Auto Review: Camry's new generation

By Bill Heald - ReminderNews
Featured Article - posted Thu., Mar. 15, 2012
- Contributed Photo

Here’s the situation: you’re the manufacturer of a best-selling product, with a great reputation and loyal following, but there’s a problem.  What can the dilemma possibly be? When the product is the Camry and the manufacturer is Toyota, the conundrum is being forever attacked by fierce competition from the other carmakers as they try to knock you off your lofty perch. They try to do this by building a better midsize family sedan, and the ultimate result is a very competitive class of very attractive automobiles. As fierce as the assaults have been, Toyota has managed to keep improving each subsequent Camry enough to maintain its best-seller status. The new 2012 version is not only better than the previous edition; it just may be the best Camry yet.

The new Seventh-Generation front-drive Camry’s base engine is a refreshed 2.5-liter Inline Four that develops 178 horsepower. Toyota uses the latest in its arsenal of engine technology to deliver maximum drivability and fuel efficiency, including specific advancements designed to increase torque over a broader range of engine speeds. This engine is matched to a six-speed automatic transmission with a sequential manual mode that uses the console shifter when you desire to choose the gears yourself. This drivetrain is as refined as you would expect, this being the latest-generation Camry, meaning power delivery is smooth, as is the shifting, and throttle response is crisp and immediate.

As good as this motivation is, though, the real improvements are found in the chassis. Toyota explains the changes thusly: “A more rigid body structure, revised front suspension, redesigned rear suspension and aerodynamics all help to imbue the new Camry with greater straight-line stability and crisper steering response, while also enhancing overall ride comfort.” I think when you “imbue” something, that’s usually a good thing, and indeed the car feels more planted and solid, especially when pushed hard. This response is helped by further suspension tuning unique to the SE model. All these improvements also help the car remain very quiet, which once again is improving on an already good performance.

The interior appointments of our SE test unit consisted of SofTex-trimmed seats (sort of like a mix of leather and fabric) that proved very comfortable in the broad variety of temperatures we’ve been experiencing. Controls are simple and easy to master, and room is excellent, especially in the commodious rear seat that is also easy to access thanks to large doors that open nearly 90 degrees. The seatbacks fold in 60/40 fashion to further expand the capacity of the 15.4 cubic foot trunk.

If all this isn’t enough to pique your interest if you’re in the market for a family sedan, we saw 28.3 MPG in a week of mixed driving (which is great mileage for such a roomy, comfortable car). The 2012 Toyota Camry SE is EPA rated 25 MPG city/35 highway and has a base price of $23,000. With options including a Navigation System with Entune audio technology, our sticker came to $27,568.


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