Vital Stats

Engine:
3.5L V6
Power:
268 HP / 248 LB-FT
Transmission:
6-Speed Auto
0-60 Time:
6.5 Seconds
Drivetrain:
Front-Wheel Drive
Curb Weight:
3,420 LBS
Seating:
2+3
Cargo:
15.4 CU-FT
MPG:
21 City / 30 HWY
Prognosis Negative



How do doctors do it? How do they tell people that their loved ones are sick, afflicted, or even terminal? Sure, it's one thing to deliver bad news like a mechanic: "Your transmission's fried lady, that's gonna be three grand." But doctors need to be sensitive to the great anguish that will accompany their diagnosis. Nobody wants to find out that their formerly healthy family member isn't well, and a doctor's compassion is as important as his healing hand. The way the news gets delivered is crucial to how a patient, family and friends come to accept the situation and cope with treatment and its aftermath.

Can we then, get a doctor to write this review of the new Camry? Because after a week behind the wheel of the 2012 Toyota Camry SE V6, one thing is clear: This best-seller is ailing.

Now, we understand that the car is a veritable institution – there are presently some 40,000 people snapping up Camrys every month. And yes, for most of the car buying public, the new midsize Toyota will continue to provide safe and suitable, if unsurprising, transportation. By our estimation, however, there are at least two, probably three, maybe even four or five other midsize sedans offering a better overall package of price, performance and personality than Toyota's breadwinner. The short list starts with the Kia Optima and ends with the Hyundai Sonata, but the forthcoming Ford Fusion and Nissan Altima deserve their shots as well.
2012 Toyota Camry SE V6 side view2012 Toyota Camry SE V6 front view2012 Toyota Camry SE V6 rear view

But it's not just healthy competition that's enfeebled the Camry, it's that the Camry itself has grown old and tired. Despite Toyota's claims that the 2012 model is "all-new," it's not so easy to spot what's different between last year's Camry and this one, at least from the outside. The styling of the newer car adheres closely enough to both the spirit and letter of its predecessor that this 2012 not only looks like the 2011, they have virtually identical measurements. Sure, there are a few tighter creases on the 2012, particularly in the fascias, but that's the sort of change that merely betrays Toyota's adherence to the auto industry's philosophy of planned obsolescence. That said, it's not even a particularly good implementation of said concept, as the seventh-generation Camry isn't appreciably more modern in style than the sixth – or fifth, for that matter.

Worse than the side-step with the styling is that we're having a difficult time finding things about the car that have been significantly improved. A lot has changed, especially inside, but most of it is a proverbial rearranging of deck chairs on the Titanic. The instrument panel, for instance, looks nice in photos, but in the real world, it's a hodgepodge of different textures and sheens of plastic on its many parts. Compared to the Optima, the Toyota's dash looks downright cheap. We do recall what seemed like real metal trim pieces on the Camry's doors, but amidst all the fake "metal-look" plastic elsewhere in the cockpit, it's hard to even discern.

2012 Toyota Camry SE V6 interior2012 Toyota Camry SE V6 gauges2012 Toyota Camry SE V6 navigation system2012 Toyota Camry SE V6 dash

With no unifying theme to the interior, we get the sense that the teams that designed the instrument panel only met the ones that did the door panels after the fact. While that's unlikely, it doesn't change the fact that there's just no flow, no artistry to the Camry's confines. Even the seats, which are otherwise comfortable, are covered in at least three different materials in as many colors, seeming less stylish than resulting from someone not being able to make a decision. This everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach to updating the old Camry's drab interior has certainly given Toyota customers something to look at where there was once just monolithic plastic, but that's hardly worthy of excitement.

