If you are particularly observant about cars - or if you happened to be in that Mercury Grand Marquis rental car a group of my colleagues and I drove from San Francisco to Monterey for the Ford Mustang Boss 302 press launch a couple of months ago - you’ll recognize this car as a Toyota Camry.
By the exhaust pipe hanging way below the underfloor of the car.
Not to pick on Toyota or anything. The world’s biggest car maker has taken a few shots recently, but overall, they do build very good cars.
But one thing has always intrigued me: Why does Toyota seem incapable of building a sedan with an exhaust system that doesn't dangle several centimetres below the floorpan?
It’s like they were channelling their inner Austin-Healey (a reference for you veterans out there…).
They aren't built this way - they just seem to get this way very soon after delivery.
Typically, it's the centre part of the pipe, between the axles, that gets all droopy. The pipe isn't broken - the cars don't make undue noise, so the owner (who would seldom drive behind his own car and can't see it otherwise) wouldn't even know.
I first started noticing this with the 1992-1996 generation Camry which, by any other standard, was probably the best car you will ever be able to buy for anywhere near the price.
That’s because it was also engineered to be the first ‘real’ mid-size Lexus (sold as the ES300; earlier ES models were basically Camrys with more lipstick and rouge).
Subsequent generations of Camry have had bundles of cost taken out of them so the car could remain cost-competitive with the likes of Honda Accord, and the company still make money.
The dangling exhaust system remains.
Lexus quality and reputation notwithstanding, I've also seen this on the Lexus ES300, and on the Toyota Avalon, both of which share the Camry platform.
Now, is this simply a function of normal wear-and-tear as the cars age, and the fact that it seems so prevalent on Camrys is a reflection on how long Toyotas keep running?
There may be a component of that.
But you see lots of older Honda Accords or even Pontiac 6000s and Ford Taurusses, and it's nowhere near as bad on them.
I've also seen it on the current generation Camry, which can't be much more than two or three years old. And just the other day on a current Lexus ES too.
The second-most common car with this concern appears to be the Corolla, which suggests that it's a Toyota thing, not exclusively a Camry thing.
I just spent two weeks in Australia where the Camry is also popular, and I did not notice it there. Is it maybe just a North American Toyota thing?
I once asked a US-based Toyota engineer about this. He sort of sighed - might have been a bit of an eye-roll too - and mumbled a little, as if to indicate that he knew they had an issue, but that they either didn’t have an answer, or it wasn’t high enough on their priority list.
Has anybody out there had this happen to their Camry (or Corolla)?
Anybody got an explanation?
And if you haven’t noticed this before, I bet you’re going to notice it now.