2012 Toyota Camry Expert Review:Autoblog
Patron-Saint Of Mid-Sizers Gets Massaged
Toyota has manufactured and sold 15 million Camry models across 100 countries since it debuted way back in 1983. It's a number that's nearly unfathomable. If all of those polite four-doors were still roaming the earth, there'd be one for every man, woman and child in Virginia, Maryland and Washington D.C. combined, and you'd still have a almost a million vehicles left over. Even more eye-widening is Toyota's claim that of the Camry models built and sold over the last 15 years, 90 percent are still happily enduring a daily commute on nearly every corner of the planet. By sheer volume and longevity, the Camry is nothing short of an engineering and manufacturing wonder.
Almost by default, the Camry has grown to become the vehicle by which all other mid-sized creations must measure themselves, and over the past two years, Ford, Hyundai, Kia and Volkswagen have unveiled products designed specifically to lure buyers from the Toyota model's swollen ranks. In response, Toyota City has turned out the seventh-generation Camry – a model that's been altered with blink-and-you'll-miss-it delicacy. But as millions of current Camry owners will tell you, that may not be a bad thing.
CLICK HERE to read AutoblogGreen's First Drive review of the 2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid.
Catch the 2012 Toyota Camry from the corner of your eye and chances are good you'll have a hard time telling it from its predecessor. The latest generation carries itself with dimensions identical to the 2011 model. Total length, wheelbase, width and height are all carried-over dimensions, resulting in a familiar profile. Even so, the company's engineers and designers have cloaked the sedan in entirely new sheetmetal from stem to stern. A completely new nose incorporates a refreshed headlight design with an integrated chrome grille. The assembly splays from fender to fender with the goal of giving the vehicle the impression of greater width without actually stretching the model's track.
A new front bumper cover with a jutting chin and expansive lower air intake is framed by chrome foglight recesses on L, LE and XLE models, though our SE tester came equipped with a decidedly more stylish front fascia. With three front air inlets, subtle chrome accenting, a honeycomb grille insert and a set of faux canards, the Camry SE manages to be more engaging than forgettable – certainly a step in the right direction for the model. Above all else, Toyota has worked to make the Camry as slippery as possible, and the company has brought all of its considerable aerodynamic knowledge to bear on the sedan. As such, all trims are now built with squared-off aero corners at the front and rear in a fashion that's similar to what we've seen on the Prius line.
The 2012 Camry's sides are contoured with an angled character line, and door handles are tucked just below the detail. Toyota desperately wants us to believe that the new crease helps give the vehicle a wedge-like shape, but the truth is that from a profile view, the 2012 Camry remains very similar to its sixth-generation counterpart. As part of the overall aerodynamic package, the side-view mirrors feature a small fin designed to create air vortices as the vehicle travels at speed. According to Toyota, those vortices provide a protective buffer around the car to help the vehicle slip through the air. The company says the tech was gleaned from its Formula One efforts.
Wheel options start with a 16-inch steel roller with a plastic cover on the fleet-oriented L trim, though 17-inch alloys can be had on LE, XLE and SE vehicles. Our V6 tester came packing the largest option of the bunch – an 18-inch aluminum alloy wheel with a twisted-spoke design.
The rear of the sedan incorporates new taillights that back away from the chrome-and-clear heavy design of the 2011 model for a more mature look. The lamps boast an integrated aerodynamic fin, just like the side-view mirrors, and L, LE and XLE vehicles wear a chrome accent across the span of the trunk. Meanwhile, SE models are equipped with a monochrome accent and slightly more aggressive dual chrome exhaust tips as well as a trunk-lid lip spoiler.
Despite the fact that the exterior shell hasn't grown in any direction, Toyota worked to give the cabin a more open appearance thanks to adjustments to the headliner, A- and B-pillar caps, center console and door control panels. Even the shape of the front seatbacks has been reworked for a little more knee room. Unfortunately, the changes are so slight that we would have been hard-pressed to notice without prior knowledge. There's no missing the vehicle's new dash, however.
The 2011 model's bland swaths of plastic have been replaced with a nicely sculpted upper dash hewn from soft-touch plastic and stitched with a line of contrasting thread for a little color. Toyota has differentiated interior accent work by trim to some extent, with L and LE models receiving aluminum-look plastics while SE guise is saddled with a satin version of the same gear. Top-of-the-line XLE trims are still laden with some of the worst-looking simulated wood we've ever seen, however. The center stack stretches from windshield to shift console with a pair of vents positioned up high and a navigation and entertainment screen nestled just below. The whole kit is trimmed in matte black plastic regardless of interior color choice.
