Hm. So how does one exactly review a car like the Toyota Camry? Polarizing cars with divisive styling, shockingly awesome (or awful) performance and egregious flaws are an auto reviewer’s dream, just because it’s so easy to write about. With the Camry, it is the exact opposite. A car like this is designed with the mission to appeal to as many people as possible from as wide a range of demographics imaginable. And since 1983 when the first Camry appeared in showrooms, Toyota has slowly and carefully perfected the Camry. The result? The Camry was the best selling passenger car in the US in 2011. And that is after seeing a decline in sales from 2010, and being in its last year before the 2012 Camry was redesigned.
Universal appeal is what makes the Camry as dominating as it is. Consider that on any given day, you can spot a single thirty-something or a retired couple climb into a Camry and think nothing of it. The Camry has essentially evolved into the go to car for those who don’t know anything about cars. It’s reputation for durability and reliability have won over millions of fans. Sure, I won’t disagree the car is hardly exciting, but if anything you have got to admire Toyota’s achievement in building the ultimate car for people who really do not care about cars.
So yes, the Camry is a new car for 2012, but it comes as no surprise the styling is a cautionary evolution from last year’s model. Even parked aside a Camry that is ten years old, the new car looks about the same, just more contemporary. The front and rear fascia’s feature some harder edges than before for a slightly more aggressive look, but in the end the Camry retains its overall agreeable, but forgettable appearance. Toyota offers an SE model that is the sportiest looking Camry you can buy. Our test car was the top-spec XLE, featuring chrome trimmed fog lamps, rocker panels with chrome trim and chrome exhaust tips to distinguish it from lesser Camrys. Again, it all adds up for a nice looking car that I personally cannot fault, nor rave about.
Inside, the Camry checks all the right boxes for what buyers are looking for. Driver and passengers are treated to a large, airy cabin with plenty of room for everyone of all shapes and sizes. Even on our XLE that was optioned to the hilt, the controls were easy and intuitive from the moment I sat in the car for the first time. I suspect most people could buy a Camry, own it for years and never even have to crack the owner’s manual.
The Camry was the Williams’ family transport for our annual winter trip to beautiful Cape Cod, Massachusetts. While the notion of a Camry hardly got our hearts pumping, I will say this. The Camry offered a supremely comfortable cabin for our trip. The seats were flat, but even after over three hours at the wheel non-stop, we arrived feeling fresh as can be. The Camry offered room galore inside for us to stretch out, and a trunk to hold all our luggage and purchases with a ton of room to spare. On our drive home in the dark, as we flew across the Braga Bridge over the Taunton River in Fall River Massachusetts with our son fast asleep, even my jaded wife who has shared rides with me in cars costing triple the price of the Camry conceded this was a very good car.
The Camry is offered with a choice of two engines: a 2.5L four rated at 178hp, and an optional 3.5L V-6 rated at 268hp. Both engines are paired to a new six-speed automatic, which Toyota claims improved fuel economy over the outgoing car. Our V-6 Camry has an EPA rating of 21/30 MPG city/highway. With a combination of bombing down the interstate or casually driving the scenic roads of Cape Cod, our Camry’s mileage seemed to hover around 27 MPG, which is quite respectable. The Camry’s V-6 was as smooth as silk, offering plenty of power. Passing is a breeze, and I found the transmission to be a model of refinement. The cabin is nearly silent-cruising at 85mph is completely serene, and odds are the driver will get worn down before the car will. Obviously, this is no sports sedan, so the ride is tuned for comfort and isolation from nasty road surfaces, which the car managed to do quite well.
The base model Camry L with the four cylinder starts at $21,955USD. However, our range-topping XLE V-6 starts at $29,845, but for that price you get 17″ alloys, back-up camera display, dual-zone auto climate control, Sirius satellite radio, HD radio, leather, power heated front seats, power moonroof, Bluetooth, and auto dimming rear view mirror. Our test car added Blind Spot Monitor, and a Navigation package which includes, guess what, Nav and a premium JBL sound system, and Toyota’s Entune-think of it as having access to your smartphone’s apps, but through the car’s 6’1″ touch screen. Adding Safety Connect (emergency assistance, stolen vehicle locator roadside assistance and collision notification) and a handful of minor accessories, our Camry, including delivery rang up for a total of $32,546. That may be a long way from the cheapest Camry, but when you consider our Camry offers some very premium features for a mid-size sedan, I feel it still represents a good value.
But that versatility is yet another factor that adds to the overall appeal of the Camry. Order it the way you want it-basic transportation or entry-level luxury car, Toyota has it covered. No, I never broke a sweat or got passionate about the car, but after a week and many miles, I had to respect the Camry for being what it is-a no hassle car that excels at what is was designed to do. Camry and Trust sort of go hand in hand. It’s a car you can feel good about recommending to friends or family looking for reliable. safe transportation. When you see your accountant, you feel good he drives a Camry, as to, say, a BMW M5. It is no accident the Camry is the best selling passenger car in the US, and with the new 2012 model, Toyota has only further cemented itself as the benchmark against which all other family sedans are judged.