Kelley Blue Book ® - 2003 Toyota Solara Overview

Vehicle Overview from Kelley Blue Book

KBB.com 2003 Toyota Solara Overview

Body
King of the Coupes

The Solara is one of the last remaining full-sized personal luxury coupes that the average person can still afford. In this league, perhaps only Chrysler's Sebring offers the same level of luxury, power and the option of a convertible top. But the Solara offers even more than that, giving you a choice of engines, transmissions and luxury features plus the unbeatable quality and longevity for which Toyota is now legendary.

Beyond the generic words of praise, the Solara truly is a one-of-a-kind vehicle. Its styling is somewhat subdued yet still striking when viewed up close, especially the convertible. If you think you might like something a bit spicier, hold out for the 2004 model; it gets a complete make over that takes the Solara in a whole new direction. You can get a sneak peak of the 2004 in our preview section under New and Improved. If on the other hand, the current Solara is the car that moves you, then fear not, for you can't go wrong with this model either.

Toyota offers the Solara in three trims: SE, SEV6 and SLE. The base SE is the most affordable of the three and comes standard with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine borrowed from last year's all-new Camry. If you're thinking "four-cyinder = slow," think again; the Solara's 2.4-liter engine produces 157 horsepower and can be teamed to a five-speed manual transmission. When rowing your own gears, you can make the Solara move pretty darn quickly, both at stoplight changes and when downshifting to get around slower moving traffic. The 2.4 is practically silent beneath the hood and transmits no detectable vibration or whine into the Solara's passenger compartment. This engine is so good, it's almost a shame that you can't get it with the plush, upscale features afforded to the SLE trim. But the marketing people have spoken, so if you want features like automatic climate control, heated seats, traction control and the JBL audio system, you'll have to move up to the SLE.

The 3.0-liter V6 is a great engine in its own right, with loads of power and always emitting the sweetest note under full throttle. Sadly, this year the manual transmission option has been deleted for the V6, leaving the capable—but not nearly as fun to drive—four-speed automatic as the only transmission choice.

The Solara has so many positives that it's hard to find fault with the car. From the point of view of the driver and passenger, you'll find the Solara's ride akin to running your fingers over a silk scarf; the suspension and steering feel more Lexus than Toyota, as does the handsomely tailored cockpit. The rear seat is big and roomy— we're talking like sedan-size roomy—easily capable of fitting two big adults without any compromise whatsoever. The seats are also marvelously comfy, with long supportive backs that cradle you right up to the back of your neck; the front seats also provide excellent lower lumbar and thigh support.

At highway speeds, you hear only the other voices of your passengers and minus that, the distant "whoosh" of passing traffic. As you stretch your legs, you can let the Solara do the same, setting the cruise control and giving the car permission to flat-out run to your final destination. With music flowing from the JBL sound system, your interior temperature preset and regulated, all that's left to do is steer and watch the world go by. If at some point you encounter traffic or better yet, s-curves, there is no need to fear; the Solara's independent suspension and 16-inch tires are more than adequate to take on all challenges.

No matter which model you choose, you'll find the Solara to be a well-equipped machine. The base SE comes standard with power windows, power door locks, five-speed manual transmission, air conditioning, AM/FM stereo with CD and cassette, auto-off headlamps, overhead console, rear defrost, power mirrors, tilt-steering wheel, cloth bucket seats, fog lights, cruise control, split folding-rear seat and 15-inch tires with full wheel covers. The SLE adds leather seats, automatic climate control, a JBL 3-in-1 audio system, 16-inch alloy wheels, ABS, remote keyless entry, leather-wrapped steering wheel and a four-speed automatic transmission. Options include a power sunroof, heated seats and traction control.

Copyright © 2014 by Kelley Blue Book Co., All Rights Reserved.