A total of three audio display systems are available depending on trim, starting with a six-speaker AM/FM/CD head with an LCD screen attached to six speakers. Step up a level and the Camry delivers a 6.1-inch touchscreen unit with HD radio, iTunes tagging and voice-recognition navigation. The system also allows for the personalization of various vehicle systems, including exactly which doors unlock at the press of the key fob.
At the top of the heap, a premium navigation system offers up a 7-inch display coupled to 10 JBL GreenEdge speakers. That's two more speakers than the best audio system in the last generation Camry, though JBL has managed to cut the total weight and power consumption of the set to levels well below the gear in the 2011 model. JBL says that the company's GreenEdge speakers suck down 58 percent less energy than before while producing higher-quality sound at the same time.
Though we found the graphics on the screen to be nothing to write home about, the touch interface was certainly quick enough. Unfortunately, we found the screen tilted at such an angle as to be in near constant glare. While the tune and volume knobs are set somewhat high on the dash, the steering-wheel mounted controls are easy to memorize and manipulate, eliminating the need to reach across to the center stack. Toyota has also redesigned the climate control interface with larger dials and buttons. The gear is functional enough, but to our hands, feels exceedingly cheap to the touch.
Designers have clad the Camry's seats in multi-tone fabric on L, LE and XLE four-cylinder models. The material feels fine to the touch, but incorporates some fairly strange-looking insert patterns. Fortunately, you don't have to stare at the material while you're driving down the road. Our tester was much less controversial, boasting leather-trimmed buckets with high-quality hide, contrasting stitching and perforated faux suede inserts.
The 2012 Toyota Camry comes with a few familiar drivetrain options, though the company's engineers have pulled a few tricks to increase fuel economy at every level. Every new Camry comes standard with a column-mounted electronic power steering system as well as low-rolling resistance tires. Laudably, total vehicle weight has been trimmed by as much as 150 pounds in four-cylinder configuration.
Speaking of powerplants, base models are equipped with the same 2.5-liter inline four-cylinder engine found in the 2011 model. With 178 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 170 pound-feet of torque at 4,100 rpm, the engine continues to provide smooth acceleration without undue noises or vibrations. Toyota estimates that the vehicle will be able to return 25 miles per gallon city, 35 mpg highway, or 28 mpg combined. That's a three mpg increase in the city and two mpg bump on the highway and combined over the old vehicle.
If that's not enough power for you, Toyota will continue to offer the same 3.5-liter V6 engine found in the outgoing model. With 268 horsepower at 6,200 rpm and 248 lb-ft of torque at 4,700 rpm, the engine is expected to deliver 21 mpg city, 30 mpg highway and 25 mpg combined once the Environmental Protection Agency wraps up testing. That's thanks in part to the specification of lower-viscosity 0W-20 oil and a new automatic transmission fluid warmer. Toyota says that getting the fluid to its proper temperature sooner rather than later helps increase power transfer efficiency, though that's not the only change in the gearbox department.
For 2012, the Camry comes equipped with an all-new six-speed automatic transmission, as well as a taller final drive ratio of 3.634 in four-cylinder models and 3.458 on V6 vehicles for improved fuel economy. In addition, the gearbox features flexible logic for torque converter lock-up that can allow the converter to provide some slip to no slip at all, depending on the situation. The driver can manipulate gear selection via a bump shifter on the console or, on SE models, by wheel-mounted paddle shifters. Check out the Short Cut below for a look at the shifters in action.
Toyota engineers have also worked to increase the vehicle's structural rigidity through additional high-strength and ultra-high-strength steel in the A- and B-pillars. The material allowed engineers to cut some weight while beefing up the chassis stiffness. In addition, a total of 56 new welds were spread throughout the chassis for greater rigidity – specifically in the rear of the platform. Toyota also redesigned the front coil springs with an inverse-wound design. The company says the new parts provide greater straight-line stability, and the shocks, roll bar and electronic power steering have all been tweaked to some degree as well. Our SE model also benefited from trim-exclusive lightweight steering knuckles and lower A-arms. A solid roll bar and slightly stiffer springs are also incorporated into the SE trim.