The Camry's 3.5-liter V6, on the other hand, is. Yes, it's the same 268-horsepower version of Toyota's corporate V6 that we've been enjoying for years, churning out 248 pound-feet of torque just like it did in the 2011 Camry. But we're not complaining, as the powertrain is the aspect of the Camry SE that's in the most robust health. Toyota has made some tweaks to the V6 powertrain in the Camry to pump its fuel economy up to 25 mpg combined for 2012, a two-mpg improvement over last year. We only saw 22 mpg during our week in the car, though there's good reason for our mileage shortcoming. Toyota has goosed the SE package for 2012 by including steering-wheel-mounted paddleshifters for the six-speed automatic transmission, and blipping through the gears perks up the V6 like a pacemaker. The paddleshifters are nicely designed and well-implemented – especially considering the Camry's deservedly unsporting reputation.

2012 Toyota Camry SE V6 engine

If the paddleshifters show hope, the Camry's new driving dynamics leave us realizing that re-injecting some life into this tired old girl is still a risky procedure. Toyota got it right when it comes to putting power to the pavement, as even with full application of the throttle there's no torque-steer from the front wheels, just seamless acceleration as the engine revs smoothly and quickly up past 6,000 rpm. But the 18-inch wheels and 45-series sidewall tires of the SE ride a bit harsh over rough pavement, and they transmit some noise into the otherwise quiet cabin. While the suspension in the SE feels firmer than in other, lower-grade Camrys we've driven, there's plenty of body roll and the front end will still readily wash out under hard cornering. The Camry's new electric power steering system doesn't provide much feedback and the brakes are merely adequate, with a hard pedal that inspires little confidence during panic stops. Driving the SE in anger is only going to leave you feeling more angry, as it's no sport sedan.

Not that it should be. But engineering a car that can perform well in the hands of enthusiast drivers and building an appliance for the commuting masses should not be mutually exclusive. There was once a time when the Camry was built with the objective of being the highest quality midsize sedan on the market. That no longer feels like the case – in fact, there are moments where it feels like this is built to be the least expensive Camry that Toyota can get away with.

2012 Toyota Camry SE V6 rear 3/4 view2012 Toyota Camry SE V6 headlight2012 Toyota Camry SE V6 wheel2012 Toyota Camry SE V6 taillight

For instance, the sticker price on our test car was all of $30,910, yet that didn't include automatic climate control, which is not offered on the SE trim. It did include a JBL-branded audio system that sounded among the worst systems we've recently heard in a new car, with a tinny tone that made everything from analog FM radio to CDs to Pandora sound like they were being played out of laptop speakers. Further evidence of cost-cutting can be seen in the specifications for the Camry's brakes: All models receive the same 11.65-inch front discs, despite the additional 230 pounds and 90 horsepower of the 3,420-pound SE V6 over the four-cylinder model. (Yes, Kia specs larger brakes for its more powerful version of the Optima.) Toyota's attention to detail seems lacking in other areas, like in the display for the tire pressure monitor, which shows the pressures for the four tires in a straight line, with no indication of front or back, left or right.

