I upgraded from the 4th generation Camry to this 5th generation, also with 5 speed transmission. It feels like a completely different car. It's the most reliable car I ever had. In 1.5 years of ownership absolutely nothing has gone wrong with it. I just change the oil myself.
Well with the exception of the windshield cracking all the way on the passenger's side. Happened this winter and the car was in the garage. The temperature hit -16C and I wonder if that's what did it, although it doesn't make sense.
Mechanically, it has been very reliable. I changed the brakes on it once. Just scanned codes the other day - no codes.
I love the way the manual transmission shifts, much better than the previous generation Camry. Smooth.
The power is very good and so is the MPG. I get 31MPG on highway only and mid-20's in mixed driving.
It's easy to work on. I changed the alternator belt on it and it wasn't that hard.
The interior is good. Handling is good.
The AC is so-so, nowhere near as cold as it is in say Subaru, but it might just need a recharge.
Nothing ever breaks on it so I hardly ever use my tools anymore. It just runs like a fridge.
My biggest disappointment with the Camry is that Toyota in its infinite wisdom dropped the station wagon way back in the 90's. I don't really want a sedan. I don't want an SUV, I wish they made a Camry station wagon with 5 speed.
What I heard on a forum (but not experienced myself) is that the automatic transmission can be troublesome, not shift right. No catastrophic failure however. Manual is far more reliable. If getting an auto, better test drive it carefully and change the fluids often.
I am not just picking on Toyota, many makers, both domestic and imports have issues with autos, even in brand new expensive cars.