These changes are enough to be perceptible on the road, though the SE still leans more toward the softly sprung end of the suspension spectrum. No one's saying this is ever going to be a sport sedan, but the Camry SE is fairly confident without too much flop or push. In standard driving circumstances, most owners will enjoy a comfortable ride that fields potholes and breaks in the pavement without transferring jolts to the cabin. The new electronic power steering takes some getting used to, as initial turn-in is overly soft and a little vague. Spin the wheel past 10 degrees or so, however, and the system delivers decidedly firmer feedback. We would prefer a more linear feel, but doubt most buyers will care.
As with the last generation, the 268-horsepower from the 3.5-liter V6 is enough to widen eyes. It's just hard to imagine a Camry picking up its skirt and hustling the way this one does – maybe there's some justification for the four-door's presence on the NASCAR circuit after all. Despite the fact that all the power heads straight to the front wheels, torque steer is minimal, if present at all. Simply romp on the throttle and giggle as you trounce the Fox Body at the stoplight next to you. Seriously.
The new six-speed automatic transmission performs its duties admirably. Shifts are quick enough for family sedan duty and perfectly smooth – just what you want out of a gearbox designed to increase fuel economy and coddle in equal parts. While you can technically click through the gears of your own accord, the delay between your inputs and actual gear selection is too large to be effective. Again, this is a family hauler, not a track machine.
In the end, the seventh generation sedan remains all Camry, through and through. There are absolutely no surprises here, and that simple fact will likely be enough to keep the model ahead of invading hordes, especially as Toyota fully expects half of 2012 Camry buyers to be former owners of the model. Given the number of Camrys still on the road right now, that nearly guarantees it will hold onto its crown as the best-selling car in the United States.
New Car Test Drive
Redesigned for 2012.
The 2012 Toyota Camry is the seventh generation, with redesigns coming every five years since 1982. Toyota claims that the new Camry is not only the current bestselling midsize sedan, but also the safest, quietest, and most fuel-efficient. Five models of the 2012 Camry range from the stripped-down L to the sport-tuned SE to the Hybrid.
New for 2012, the Camry hasn't changed its size, as the wheelbase, length, track and height are within fractions of an inch of those of the sixth-generation 2011 model. But the sheetmetal is totally new, and a new roofline makes it slightly more slippery. The 2012 Camry's lines are attractive, and it's clearly more contemporary than the 2011. What Toyota calls aero-corner design enhances this image. There are four new colors: Clearwater Blue, Attitude Black, Cypress Pearl and Cosmic Gray Mica.
The 2012 Camry interior is all new, both design and materials. Interior dimensions stay the same within fractions of those of the previous version. There's a bit more backseat legroom, and some interior parts have been thinned to create more eye, knee and elbow room. The instrument panel is pretty and functional, storage spaces well thought-out, and a 60/40 split rear seat is standard. A new leather dashboard is neat and stylish.
For powertrains, the standard I4 and optional V6 engines are carryovers from 2010 and 2011, respectively. Six-speed automatic transmissions are standard. The standard 2.5-liter I4 has double VVT-I technology, making 178 horsepower. The 3.5-liter V6 produces 268 horsepower. Fuel economy is an EPA-estimated City/Highway 25/35 mpg with the four-cylinder, 21/30 mpg with the V6.
We were impressed with such smooth and responsive acceleration from the standard four-cylinder while averaging 30 miles per gallon, and Toyota boasts a range of 650 miles.
The 2012 Camry boasts a new chassis with increased rigidity, using more high- and ultra-high-strength steel, as well as 56 more welded spots. It reflects ongoing research in impact energy management.
The tuned suspension in the Camry SE might be too firm for some; we didn't find the SE uncomfortable, but we did find the softer Camry XLE more relaxing around town. We preferred the SE's tighter steering in all circumstances.
The Camry Hybrid uses a new 2.5-liter Atkinson Cycle engine, with more horsepower and electric power than before. It feels like a totally different car than the I4 or V6, as it slows everything down and makes the vehicle feel bigger. The 2012 Camry Hybrid LE is rated by the government at 43/39 mpg, Camry Hybrid XLT at 40/38 mpg.
The 2012 Toyota Camry comes in five models. Camry L ($21,955) uses the 2.5-liter I4 and is hard to find. More likely is a well-equipped Camry LE ($22,500), which comes standard with power doors and windows, cruise control, 60/40 rear folding seats, overhead console, display with 6.1-inch screen, AM/FM/CD/MP3/USB with iPod, Bluetooth hands-free phone capability, projector beam headlamps, manual front seat adjustment, and 16-inch steel wheels with wheelcovers.
