Toyota has already released "teaser" images of the new Camry including this one showing the new taillight design.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Toyota is expected to officially unveil a new version of America's best-selling car on Tuesday and the new Toyota Camry has a lot to carry, even before anyone's loaded the trunk.
For Americans, the Camry essentially defines Toyota.
"Camry is their heart and soul," said Ed Kim, an industry analyst with Autopacific.
The Camry has been the best-selling passenger car in America for 13 of the last 14 years. In fact, said Joe DeMatio, deputy editor for Automobile magazine, it has pretty much become America's default car.
That's because, not too long ago, the Camry and its main Japanese competitor, the Honda Accord, were simply the best mid-sized cars going, offering buyers safe, comfortable, reliable transportation.
But now, the new Camry has to be flawless, said David Champion, head of auto testing for Consumer Reports.
"This car has to be excellent in every way," he said, "and it has to be reliable."
That's because there's serious competition out there. Both Ford (Fortune 500) and General Motors ( , Fortune 500) have created genuinely viable family cars in the Ford Fusion and Chevrolet Malibu. The Koreans have entered the fray in a big way, too, with the Hyundai Sonata and Kia Optima, cars that many critics put right at the top of the class.,
"The current Camry is by no means a bad choice," said Kim, "but it's no longer the clear leader."
Since 2009, the Camry's share of the mid-size sedan market has dropped from 36% to 20%, according to data from TrueCar.com.
So, should Toyota (), still the front runner, play it safe or go for something that will clearly vault it ahead of any pretenders to the throne?
"Toyota is very, very conservative, especially with mass market products like the Camry," said Todd Turner, an auto market analyst with California-based Car Concepts.
Don't expect anything too fancy like new engine technology if Toyota can achieve good fuel economy without it, said Turner.
In terms of design, Toyota is also unlikely to do anything too extreme.
Toyota has already released some "teaser" images of the car -- headlight, taillight and interior photos -- that give some idea of the design direction. And the direction seems to be... down the middle of the road, as usual.
The Hyundai Sonata and Kia Optima made a splash with bold striking designs. DeMatio calls the Optima "arguably the best-looking car in its class."
But the Camry doesn't need eye-catching looks, said Turner.
"When you're a small player wanting to make a big splash, you want to have tension in your design," he said.
Camry buyers want a car that looks like a Camry, that's all, said Turner. Nothing too fancy.
The new Camry will be sharper, Toyota spokesman Greg Thome said, but without veering too much from what Camrys have been in the past.
"The details will be much more contemporary," he said.
Toyota's biggest challenge: Its biggest strength, product quality, has taken some hits. Most notably there was that string of recalls and scary headlines in 2009. Customers may not remember the details, or that government scientists cleared the automaker's electronic throttle systems, said Turner, but the damage has been done.
"There was something with Toyota," customers will recall, he said, "and it wasn't good."
Meanwhile, competitors, including domestic automakers, have figured out how to make cars that don't break.
According to Consumer Reports, Ford cars are now essentially as dependable as Toyotas. In J.D. Power's most recent dependability survey, Toyota was still the top-ranked non-luxury brand but Ford also ranked well above average as did Hyundai.
With Toyota's quality reputation dented, the new Camry not only has to be flawless said Consumer Reports' Champion, but it could be a little more fun to drive, too, at least in some versions. Not everyone wants excitement behind the wheel, but many do.
"It's a very fine balance with not upsetting those current buyers who want almost an appliance to drive," said Champion.
Toyota could take the approach it's already taken with the Sienna minivan, making the SE version notably more sporty than the rest, Champion suggested.
"They need to make it a little more appealing to younger people," he said.
The new Camry will do that, said Toyota's Thome, providing sharper distinctions between different versions of the car.
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