Camry redesigned: a look back at America's top-selling car

Markets Associated Press

  • This undated image provided by Toyota shows the 1983 Toyota Camry. Facing stiff competition from the Honda Accord, Toyota replaced its aging Corona sedan with the new Camry in 1983. (Toyota via AP)

    This undated image provided by Toyota shows the 1983 Toyota Camry. Facing stiff competition from the Honda Accord, Toyota replaced its aging Corona sedan with the new Camry in 1983. (Toyota via AP) (The Associated Press)

  • This photo provided by Toyota shows the 1987 Toyota Camry. In the first major redesign since it debuted in 1983, the 1987 Camry looked more upscale and offered a quieter, cushier ride. It was also longer and had more power. (Toyota via AP)

    This photo provided by Toyota shows the 1987 Toyota Camry. In the first major redesign since it debuted in 1983, the 1987 Camry looked more upscale and offered a quieter, cushier ride. It was also longer and had more power. (Toyota via AP) (The Associated Press)

  • This undated photo provided by Toyota shows the 1997 Toyota Camry. This new Camry had a sportier look, and beat the Accord and Taurus to become the best-selling sedan in the U.S. in 1997. (Toyota via AP)

    This undated photo provided by Toyota shows the 1997 Toyota Camry. This new Camry had a sportier look, and beat the Accord and Taurus to become the best-selling sedan in the U.S. in 1997. (Toyota via AP) (The Associated Press)

Toyota unveiled the eighth-generation Camry at the Detroit auto show Monday, at a time when car buyers in the U.S. are flocking to SUVs.

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The Camry has worn the crown as the best-selling vehicle in the U.S., excluding pickups, for 15 years, offering drivers a reliable ride for getting from one place to another. The car has never been known for its looks. however. In fact, in the past some analysts compared it to an appliance. The current version is square-looking when compared to competitors such as the Honda Accord or Chevrolet Malibu.

The 2018 Camry has a more rounded look, new engines and transmissions with sportier handling.

Here's a look back at the past seven versions of a car that has been the nation's top-selling vehicle for 15 years, excluding pickup trucks:

1983: Facing stiff competition from the Honda Accord, Toyota replaced its aging Corona sedan with the new Camry in 1983. The Camry — whose name comes from the Japanese word for "crown" — was aimed for the mass market, with a functional design and a peppy feel. It was 6 inches longer than the Accord, for a total of 175.6 inches. It also had slightly more power than the Accord thanks to its 92-horsepower, four-cylinder engine. The Camry's starting price was $9,698 and 53,501 were sold in the U.S. its first year, according to WardsAuto.

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1987: The redesigned Camry, introduced in 1987, looked more upscale and offered a quieter, cushier ride. It had more power, with a 115-horsepower four-cylinder under the hood, and a V6 engine option followed in 1988. It also grew longer, to 182 inches. The 1987 Camry's starting price was $11,758. To meet growing U.S. demand, Toyota began building Camrys in the U.S., at a new factory in Georgetown, Kentucky. Sales had grown quickly, with 189,626 vehicles purchased in 1987.

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1992: The 1992 Camry reflected changing design tastes. Toyota gave it the rounded, more aerodynamic shape of popular rivals like the Ford Taurus. The new Camry stretched to 187.8 inches. The four-cylinder engine boasted 130 horsepower. The starting price was $17,653 and 286,602 models were sold that year.

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1997: The new Camry had a sportier look, but some of the biggest changes were inside the car, where anti-lock brakes and air bags were now standard. The starting price of a 1997 Camry was $16,818, thanks to a new stripped-down trim level with manual windows and no air-conditioning. The Camry beat the Accord and Taurus to become the best-selling sedan in the U.S. in 1997, with 397,156 vehicles moving off American showroom floors.

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2002: The Camry got taller and wider in 2002, for a much more upscale look. It also got longer, stretching to 189.2 inches. A new, four-cylinder engine substantially increased the sedan's power to 157 horsepower. The starting price of the 2002 Camry was $19,455. That year, 434,145 Camrys were sold in the U.S. and the car overtook the Accord and other rivals for good; it has remained the best-selling sedan in the U.S. every year since then.

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2007: The sixth-generation Camry had a more angular and aerodynamic design. The four-cylinder also stayed essentially unchanged at 158 horsepower, but the optional V6 got a dramatic boost to 268 horsepower. Toyota also introduced a hybrid version of the Camry in the 2007 model year. The starting price was $18,470. U.S. sales peaked this year with 473,108 models sold, according to WardsAuto.

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2012: Toyota didn't change much in terms of looks on the 2012 Camry — the length remained 189.2 inches and subtle design changes gave it a slightly sportier look. The base four-cylinder engine got a big upgrade to 178 horsepower. The starting price of the 2012 Camry was $22,055 and 404,886 were sold in the U.S. that year.