In truth, it's been years since the Camry really felt like a superior feat of industrial engineering. While there's still a strong pulse beating under the Camry SE's hood, it's just not enough to save this patient.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 402 Comments
      New Shel
      • 2 Years Ago
      Mazda has shown what you get when producing cars for people in the auto media. VW now makes Camrys and sales are WAY up. The world wants and needs boring cars. Big deal.
        Kevin W
        • 2 Years Ago
        @New Shel
        I do agree with you, but Mazda for sure tried to make its own Camry back in 2008, and that flopped miserably. They don't always come if you build it.
      theblackemblem
      • 2 Years Ago
      I really have no idea why the comment section is so vandalized right now... I wanted to look at discussions on this particular car, and all I see is racism and trolling.
      omgcool
      • 2 Years Ago
      The only thing that surprises me in this article is the sound system. I've found JBL to be very competent, though I have no experience with their automotive work. That is unfortunate for the JBL name.
      Scarboy6693
      • 2 Years Ago
      Can I have those wheels :)
      Avinash Machado
      • 2 Years Ago
      At least the Camry has a V6 option. The Sonata,Optima and Malibu only come with 4 cylinders.
        Ron
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Avinash Machado
        And yet the Optima SX turbo has 274 horses and 269 lb ft of torque. On mine I have achieved 37 highway!
      caddy-v
      • 2 Years Ago
      I can't believe how many on here just can't come to grips and face reality. Man up, boys. Camry is a garbage can. Someone gives an honest and fair review and you toyophiles can't handle it.
      lokestreachery
      • 2 Years Ago
      Serious proposition here: Are Japanese cars REALLY more reliable than American ones, or do their owners just keep better care of them, to keep them running great and uphold their decision of "buying foreign?" Cars seem much less "disposable" in Canada, so I know attitudes aren't the same for commuters or "grocery getters," but reliability is really up to the owner. If you treat any vehicle like crap it'll eventually let you down...
        ryan
        • 2 Years Ago
        @lokestreachery
        I dont know, i see a ton more old 90's Japense car on the road, then i see american cars from 90's. But you could be on to somthing.
        HC
        • 2 Years Ago
        @lokestreachery
        Well, I've owned both American and Japanese, serviced them the same way, used them for similar things, babied them all the same way. Both aren't perfect, but I believe what makes Toyota different is that they're just more consistent at making reliable cars. American automaker actually have made some really strong, reliable vehicles, but they've also made some really, really cruddy cars. The one Chevy Tahoe my family owned was a great model of how bad some American cars can be. I can't say I've seen anything like this with Toyota. Almost all the Japanese cars I've owned have lasted for many miles without too many major issues. Like I said, no brand is perfect, but If you've owned many cars, you'd see that some really are just better than others.
        • 2 Years Ago
        @lokestreachery
        Wait, don't Toyota haters always remind us that these cars are owned by people that don't car about what they drive? If that's true, do you think these people can properly care for a car? They hate driving, they're clueless about cars and the auto industry, but they know their S%@# when it comes to tire rotation and tranny flushes!
          Chris
          • 2 Years Ago
          Yup, I'd say most people Toyota owners that roll into our shop know nothing about their cars. Well, at least they trust whatever the mechanics tell them more. I'd say American car owners ask more questions and may just be much more knowledgeable about automotive maintenance and repair than most others. Many of them are extremely distrusting of dealer servicing. After getting my old F150 serviced by Ford dealerships for several years, I can see why.
      • 2 Years Ago
      Keeps crying, you Toyota****s! Anybody with more than half brain can see how inferior this car is to the Fusion and Malibu.
      Farmer
      • 2 Years Ago