Camry XLE ($24,725) adds a power moonroof, foglamps, heated outside mirrors, dual-zone automatic climate control, leather-wrapped steering wheel, leather-trimmed seats, heated front seats, power front seats, back-up camera, and 17-inch alloy wheels. Camry XLE V6 ($29,845) upgrades to the 3.5-liter V6 engine.
The sporty Camry SE ($23,000) and SE V6 ($26,640) has a thoroughly tuned suspension, sport mesh body-colored front grille, halogen headlamps, rocker panels and rear spoiler, SofTex-trimmed sport seats, paddle shifters, and 18-inch alloy wheels on the V6, 17-inch on the I4.
Safety equipment standard on all models includes 10 airbags, electronic stability control with traction control, ABS with Brake Assist and Brake Force Distribution, and a tire pressure monitoring system.
The redesigned 2012 Camry hasn't changed its size, as the wheelbase, length, track and height are the same within fractions of an inch. But the sheetmetal is 100 percent new, and a new roofline makes it slightly more slippery, at 0.27 Cd vs. the previous 0.28. It's quite attractive for a vanilla car, with clean sides and nice edges, with no lumpy cladding or gratuitous chrome. Hold up pics of the 2011 and 2012 side-by-side, and clearly see the styling evolution from yesterday to today.
In fact there's almost no chrome, which makes the new Camry look svelte. Indeed it has lost weight, 150 pounds (220 pounds for the Hybrid). It might all be under the skin, but no matter, it's all good. What Toyota calls aero-corner design enhances this image. Hips and shoulders tucked in.
The Camry LE uses wheelcovers over 16-inch steel wheels, the Camry XLE uses 17-inch alloy wheels, and the Camry SE uses 17- or 18-inchers. All three styles successfully avoid cookie cutting, with the LE's 20-spoke titanium-tinted wheelcovers ironically being the most ambitious and eye-catching, if not the classiest.
The new roofline angles the windshield more steeply. There's a nice character line under the windows slanting slightly up to the rear deck, where there's a small spoiler lip on the SE. Windows outlined in chrome, but no more, except for a thin strip at the rocker level on the LE and XLE. Body-colored door handles on all models.
The face of the Camry SE is tweaked, for the better, with body color over the black mesh grille, and more aggressive air intakes in the valance under the bumper. Headlamps are the same, angled, narrow and sleek, with a neat little notch in the line at the bottom.
Interior dimensions for the seventh-generation 2012 Camry are within fractions of an inch of the sixth-generation (2007-11) models. There's a bit more backseat legroom, with 38.9 inches on a flat rear floor decent for a midsize car. Some interior parts have been thinned to create more eye, knee and elbow room: A-pillars, control panels on the doors, front seatbacks, center console.
Interior materials are different depending on the model, with the Camry L, LE and XLE using a nice standard fabric, and the Camry SE fabric with SofTex synthetic leather trim. Real leather is available on the Camry XLE I4 and standard on the XLE V6, with leather-trimmed ultrasuede available on the SE and XLE Hybrid.
The fit of the front buckets is good on the Camry LE and XLE, with more bolstering on the SE. The Camry Hybrid has its own material, more like the SE. Trims are different too: LE is silver, XLE wood, SE silver grain, and Hybrid a metallic tech grain.
Steering wheels too, with LE a four-spoke urethane, XLE four-spoke leather, and SE four-spoke leather. They all work well enough, no inconveniences noted in driving all four models.
The Camry LE feels quiet, solid and firm; but the XLE with optional leather and a grander display screen feels markedly uptown.
It's hard to make a dashboard not boring, because after all it is a board, but the Camry succeeds. The standard leather is overlapped in an arc with neat stitching, for a saddle-like effect; new passengers will compliment it and maybe run their hands over the seam. The little window for the clock up at the top looks like a hood scoop.
We found the driver's position comfortable, with thoughtful padding for the driver's right leg against the center console, and high armrests. Decent door pocket, great cubby forward in the center console, big glovebox with light door.
The instrument panel is all new for 2012. The four Camry models have four different faces, and those on the LE, XLE and SE are in 3D. We wonder what the stripper Camry L model without the 3D face looks like. Instruments are the same, only difference is in the rings around the gauges, chrome or satin.
The Hybrid's panel is the same only prettier. In Toyota-speak it has optitron meters with white illumination, blue metallic printing, and white lighting pointer. Three gauges, with clear dials and numbers that glow up at you in crystal clear white. We like it. Another plus: relocation of the battery packs increase the trunk space in the Camry Hybrid to 13.1 cubic feet (from the previous 10.6).
