at their jobs and never wanted to think about that:
Toyota also tried to directly compare it with the four-door Camry, desperately trying to convince you that one was somehow more exciting than the other, to the point you’d give up a family and a loving partner in favor of two less doors on your Camry and a dog:
They also tried the tagline “An entirely different kind of Camry” which I think is an outright lie. It’s a somewhat different kind of Camry, at best:
I’m pretty sure I’ll be getting angry emails from Solara lovers, because, yes, the Solara is just fine. I agree! But the idea that somehow the Solara is more exciting or interesting or thrilling than a Camry is just not something I feel capable of making myself believe.
I just can’t. Sorry.