What's New for 2012
The 2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid is fully redesigned.
Can the most popular family sedan in America afford to take a risk? Not likely. The 2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid doesn't aim to find out, either. Sure, the seventh generation of Toyota's bread-and-butter sedan shows a sharper look, including a more aggressive front grille and side profile. Tougher, more angular lines ring the exterior. There's even lip service paid to sporty handling, an effort to woo buyers who've already written off Toyota as the New Old Buick.
That's not where the changes end, however. For one thing, the 2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid offers an improved version of last year's engine: a respectably powerful 2.5-liter four-cylinder that, combined with the electric drive motor produces a total of 200 horsepower and by far the strongest acceleration in its admittedly small class of hybrid sedans. An improved regenerative braking system that converts more braking energy into electricity also helps the new Camry Hybrid achieve an EPA-estimated 41 mpg in combined driving (39 with the XLE trim) and a substantial 10 mpg gain in city driving.
Suspension improvements have also enlivened the Camry Hybrid's handling dynamics. That's not to say the new hybrid is particularly sporty, but it does infuse slightly more enthusiasm into a rock-solid legacy of cushy, comfortable ride quality.
The 2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid offers a more refined hybrid system than the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid and essentially matches the Ford Fusion Hybrid for best-in-class fuel economy. Overall, the Hybrid should be a solid, blue-chip choice for a family car.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid is offered in LE and XLE trim levels.
The LE features 16-inch steel wheels, auto headlights, keyless entry/ignition, dual-zone automatic climate control, power accessories, cruise control, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, Bluetooth, six-speaker CD sound system with auxiliary input and USB jacks.
The XLE adds 17-inch alloy wheels, heated exterior mirrors, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, an eight-way power driver seat and a central touchscreen interface and Bluetooth audio streaming.
Additional options are available for the XLE but can vary depending on which region of the country you live in. These include a sunroof; a rearview camera; heated front seats; a four-way power passenger seat; the Display Audio system integrated with a navigation system, HD Radio, satellite radio, voice recognition, Entune integration of smartphone and Web functions; a premium 10-speaker JBL audio system; and a hard-drive-based navigation system with a larger touchscreen display.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid offers a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 156 hp and 156 pound-feet of torque. An electric motor brings the gas engine to life when it shuts down at stoplights in order to save fuel and also provides some low-speed propulsion. Combined, the two power units are good for 200 hp. A continuously variable transmission delivers power to the front wheels.
In Edmunds performance testing, an XLE went from zero to 60 mph in 7.4 seconds, which is very swift for a hybrid family sedan.
EPA-estimated fuel economy for the Camry Hybrid LE is 43 city mpg/39 highway mpg and 41 mpg combined. Interestingly, the XLE achieves 40/38/40 due to the higher rolling resistance of its larger wheels/tires.
The 2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid comes with a battery of standard safety features, including antilock brakes with brake assist, stability control, front- and rear-seat side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags, and knee airbags for both driver and passenger, the latter new for 2012. A blind-spot monitoring system is also available.
In Edmunds brake testing, the Camry Hybrid came to a stop from 60 mph in an excellent 116 feet.
In government crash testing, it received a top five-star score for overall crash protection, four stars for overall frontal protection and five stars for overall side protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the Camry Hybrid the best possible rating of "Good" in the frontal-offset, side and roof strength tests.
Interior Design and Special Features
Inside the cabin, the revised interior for the 2012 Camry feels slightly roomier. Thinner front pillars increase visibility and narrower door panels open up elbow room. Door panel controls also move higher, allowing knees to move more freely. But the most notable improvement has been in interior materials. The previous mismatch of poorly fitted hard plastic has been replaced with better construction and a more pleasing array of textures, trim and subtle decorative stitching.
Moving hybrid components from the trunk to under the hood shrinks the battery housing, which in turn frees up additional space in back. The trunk now offers a truly useful 13.1 cubic feet.
The Camry's new upgraded audio system also includes Entune, a suite of smartphone-connected services that includes features like the Bing search engine, Pandora streaming radio, real-time traffic, sports and stock information, and the ability to reserve movie tickets or a table at a restaurant on the go.
The 2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid is notably quicker and more responsive than its predecessor. Thanks to revised suspension tuning, it also feels more planted on the road and less disturbed by bumps. The electric steering is also improved, but that's a relative conclusion, since it still suffers from a lack of feedback and a light effort that doesn't instill the same confidence as some competitors.
In terms of its powertrain, Toyota's hybrid system remains the most sophisticated and refined on the market. The transition from all-electric mode to the gasoline engine kicking on is less noticeable than in the new Hyundai Sonata Hybrid, while its acceleration is surprisingly strong for a gasoline-electric sedan.