Trunk space on all Camry models except the Hybrid is a roomy 15.4 cubic feet.
The manually operated climate control has big dials and easy buttons on the Camry LE. The automatic climate control on Camry XLE uses a 6.1-inch LCD touch-screen also used for radio tuning, and navigation. The screen grows to 7 inches with upgrade systems.
In pursuit of fuel mileage, the torque converter ratio was changed to lower the revs at freeway speeds, making the car quieter inside; at 70 mph you can't hear the motor. But you can hear the tire noise, new tires with less rolling resistance, louder on the pavement.
There's the optional JBL Green Edge sound system, which uses up to 58 percent less power and is 27 percent lighter; and Entune, which does Bing searches and allegedly enables you to buy movie tickets while you're driving into the city on a crowded freeway in a hurry at night, and stuff like that. Safely and simply they say, and we say don't believe it. It can all be bundled with navigation and satellite radio and voice recognition, and controlled on the 7-inch touch screen. Have fun, good luck, and don't crash.
Ironically, after driving four models of the 2012 Toyota Camry, we think the model we didn't drive might be the call. That would be a Camry SE with the I4 engine, rather than our V6. That's because the Camry SE is tighter than the Camry XLE or LE; and the 178-hp I4 is quick, silent and smooth, no matter that the 268-hp V6 is faster. Both the I4 and V6 are carried over, the I4 new in 2010 and V6 new for 2011.
On the Camry XLE, using the lighter 6-speed for the I4, we noted good ratios, smooth upshifts and invisible kickdowns around town. With the I4, to get 30 mpg with that kind of performance is great. Toyota boasts a range of 650 miles, at 35 highway mpg.
Four-cylinder and V6 models use a 6-speed automatic that on the Camry SE comes with paddle shifters and normal and sport modes. No problems with the way the transmissions were programmed; both 5th and 6th gears in the V6 transmission are overdrives, with 6th being super overdrive at 0.068:1, for highway fuel mileage. There's a big leap between 1st and 2nd gears, but the 248 foot-pounds of torque in the V6 can make it.
The even-keel Camry SE suspension might be too firm for some; we didn't find it uncomfortable, but did find the softer Camry XLE more relaxing around town. We preferred the SE's tighter steering in all circumstances. Slightly bigger brakes felt good too, sensitive with good feel.
The Hybrid uses a new 2.5-liter Atkinson Cycle engine in 2012, with more horsepower and electric power than before. It feels like a totally different car than the I4 or V6. It slows everything down and it feels bigger; even the seats feel wider. Don't expect much from acceleration, cornering, or quick response, although Toyota says 0-60 acceleration is 0.5 seconds quicker than before.
Braking is regenerative and sensitive, sometimes diving the nose. It's quieter, when you're not straining at throttle, but the tire noise on a rough freeway is still there.
Eco mode reduces the throttle opening, slowing the car way down, although Eco defaults to Power mode when you need more speed. EV mode with a good charge couldn't get us out of the parking lot. It wouldn't even run the air conditioner with the car at a standstill. The Hybrid is more slippery in the wind, with underbody fairing panels lowering the Cd to 0.27, but a small blue badge is the only visible difference.
The Camry XLE Hybrid is rated at 40 combined mpg (on Premium gasoline because the compression ratio with the Atkinson Cycle is raised to 12.5:1). We actually saw 45 mpg on our test run, probably because we were aghast at the idea of booting it.
The Toyota Camry is redesigned for 2012, using a two-year-old I4 engine, one-year-old V6, and new hybrid. It features a more rigid chassis and sleeker body, with a smooth 6-speed automatic transmission. Camry powertrains are so different you should consider your needs or drive them all before you choose. The I4 is exceptional, with good smooth response while delivering 30 mpg combined. The suspension is comfortable and all-new interior clean and convenient, while infotainment options can move the Camry upscale.
Sam Moses filed this NewCarTestDrive.com report from the Columbia River Gorge.
Toyota Camry L ($21,955), LE ($22,500), SE ($23,000), SE V6 ($26,640), XLE ($24,725) XLE V6 ($29,845), Hybrid LE ($25,900), Hybrid XLE ($27,400).
Kentucky and Indiana.
Options As Tested
power driver's seat 8-way ($440).
Toyota Camry LE ($22,500).