2012 Toyota Camry Road Test Review

Trevor Hofmann - CAP staff
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Published on January 13, 2012

Wow! That's a Camry? The new 2012 Camry SE is a real head-turner and drives as well as it looks good. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Published on January 13, 2012

Published on January 13, 2012

Published on January 13, 2012

Published on January 13, 2012

Published on January 13, 2012

Published on January 13, 2012

Published on January 13, 2012

Published on January 13, 2012

Published on January 13, 2012

Three generations of Camry in Scarborough. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Published on January 13, 2012

Published on January 13, 2012

Published on January 13, 2012

Published on January 13, 2012

Published on January 13, 2012

Published on January 13, 2012

New taillights look seriously upscale. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Published on January 13, 2012

Published on January 13, 2012

Published on January 13, 2012

Published on January 13, 2012

Published on January 13, 2012

Lining up the Camry's at Shannonville Raceway paddock. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Published on January 13, 2012

Published on January 13, 2012

Published on January 13, 2012

Published on January 13, 2012

Sporty seat pattern is a step above the class average. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Published on January 13, 2012

Published on January 13, 2012

Published on January 13, 2012

Published on January 13, 2012

Published on January 13, 2012

Still a roomy midsize sedan. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Published on January 13, 2012

Published on January 13, 2012

The new 2012 Camry sports an extremely well built interior with soft-touch plastics and top-tier electronics. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Published on January 13, 2012

Published on January 13, 2012

Published on January 13, 2012

Published on January 13, 2012

Published on January 13, 2012

Published on January 13, 2012

The Camry is a good car. We all know that. With almost 100,000 of the outgoing sixth generation currently on Canadian roads and more than half a million Camrys sold in Canada overall, not to mention 15 million sold in more than 100 countries since the model's inception thanks in part to being the best-selling passenger car in North America for the last 13 of 14 years, proof is in the proverbial pudding. What you might not realize is that the Camry is also a lot of fun to drive.

Say what? True. At least the all-new 2012 Camry in sport-oriented SE trim is fun to drive. I drove the SE as well as the base LE and top-line XLE V6 during the Canadian press launch, and came away from touring Ontario's lake country along with myriad laps around Belleville, Ontario's Shannonville Raceway (yes, we hit the track in the Camry and some of its key competitors) with a grin on my face. This Camry can corner!

It does more than just drive well though. Toyota has redesigned it with a sharper more stylish pen, redone the interior with an eye on it's Lexus division, and improved performance and fuel economy, the latter by 11-percent.

The non-hybrid Camry lineup continues forward with one transmission and two engines. A 6-speed automatic is at the receiving end of a 2.5-litre 4-cylinder that makes 178-horsepower and comes standard in LE, SE and XLE trims, or a 3.5-litre V6 capable of 268-horsepower and available with the SE and XLE. The V6 remains a powerhouse that gives the Camry a big boost off the line and during passing plus a more premium feel all-round, but considering Toyota allows four-cylinder fuel economy in either sporty SE or luxurious XLE trim, I'm leaning towards the smaller engine that's powerful enough for most peoples' tastes and delivers an estimated 8.2 L/100km city and 5.6 highway compared to 9.7 and 6.4 respectively. I didn't have opportunity to do a real-world mileage test, but I'm guessing you'll get something closer to the more realistic U.S. EPA metric equivalent estimates of 9.4 city and 6.7 highway for the 4-cylinder or 11.2 and 7.8 for the V6.

My initial reaction to the new 2012 Camry's styling remains the same now. It's a conservative update that'll likely appeal to those who like the outgoing model, yet new nips and tucks make it sportier overall and simultaneously a bit more upscale. I give most of the credit to more sophisticated looking headlights and taillights, a bit more chrome at the back end and in the SE, deeper aerodynamic add-ons and radical (for a Camry) 18-inch alloys.

Moving inside, Toyota has remedied almost all of my previous complaints. Gone are cheap feeling hard plastics, replaced by soft-touch surfaces in all the right places, except rear door upper trim that remains hard plastic, unlike the car's major rivals. Overall Camry ambiance is much more premium-like though, with a really attractive dash and centre stack boasting high-quality switchgear and all of the latest electronics, some even standard.

Yes, I was thrilled to read standard Bluetooth when scanning the features and specs info, absolutely necessary in some provinces such as BC, where I live. Sure, we're starting to expect this in a car that costs $25,190 including destination, but such is not the case with all competitors. That's a great price by the way, especially when factoring in that it's $1,610 less than last year's LE yet includes more than $800 in additional equipment. That gear includes the usual powered features including mirrors that are also heated, plus tilt and telescopic steering with audio controls that connect to a CD-equipped stereo enhanced with a cool graphic display, aux and USB input, and XM satellite radio. Great stuff.

The safety list is even better. Quick-reacting LED taillights inform those behind that you're deploying 4-wheel discs with ABS, electronic brake force distribution (EBD), and brake assist (BA), which respond very well to panic braking or so I learned when a truck pulled out in front of me and my colleague as we rushed to catch up with the rest of the journalisto pack. The best test was on the track, where they managed repeated stomps well for this rather heavy class. Toyota also includes its new Smart Stop Technology (SST) across the Camry line, which automatically cuts the throttle during panic braking so that unintended acceleration is impossible. Electronic traction and stability control is standard too, as is tire pressure monitoring, while the usual airbags are joined by new rear side-thorax airbags plus driver and front passenger knee airbags.

I don't know if I've finally arrived at an age that I'd consider purchasing a Camry or whether they've actually built one that I want to own, but I'm going to guess at the latter after driving the SE. This thing feels great, and totally different than softer-sprung LE and XLE trims. Toyota does the usual SE tricks, such as adding a sport-style grille, aerodynamic skirts, fog lamps, a rear spoiler, chrome tailpipes and larger wheels with fatter tires to the outside, plus a 3-spoke leather-wrapped steering wheel, sport fabric seats, and aluminum scuff plates on the inside, but dynamically it's a much better car too, with a stiffer suspension that you can really feel when tackling the corners. The automaker has played around with the price too, now set to $28,440 including destination. That's $805 less than last year's SE yet with $2,680 in extra gear. Features include an 8-way powered driver's seat, navigation, auto-dimming rearview mirror, and more. The SE V6, at $31,190, is priced $4,355 lower yet receives $428 in new extras such as proximity sensing remote access with pushbutton ignition, a powered moonroof, and dual illuminated vanity mirrors.

The luxury-biased XLE starts at $31,390 including destination, which is $2,335 less than the old XLE while adding $1,515 in features. Building on the base LE, it gets 8-way driver and 4-way passenger powered and heated leather seats, a leather-wrapped wheel, environmentally-friendly faux woodgrain trim, pushbutton ignition, dual-zone auto climate control, navigation, a moonroof, 17-inch alloy rims and more. The XLE V6, at $35,190, $2,700 lower than last year's XLE V6 yet including $4,258 in additional features, adds premium JBL audio for seriously sweet sound.

It's easy to see that Toyota isn't backing down from a more competitive midsize field. With lower pricing and more standard equipment, class-leading safety, better fuel economy, much improved performance from the SE, premium-like luxury inside, and an arguably better looking design that targets a younger more dynamic buyer, the 2012 Camry is once again a major league winner.
©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: Sedan, Toyota, 2012, Camry, $20,000 - $29,999, $30,000 - $39,999,

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