Midsize car; Built in USA
  • 2-door convertible
  • 2-door coupe
  • transverse front-engine/front-wheel drive
Good condition price range: $5,600 – $17,000*


2005 Toyota Solara


2006 Toyota Solara


2005 Toyota Solara


2006 Toyota Solara

Pros:
  • Acceleration (V6)
  • Quietness
Cons:
  • Navigation-system controls
  • Rear-seat entry/exit

Solaras are less spacious and practical than their Camry sedan parents, and are no more fun to drive. That may be why sales have been consistently low, making these Toyotas relatively rare on the used-car market, especially the convertibles. Still, Solaras are worth looking for if you want Camry sedan virtues with a dash of style. Accord coupes are more spirited, but Honda doesn’t match the droptop Solara, and both brands have solid reputations for reliability and workmanship.

Overview

Toyota added the Solara name and distinct styling for the 1999 redesign of its midsize Camry coupes. Solara convertibles bowed for 2000. These 2-dr models were again redesigned for 2004 on the latest Camry sedan platform, then two years old. Coupes arrived first in base SE, new SE Sport and luxury SLE trim. Convertibles bowed a few months later in SE and SLE guise with seating for four instead of five.

These Solaras bore a family resemblance to the two-seat SC 430 hardtop-convertible at Toyota’s luxury Lexus division, but followed previous models in using mostly Camry components. Chief among them were the powertrains. The base engine was a 157-hp 2.4-liter 4-cyl teamed with 5-speed manual transmission or optional 4-speed automatic. A 225-hp 3.3-liter V6 paired with 5-speed automatic transmission was mandatory for convertibles and available for SE Sport and SLE coupes. SE Sports featured unique lower-body styling, specific interior trim, and a performance-tuned suspension. They also came with 17-inch wheels, as did SLEs; SEs had 16-inch wheels. The two convertibles included a power fabric top with heated glass rear window.

As basically a 2-dr Camry for fashionistas, these Solaras offered a fair helping of standard features, including antilock brakes and front side airbags. Front/rear curtain side airbags were a new option for coupes, and a traction/antiskid system was available for V6 SLEs. Every SLE came with power driver’s seat, automatic climate control, and upgraded audio with in-dash CD changer (vs. single-CD player); V6 versions added leather upholstery and heated front seats. A sunroof was available for SE and Sport coupes. An optional navigation system was exclusive to SLE V6 models.

Yearly Updates

2005 Solara
All models essentially unchanged.
2006 Solara
Again, virtually unchanged from the previous year.
2007 Solara
Coupes added standard curtain side airbags for 2007. Also for ’07, xenon headlamps became available and standard on Sport and SLE models. SLEs got a wireless cell phone link.
2008 Solara
The 2008 Toyota Solara was unchanged.

Engines

transverse front-engine/front-wheel drive

These Solaras offered three basic powerteams. A 157-hp 2.2-liter 4-cyl engine was available with 5-speed manual transmission or an optional 4-speed automatic. A 225-hp 3.3-liter V6 came only with 5-speed automatic transmission.

dohc I4
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 2.4/144
Engine HP 157
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 162
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual
4-speed automatic
23/33
23/32
23.3
dohc V6
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 3.3/202
Engine HP 225
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 240
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed automatic

20/28

21.0

Road Test

Solaras trade 4-dr function for 2-dr style, but have most of the qualities that make Camry sedans so popular. Engines, for example, are models of quiet smoothness and deliver adequate to peppy acceleration. The 4-cyl furnishes 0-60 mph in a little over 9 sec with automatic transmission, a tad less with manual. A test V6 SE Sport coupe clocked just under 7 sec. Both automatic transmissions hesitate a bit to downshift for passing and need a heavy dose of throttle to do so, but the payback is pretty good fuel economy for midsize cars. We’ve had no opportunity to measure 4-cyl Solaras, but test V6s averaged from 19.7 mpg in aggressive city/suburban driving up to 22.3 mpg in mostly highway running. Toyota recommends premium-grade fuel for the V6, a minus with record pump prices nowadays.

The suspension is set up to favor ride over handling, so Solaras feel less agile than rival 2-dr Honda Accords. They’re competent, front-drive predictable, and pleasant to drive, but the soft suspension tuning makes Solaras better suited for highway cruising than attacking twisty mountain roads. Somewhat light, numb steering doesn’t help. Convertibles feel less precise, due to a more-flexible structure vs. coupes-and the rival ragtop Chrysler Sebring. That’s especially noticed on bumpy roads that can induce an unsettling amount of body quiver. Ride is otherwise absorbent, almost pillowy, though models with 17-inch tires register more small bumps. All Solaras make smooth, fairly swift stops. Refinement is another plus. Besides quiet engines, occupants notice little highway wind noise-even top-up in convertibles-and tire thrum is modest.

