OBD II Scan Tool with Extended Toyota Parameters
2000 Toyota Camry Solara Review

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Review: OBD 2 Scan Tool Interfaces with 
2000 Toyota Camry Solara

by Adrian Biffen
Systems Administrator
Software For Cars

My GMC van was starting to show its age after 25 years of dependable service, the Millennium had arrived along with my 50th birthday, and I decided it was time to buy a new vehicle to use for demonstrating our OBD scan tool products (see section at the end of this article). I wanted something quiet and comfortable and I set out to test drive all the new vehicles I was interested in.

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The Camry Solara proved to be the favored choice, so I plunked down a lot of money and drove it off the showroom floor (that was a good day). If I was doing it again today, I would get  a FREE QUOTE first from the folks at Automotive.com. It is an LEV (Low Emission Vehicle) that meets and exceeds the rigid California Air Resources Board (CARB) standards.2000 Toyota Camry Solara This is a lot of car for a list price of less than $27k USD ... here's what the designers at Toyota had to say about the concept:

"The Solara is about striking the ideal balance between performance and comfort, style and practicality, luxury and affordability. It's enjoyable as an enthusiast's car but doesn't ask the driver to make sacrifices in other areas."

Designed and engineered in North America, the Solara was initially built at the award-winning Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada (TMMC) plant in Ontario, then later in the US as the market expanded. It was the first vehicle to take advantage of the combined talents of Toyota's North American styling, engineering and manufacturing facilities. The plant in Ontario is also the only one outside of Japan authorized to manufacture Lexus cars.

2000 Toyota Camry Solara SLE V6
The deluxe SLE V6 model shares a chassis and engine design with its Lexus cousins.

The 182 cubic inch (3 Litre) DOHC motor (used in Lexus models) has a sophisticated fuel injected 4 valve per cylinder, normally aspirated design that puts out 200 very smooth horses (yes, that's better than a 1 hp/cubic inch ratio). It also generates 245 lb-ft of torque that provides quite an acceleration kick at low rpm, without straining the engine. 

I have yet to find it necessary to 'floor' it - when entering the freeway, the compact V6 provides slingshot acceleration to 70 mph in a few breathless seconds (the zero to 60 mph time is around 7 seconds). You can forget about spinning your tires on takeoff, the electronic traction control system makes it almost impossible for the 16" Michelin anti-hydroplaning tires to lose contact with the asphalt (if you're keen on even more traction, read our Subaru Forester article). The oversized four wheel disc brakes with ABS bring this car to a perfectly straight, carefully controlled halt when required. There are also front air bags and active harness restraints if you have to stop really fast (side air bags are optional).

The powertrain is very quiet and the motor has a pleasant, muted growl only when accelerating rapidly. It is so smooth and quiet at idle, it is hard to tell if it is actually running. 3 Litre, 182 cubic inch, 200 hp Solara V6I have actually had to glance at the tachometer a few times to assure myself that it was indeed turning over. I suspect that Toyota will have to overstock starter gear components as it would be very easy to accidentally try and start this vehicle when the engine is already running (Note: It turns out that the electronics will not allow the starter to engage if the engine is running).

The engine has generously oversized mounts (A) plus a silicone damped shock absorber (B) that completely eliminate the usual 'bucking' and 'hopping' behavior associated with transverse mounted engines.
Note the exhaust manifold oxygen sensor (C) that feeds combustion efficiency data into the On Board Diagnostic (OBD) System that can be monitored by our scan tool.

Fuel consumption is surprisingly low (considering the performance), probably due in part to the 'true overdrive' feature of the silky smooth electronically controlled 4 speed automatic transmission. At highway speeds I found I was getting close to 35 mpg (70 mph @ 2500 rpm) with regular gas. The electronic cruise control is perfectly smooth and adjusts the electronically controlled automatic overdrive (ECT) transmission and throttle position to regulate downhill and uphill speeds. All cruise functions are controlled by the wheel mounted switch, so 'drive by finger' is entirely possible in this car. Tapping the set switch up or down adjusts the cruise setting in 1 mph increments - handy for fine speed adjustment while in traffic.

Despite the comfortable ride, this car also handles very well. It will 'pancake' around corners faster than I would ever want to drive. It has MacPherson strut front suspension with gas-filled shock absorbers and stabilizer bar; dual-link independent MacPherson strut rear suspension with gas-filled shock absorbers and stabilizer bar. The steering is effortless with the variable-assist power rack-and-pinion mechanism.

The unitized body has a very low drag coefficient and wind noise is very nearly absent at any speed. There isn't much difference in interior noise level whether you are going 30 or 70 mph. 2000 Toyota Camry Solara SLE V6 interior - Ivory leather packageExtra steel cross members in the engine compartment and rear frame area provide total lateral stiffness - there isn't the slightest hint of any chassis or body flexing, even on the bumpiest roads. Squeaks and chafing sounds simply don't exist in this vehicle. Of course, when you slip a CD into the in-dash CD changer, turn on the superb 8 speaker 200 watt JBL sound system, and adjust the graphic equalizer, you can't hear a damn thing except the music ... audiophiles might buy this car just to get the sound system, ain't no speaker rattle here even with the bass pounding out of a U2 album!

