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2012 Toyota Camry Review By Larry Nutson

2012 Toyota Camry (select to view enlarged photo)
2012 Toyota Camry

Toyota Camry – Everybody’s Darling
All new in 2012; 2013 coming soon

By Larry Nutson
Senior Editor, Chicago Bureau
The Auto Channel

The Toyota Camry is all-new for 2012. Introduced a little over one year ago, it’s the seventh generation of the Camry that has become well established in the American automotive scene. First introduced in 1983, Camry has been America’s best selling car for nine consecutive years and for 13 out of the last 14 years.

The 2013 Camry hasn’t been announced yet, but it is expected to be unchanged. The 2012 model that I’m driving is very representative of the 2013 and you should keep on reading if you are shopping a midsize car.

Yes, the Camry has been everybody’s darling and satisfied many drivers from all walks of life who seek good reliable transportation in a not-to-expressive design. Well that’s changed with the all-new 2012 Camry. Styling is more sophisticated with a bolder design, a more spacious interior, a quieter ride, and better driving dynamics that provide a more-connected feeling with the road.

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The Camry is a front wheel drive, 5-seat midsize car and is offered in L, LE, SE, and XLE models with either a 4-cylinder or a V6 engine. The V6 is only offered in the top two trims, SE and XLE. Base prices start at $21,955 and go up to $29,895. A Camry Hybrid is also available in either LE or XLE trim priced starting at $25,900.

My test car was the top of the line XLE equipped with the 2.5-Liter 4-cylinder engine and with a base price of $24,725. The transmission, the only one offered, is a six-speed automatic. Options on my test car included a Display Audio and Navigation package for $1,050, a Convenience Package that includes items such as smart key, push button start, rear back-up camera, and a few other items for $1,195, and a Leather Package which includes not only leather but heated front seats and 4-way power front passenger seat for $1,650. Add in carpeted floor mats for $130 and shipping charges at $760 and the total hits $29,510.

The 2.5-liter four is rated at 178HP. My Chicagoland driving is mostly in the city with a few expressway drives thrown in. The Camry’s acceleration in city traffic, expressway on-ramp merging and expressway passing is all accomplished with adequate performance and comfort. There were no anxious moments in my 4-cylinder test car. EPA fuel economy ratings are 28mpg combined with 25mpg city and 35mpg highway. Regular 87-octane fuel is all you need and the tank holds 17 gallons, for almost 600 miles of highway cruising.

The 3.5-liter V6 that is offered in SE and XLE trim is rated at 268HP and that too only comes with a six-speed automatic. Also using regular grade gasoline, EPA fuel economy ratings are 25mpg combined with 21mpg city and 30mpg highway.

Keep in mind that for every 100lbs of weight carried in a vehicle fuel economy drops by about 1mpg. But this added weight also slows down acceleration. Even with the higher fuel consumption of the V6 I might choose this engine if I drove the Camry very frequently with a full passenger load. I might just want the added performance for acceleration.

If you want real fuel savings and do nearly all your driving in the city then consider the Camry Hybrid. Hybrids pay off in city driving. The Camry Hybrid has EPA fuel economy ratings of 41mpg combined with 43mpg city and 39mpg highway. You can see by the higher city mpg rating the hybrid advantage. Of course, every buyer should look at the return-on-investment when paying the extra cost for the hybrid in exchange for fewer trips to the pumps.

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Overall I found the Camry to be a very pleasant car. Exterior design is pleasing, tasteful, not to aggressive, and yet interesting. On the inside the quality, feel and appearance of the interior materials is significantly improved over previous Camry generations. Ride and handling also provides a nice level of comfort and acceptable, but not the best, control and feedback. It’s a very nice car that will carry 5 folks very satisfactorily with a roomy 15.4cuft trunk for all their stuff and all wrapped up in good-value package.

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Looking at the four Camry trim level descriptors helps identify them, namely the entry-level L, value-driven LE, premium XLE and sporty SE. The L is nicely equipped with P205/65 R16 tires with 16-inch steel wheels with covers, Projector headlights, Daytime Running Lights (DRL) with off mode, Color-keyed folding power outside mirrors, and Intermittent wipers. On the inside, you get Air conditioning with filter, Bluetooth hands-free phone capability, Power door locks with anti-lockout feature, Power windows with driver’s auto up/down, Cruise control, Manual tilt/telescopic steering wheel, 60/40 folding rear seats, and Six-way manual driver’s seat and four-way manual passenger seat.

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The LE adds a few more nice-to-have features. The SE gets sporty with 17-inch wheels, a mesh grille, halogen headlamps as well as fog lamps, a few spoilers and on the inside a leather steering wheel and shifter as well as paddle shifters, plus some other items. The XLE gets a Power tilt/slide moonroof along with some other exterior items and on the inside some wood trim and if you opt for the V6, leather seats are standard along with heated front seats.

As you can see the matrix of trims and engine combinations provides something for everyone.

All Camrys have Toyota’s Star Safety System that includes Vehicle Stability Control (VSC), Traction Control (TRAC), Anti-lock Brake System (ABS), Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD), Brake Assist (BA) and Smart Stop Technology (SST).

Word is that for 2012 Camry will again be America’s best selling car. We’ll have to wait and see. But one thing is for sure Toyota is doing a very nice job of providing great cars for Americans to drive.

Epilogue: As I was about to publish this review the 2012 Consumer Reports Reliability Study was released with Toyota’s three brands taking the top spots, Toyota claiming second.

Larry Nutson