2012 Toyota Camry First Drive
Upgrading the Apple Cart
Redesigning a perennial top seller like the Toyota Camry is tricky business. Of course it needs to look new every few years, but never radically so. The sort of bold styling tactic employed by some of the Camry's competitors lately would not do here, nor is it necessary.
Toyota is only playing catch-up with itself because, recent PR difficulties aside, the Camry was still the top-selling car at the end of 2010, a feat it may yet repeat again in 2011.
And so the new 2012 Toyota Camry stays true to the proven Camry formula. In fact its major exterior dimensions, things like overall length, width, height and the relative position of its tires, remain exactly as before.
Before you begin that eye roll, remember that Honda took some flak when it puffed out the Accord to full-size proportions, and that was some months before gas prices shot up and smaller cars got popular. Staying same-sized in this segment looks like a genius move today.
But staying same-sized doesn't mean everything on the 2012 Toyota Camry has remained frozen, because it hasn't — especially the important stuff.
Looks Like a...Camry
Spy photos seen previously depict a familiar profile, but in person the tension in the new creases and squarer edges make the 2012 Toyota Camry look less puffy, more toned and eager. Someone nearby swore they saw faint hints of Acura TSX — the good one — while another suggested this is how the new Subaru Legacy should have looked.
But there is function in the Camry's new form. A revised roof profile near the top of the windshield improves the view out. We now stare out the center of the windscreen instead of ducking below the tint band like last year — this despite zero change in front headroom, which was never the problem anyway.
A flatter rear roof line improves rear-seat headroom by 0.3 inch, while that squarer door opening enhances rear-seat access. There's more legroom in back, too (0.6 inch, they say), on account of revised front seatback sculpting.
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2012 Toyota Camry - First Drive Review
More luxury and more mpg for America's most popular car.
Since 1997, the Toyota Camry has been the best selling car in America every year but one (2001). Last year, Americans bought 327,804 of them. Furthermore, the Camry platform serves as the foundation for the following Toyota and Lexus models: Avalon, Highlander, Sienna, Venza, ES350, RX350, and RX450h. Collectively, they added up to 738,415 sales in 2010—42 percent of To*yota’s American total. In other words, the Camry is the franchise.
Toyota has renewed this car like clockwork every five years, and the Camry has achieved an enviable position as the default mainstream sedan of choice—quiet, smooth, comfortable, reliable, and affordably priced. This new, seventh-generation, 2012 model is designed to maintain these virtues while offering more fuel efficiency and value.
Though Camry chief engineer Yukihiro Okane doesn’t say it, Toyota was perhaps embarrassed by losing out in mpg ratings to competitors, specifically the Ford Fusion hybrid and the Hyundai Sonata. Okane promises that this new model—with every engine—will at least tie for leadership in fuel-economy figures.
The base four-cylinder is now rated at 25 mpg city and 35 highway—up 3 mpg each. The V-6 is up 1 mpg each to 21/30. And the new hybrid LE leaps from 31/35 to 43/39 mpg, bettering the Fusion’s 41/36 ratings. The four-cylinder-only strategy used by competitors Hyundai and Kia doesn’t work for the Camry, as most of its spinoffs require a V-6.
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First Drive: 2012 Toyota Camry
Playing it Safe for Sales Supremacy
Is the 2012 Toyota Camry new and special enough to vanquish the Hyundai Sonata? Is the SE model a poor man's sport sedan? Is Toyota's rebound in J.D. Power & Associates' initial quality rankings, and the company's vindication over specious unintended acceleration claims, enough to warrant purchase consideration? Do you experience headaches, dizziness, or nausea when driven swiftly in a sports car?
If you've answered, "Well, heck, yes!" to any of these questions, get ready for a quiz in which we determine whether you'd notice an all-new seventh-generation model if it used your driveway for a U-turn.
Here are some study materials: Camrys traditionally run two cycles on one platform, and this is Act II of the current architecture. Same wheelbase, and about the same overall length. The engines are carryover, with enough efficiency improvements to ensure that, when EPA completes testing, the Camry four, hybrid, and V-6 all will be best, or tied for best, in class. Toyota replaced its 2.4-liter four in the Camry with the 2.5 in the '10 model year, and for '12, the hybrid model gets the larger gas engine, too.
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2012 Toyota Camry
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.
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.
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