The elegant 'Ivory Leather' interior is bright and cheerful (yes, that is wood grain trim around the cabin) and a good match for the white flaked 'Diamond White Pearl' exterior finish. All controls are are well positioned for logical, fingertip control and the dash and center console lighting at night is superb. Solara interior showing moon roof glass closed with shade open The 8 way power driver's seat is very comfortable and the passenger seat automatically slides forward and tilts at the touch of a lever to allow easy access into the large, comfortable rear seats (which fold down for extra 'pass-thru' trunk capacity). The 'set and forget' climate control system is very quiet and effective, whether it is hot or cold outside. If you like fresh air and plenty of light, the power tilt/slide glass moonroof with one-touch open/close push button operation is a nice feature. Exterior visibility is good in all directions and all glass panes have extra UV filtering contained within.

Electronic control systems abound in this car. It will turn your headlights on at night if you forget (the reduced intensity 'daylight mode' is always on), dim your rear view mirror when necessary at night and heat your electric side mirrors if it's cold outside. It will turn on the interior lights when you use the remote keyless entry (only the driver's door unlocks unless you click twice) and prevent the doors from locking if you leave the key in the ignition. There are 3 HomeLink
(Johnson Controls) buttons on the ceiling console that can be programmed to activate doors, lights, furnace etc. in your 'smart home' as you approach your driveway (supports anti-burglar 'rotating code' system that changes every time you use it). The engine immobilizer system protects against theft (and dramatically lowers insurance costs). Naturally, the headlights will also be turned off if you forget when you leave the car. If you forget to close the power windows like I often do, they remain active for 45 seconds after the key is removed from the ignition. The valet key has a different digital encoding than the owner's key and prevents the glove box and trunk from being opened.

With all the electronic sophistication of the Solara, the OBD (On Board Diagnostic) system hasn't been neglected either. Henry inspects fuel injection system, with laptop connected to OBD system The DLC (Data Link Connector) port on the Solara is tucked neatly under the driver's side dash, facing down and flush with the lower edge. Although you can't see it without peering under the dash, the positioning is such that plugging a scan tool in is a relatively simple task. Note that the car needs to be running before you attempt to establish data communications with the on board computer because the engine immobilizer system will shut down the port if the key is turned on without the motor running. In this picture, Henry is inspecting the fuel injection system and OBD emission control sensor locations, just to get a feel for the general engineering involved in this car. His verdict: "very nice" (that's a very enthusiastic comment, coming from this affable Scot).

When you release the hood latch, 2 compressed gas actuators gently lift the hood up and out of the way, revealing a well laid out engine compartment Solara engine compartment (note the aforementioned steel stiffening brace mounted laterally between the shock absorbers). Unlike many new cars, there is room to work on both sides of the engine and, hey, you can actually see large patches of concrete floor when you peer down. The right bank of dual-electrode platinum spark plugs (front top of engine) is easy to get at; we'll have to see how hard it is to get to the other bank when it comes time to change plugs (that is, after the 8 year extended warranty runs out) 

The data stream coming into the software scan tool revealed the structure of the emission control system, with 3 oxygen sensors at the heart of the emissions control system. The scan tool readout could easily detect the 5 rpm idle speed variation, although it was impossible to see this on the vehicle's tachometer (this is one smooth engine!). We were also able to observe increased system activity when the engine cooling fan kicked in, holding the engine temperature very close to 199 F. 

As expected, there weren't any trouble codes stored in the on board memory, but we'll report later in an updated article if this happens. We arranged for a full service manual to be delivered with this car and will be thoroughly examining the control systems over the next few months. If you're interested in some of the screen data, please see the screen captures below. If you're interested in getting this software for your own car, take a look at our scan tool products page.

Kudos to Toyota - the Solara exceeded all my expectations of what a new car should be like ... now, if you could just marry in some of the new hybrid engine technology with regenerative braking, it would be perfect!

Author's Update Aug 01: 16,000 miles, still in showroom condition, running perfect, everything works, no rattles or squeaks.
Author's Update Aug 02: 17,500 miles, still in showroom condition, running perfect, everything works, no rattles or squeaks.
Author's Update Aug 03: 21,600 miles, still in showroom condition, running perfect, everything works, no rattles or squeaks, replaced windshield wipers.
Author's Update Aug 04: 26,500 miles, still in showroom condition, running perfect, everything works, no rattles or squeaks,
Author's Update Aug 05: 36,000 miles, still in showroom condition, running perfect, everything works, no rattles or squeaks,


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