Cabins also offer plenty of front leg space on firm seats that feel all-day comfortable. Head clearance, though, is just OK for six-footers and is restricted in back, where leg room is very tight without front seats pushed well forward. The convertible’s rear seat is no fit place for even medium-height adults except on short hops. Coupes have three rear seatbelts, but their bench seat is also shaped for two and is no more inviting. Entry/exit is the usual 2-dr squeeze aft and a bit cumbersome fore, a penalty of the longish doors. Drivers enjoy the expected sensible Toyota dashboard with mostly simple, handy switchgear and large gauges, though some testers find the “floodlit” instruments harder to read than the usual backlit type. The optional navigation system is more user-friendly than most, but controls too many climate and audio functions. A standard tilt/telescope steering wheel helps tailor a sound basic driving stance. Still, a power seat, standard on SLEs and optional otherwise, is almost mandatory for shorter drivers, as the high-tail styling limits visibility astern and over-the-shoulder, especially top-up in convertibles. Cabin décor mixes padded surfaces with some slightly cheap-looking plastics. The leather upholstery lacks richness, but SE Sports strive for style with racy graphitelike accents, special gauge graphics, and aluminum pedal trim.

As for cargo space, coupes have more than enough for two on a long trip. The trunk opening is too small for bulky items, but is partly offset by a standard 60/40 split folding rear seat. Convertibles lack that feature, and their trunks are about 2 cu. ft. smaller, though also usefully shaped. Cabin storage is good, with a roomy bi-level console bin and a large in-dash cubby.

Ratings

Model Tested: 2005 Toyota Solara SLE V6 coupe

Ratings values are on a 1-10 scale, with 10 being the best. With the exception of Value, these numbers reflect how the vehicle compares against the universe of vehicles, not just against rivals in its class.

Performance

Acceleration - 6
60%
Fuel Economy - 5
50%
Ride Quality - 6
60%
Steering/Handling - 6
60%
Quietness - 7
70%

Accommodations

Controls/Materials - 7
70%
Room/Comfort Front - 7
70%
Room/Comfort Rear - 4
40%
Cargo Room - 3
30%

Other

Value - 4
40%

Total: 55

Specifications

2-door convertible
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
107.1 192.5 71.5 56.5
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
21.0 18.5 4
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
38.5 38.4 42.0 35.0
2-door coupe
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
107.1 192.5 71.5 56.1
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
13.8 18.5 5
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
38.0 36.4 42.0 35.4
Safety Ratings

Model Tested: 2004 Solara 2-door coupe

NHTSA

(5 is the highest rating)

Front Impact Test

Driver Injury - 5
100%
Front Passenger Injury - 5
100%

Side Impact Test

Driver Injury - 5
100%
Rear Passenger Injury - 5
100%

HLDI

(A score of 100 is average. Lower is better)

Collision N/A
Injury N/A
Theft N/A

Trouble Spots

Airbags
Description: If the “Passenger Airbag Off’ light is on, but the airbag is not switched off, someone may have pushed hard on the seatback and affected the sensors, requiring the seat to be replaced with one calibrated for more weight. (2004-05)
Coolant leak
Description: Coolant leaks from the rear of the 2AZFE 2.4L engine because two rear head bolts stretch. (2002-06)
Engine noise
Description: Squeak, squeal or rattle from engine compartment usually due to faulty drive belt tensioner and an improved unit has been made available. (2001-04)
Audio system
Description: The voice activated navigation system may add extra words when responding to the driver’s request requiring reprogramming with an updated DVD. (2007)
Audio system
Description: The audio system may be noisy when using an external MP3 player requiring installation of an in-line filter. (2007-08)
Rear axle noise
Description: Banging noise from the rear suspension when going over bumps requires improved upper strut supports. (2004-06)
Steering problems
Description: If the vehicle pulls or drifts to the left, the springs on the front shocks/struts require replacement. (2004-05)
Sunroof/moonroof
Description: Water may leak onto the headliner and/or floor because the drain hose(s) for the moonroof may come loose and clamps should be installed on all four. (2004-07)
Water leak
Description: Water leaks at the headliner or either front floor may be due to the sunroof drain hose(s) coming loose and improved clamps must be installed. (2004-07)
Convertible top
Description: Wind noise from the convertible top may be the result of the rail cables in the top not being tight enough, requiring replacement. And, if the tonneau cover is hard to install, the side hooks should be adjusted. (2004)
Convertible top
Description: The convertible top may be hard to latch and the stationary catches for the latch may have to be relocated. (2005-07)
Check-engine light
Description: Misfires accompanied by the check engine light may be due to problems with one or more of the ignition coils. (2004)
Check-engine light
Description: A check engine light, possibly accompanied by drivability concerns, is likely due to a vacuum leak at the intake air control valve on the 3.3L V6 engine. (2004)

Recall History

2004 Solara
Description: Some vehicles may have curtain side airbags that were not assembled properly and thus might not deploy as designed. Dealers will inspect the airbags and replace where necessary.
2004-05 Solara
Description: On some vehicles with a power front passenger seat, installing a rear-facing child seat may disconnect a component called the buckle status switch that suppresses deployment of the right-side dashboard airbag, thus increasing the risk of injury to the child in a collision. Dealers will replace buckle status switch.
2006 Solara
Description: Certain vehicles may have an incorrect “tire and loading information” label. Owners will be provided with replacement labels and installation instructions.
2007 Solara w/curtain side airbags
Description: The curtain side airbag tether strap may have been installed incorrectly, resulting in the airbag’s possible improper deployment. Dealers will inspect and replace affected parts

Equipment Lists

Equipment lists are only viewable on larger screen sizes.

Pricing

Used-car pricing varies widely depending on local market conditions. Therefore, we recommend visiting websites that list used cars for sale to get a better idea of what a specific model is selling for in your area.