      Wow! It´s about time we get a forthright reviewer who tells it like it is about a Japanese car, which shamefully here in America we make our best seller. I commend this writer for his courage. But maybe he also should be reminding us, that just recently Toyota, the builder of this car, was fined 16 million dollars for hiding safety defects in their cars. That´s another darn good reason to stay away from a Camry and all other Toyotas. But perhaps in defense of those of us, who are gulls enough to drive Japanese, don't realize the millions of jobs this costs America. And that each year Japan sells us millions of cars and trucks and drains billions in profits out of our economy. And In return, can we build and sell our cars in Japan? No!!!! Japan imposes obstacles that close its 4 million-a-year-car market to us. This unfairness, plus our 20 million needing jobs, our 39.8 million in poverty, 25% of our kids hungry, things the worse since the 1930, and we boost Japan´s economy over our own by buying millions of their cars each year, and they import only about 10,000 of ours? Square shooters, they´re NOT! And they get away with this trade unfairness, because they give big bucks are heavy to our politicians. So, the harsh reality is, we feed Japan's economy instead of our own. Egads!!! We need to wake up and remember the old cliché, ¨Charity begins at home.¨ Yea, let´s stop being fools and support our own economy. Drive American! P.S. And we should not be sucked in by the constant pitch that they build them in America. Reality: The majority are shipped here. And some, like Priuses, Lexuses, and Highlanders are 100% built in Japan, parts and labor. They come here by boat. As to those Japanese vehicles that are assembled here, the profits from them as well the profits from all the 3 or 4 million Japanese vehicles sold here each year, go back to Japan for the benefit of the people there. So, when you drive a Japanese car or truck, think about the people in impoverished states like Michigan. Impoverished, because we´re feeding foreign companies instead of our own American ones. Yes, think about the people in Michigan, Ohio, PA, Wisc, MO, et cetera, who with trickle down effect have lost jobs, because we´re buying all these Japanese cars. If we think that doesn´t affect negatively the rest of the country´s economy, we better think again.
        NightFlight
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Farmer
        Shut up. Reality: A vast majority of the vehicles that Toyota sells here are actually built here. Do you go off on a tirade when you shop at Walmart and everything there is made in China?
      Carlos
      • 2 Years Ago
      This car truly is disgusting. Don't let these Toyota thugs get to you, Jeff.
      eljay001
      • 2 Years Ago
      So as GM, Ford, and Chrysler get their act together and put great cars on the market, forty thousand people a month still eagerly go out and buy this garbage!? Even if you just want an "appliance" you can do so much better than this.
      billfrombuckhead
      • 2 Years Ago
      i'M IN THE USED CAR BUSINESS AND CAMRY RELIABILITY IS A HOAX! WHAT ABOUT THE MILLIONS OF SLUDGEMOBILES TOYOTA BUILT? JUST GOOGLE TOYOTA AND SLUDGE.
        Justin Campanale
        • 2 Years Ago
        @billfrombuckhead
        DERP!!!! LOUD NOISES!!!!!!!!
        NightFlight
        • 2 Years Ago
        @billfrombuckhead
        Whatever you say, Mopar fanboy. Typing in ALL CAPS definitely helps your credibility as well.
          JDM
          • 2 Years Ago
          @NightFlight
          More BS from Bucktooth Bill. A used car salesman definitely suits you. Most are liars and dirty, With that being said, Oil sludge? What about Chrysler's lawsuit? http://www.aboutlawsuits.com/chrysler-engine-oil-sludge-2752/ How about Ford? Yep they have engine sludge too. http://www.bing.com/search?q=ford+engine+sludge&src=IE-SearchBox&Form=IE8SRC And GM..... Yep them too. http://www.bing.com/search?q=GM+engine+sludge&qs=n&form=QBRE&pq=gm+engine+sludge&sc=1-15&sp=-1&sk= And how about the stalling issues with the new penstar? http://www.carcomplaints.com/Chrysler/200/2011/engine/engine_dies_while_driving.shtml Or the Jeep Wrangler fires? Really Bill you're getting old. Please move on.
          billfrombuckhead
          • 2 Years Ago
          @NightFlight
          Just go to Toyota sludge com http://www.toyotasludge.com/victims
          NightFlight
          • 2 Years Ago
          @NightFlight
          Okay, go to mychryslersucks.com. That's a real website. Want to talk about sludge issues? What about Chrysler's wonderful 2.7 V6 that they used for years? Shut up fanboy.
        JDM
        • 2 Years Ago
        @billfrombuckhead
        More BS from Bucktooth Bill. A used car salesman definitely suits you. Most are liars and dirty, With that being said, Oil sludge? What about Chrysler's lawsuit? http://www.aboutlawsuits.com/chrysler-engine-oil-sludge-2752/ How about Ford? Yep they have engine sludge too. http://www.bing.com/search?q=ford+engine+sludge&src=IE-SearchBox&Form=IE8SRC And GM..... Yep them too. http://www.bing.com/search?q=GM+engine+sludge&qs=n&form=QBRE&pq=gm+engine+sludge&sc=1-15&sp=-1&sk= And how about the stalling issues with the new penstar? http://www.carcomplaints.com/Chrysler/200/2011/engine/engine_dies_while_driving.shtml Or the Jeep Wrangler fires? Really Bill you're getting old. Please move on.
    • Load More Comments
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