Toyota Camry Keeps Performance, Adds Styling
2012 Toyota Camry Review:
Toyota’s Camry is a stellar execution of style, substance, value and reliability.
However, style only came to the table last year when Toyota broke its Camry mold with a new, more stylish body after years of ho-hum sameness. It’s hard to blame Toyota for sinking into a styling funk on North America’s bestselling car for roughly a decade. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.But as with Ford’s Taurus before it, folks were starting to talk about [Camry’s](http://www.carsoup.com/US-National/new-vehicles/make/Car-Truck/Nationwide/Toyota/Camry/?maxprice=999999&minprice=0&mode=make&cont=1 "Toyota Camry") blandness, and that can sink sales. So the designers re-sculpted the entire body to give it flair that easily stands out from Honda’s Accord, Chevrolet’s Malibu and Ford’s Fusion, its main competitors.
Yet looks only get you so far. It’s Camry’s performance for the past 20 years that has earned it high marks, and still will. The tested silver XLE model, fourth in a line of six trim levels, is among the best cars I’ve driven in the past several years. Here’s why:
Performance: The smooth and quiet 2.5-liter engine gives the car good acceleration and, despite being a four-cylinder, boasts 178 horsepower thanks to its well developed variable valve timing.
Smoothness: A silky-smooth six-speed automatic transmission is perfectly mated to the engine. Acceleration is luxury-car smooth.
Ride: With a 109.3-inch wheelbase and independent suspension all around, featuring MacPherson struts up front and a multi-link system in back, both with gas-filled shocks, the Camry’s ride is the best I’ve experienced in a car with less than a $35,000 price tag.
Handling: Not a racer, but just slight understeer and a well-connected feel that makes the car light and easy to drive, yet feel substantial and safe for the family. Camry uses rack and pinion steering with electric power assist.
Economy: This takes regular and is rated at 25 mpg city and 35 highway. It’s relatively lightweight at 3,245 pounds, which helps, as does the valve timing system. I got just 24.2 mpg in 60% city driving, the trip computer indicating a more optimistic 27.4 mpg.
Cost: This is another piece of the economy picture, but the XLE starts at $24,725 and is well equipped at that, including a sunroof. Can’t afford a mid-20-grand car? The base L starts at $21,955, the LE at $22,500 and SE at $23,000. All feature the same 2.5-liter engine and six-speed automatic.**Space:** The well-styled, tidy, clean modern interior easily holds five adults, and there’s a 15-cubic-foot trunk for luggage and split fold-down rear seats.
Comfort: Camry’s seats are flat and comfortable and the interior is luxury-car quiet. All the dash buttons, dials and gauges are easy to see, reach and understand. Camry also comes standard with a tilt/telescope steering wheel, and its sun visors have extenders.
Reliability: Camry has been nearly unassailable for years, and that reputation sells a lot of cars to folks who don’t want to spend much time at the dealership or in the shop. Consumer Reports has recommended the Camry for years.
Safety: There are four-wheel disc brakes, the fronts being ventilated, the rears are solid. Traction and stability control are standard and there’s a full complement of 10 air bags front and side.
Those reasons keep the midsize, front-drive Camry No. 1. Yet the test car went further, adding extras that helped push its sticker price to $29,510, including a $760 delivery fee.
Many folks will like the $1,195 convenience package, which adds push-button start, a backup camera for safety, HomeLink, an anti-theft system and an auto dimming rearview mirror with built-in compass.
The leather seats were extremely comfortable and part of a $1,650 package that includes a multilevel seat heating system. You just roll a dial on the console to the desired temperature. Plus, the package gives the front-seat passenger a four-way power seat. The driver already gets a power seat with power lumbar controls in the XLE.The test car included a $1,050 package with upgraded stereo, satellite radio, MP3 capability and an HD radio. It sounded better to me when the HD feature was turned off, but there are many adjustments to allow you to tune it to suit your needs.
For those who need even more power and luxury, Toyota offers the SE and XLE with a 268-horsepower V6 that is rated 21 mpg city and 31 highway. A hybrid Camry also is available.
By now you may be thinking, “What didn’t measure up?” This is rare, but I found nothing to complain about.
Camry is a pleasure to drive and now looks more like a luxury model than a dull daily driver. It remains a winner, with a tight grip on No. 1.
Mark Savage welcomes your questions and comments regarding new vehicles at Savageonwheels@yahoo.com.