Full 2012 Toyota Camry Review
What's New for 2012
The 2012 Toyota Camry is fully redesigned.
The 2012 Toyota Camry has been improved in almost every detail, which is excellent news since the previous model was disappointing in many regards. On the whole, this may look like the same package, but it's been massaged and redesigned to bring it up to the standards of usability, safety and interior construction set by the competition, and then retuned and restyled to be a little more expressive. But as before, durability and reliability are still the key attributes meant to set the 2012 Toyota Camry apart from its rivals.
You'll notice that the new Camry offers improved versions of last year's engines: a 178-horsepower 2.5-liter four-cylinder and a 268-hp 3.5-liter V6. Both engines feature a six-speed automatic transmission to deliver better fuel economy. The four-cylinder returns an EPA-estimated 35 highway mpg, while the V6 achieves 30 mpg on the highway. And yet, despite this thriftiness, the Camry's engines are notably eager to deliver swift acceleration when you need it. There's also a Camry Hybrid, covered in a separate review.
Within the cabin, the front seats have been redesigned to be more supportive and repositioned to afford more rear legroom. However, the bigger difference inside can be seen in design and quality. The old Camry suffered from subpar interior materials and a rather uninspired design. The new Camry reverses this downward trend, especially in the SE and XLE trims, with dramatically improved build quality and a pleasing selection of thoughtfully chosen trim types, textures and materials. Meanwhile, a new, well-designed touchscreen electronics interface and several high-tech features help set it apart from the pack.
Toyota has also set out to address a long-running complaint about the Camry being boring to drive. Suspension improvements have been made to enliven the Camry's handling dynamics and make the ride more composed. It's not entirely effective -- numb steering and a general disconnected feel make the Camry a less desirable car to drive than most rivals. The exception to this is the SE, which isn't so much a sport model, but rather the one that manages to bring the Camry's driving dynamics up to par for the class.
In total, the Toyota Camry is once again one of the more appealing midsize family sedans. Still, that class is better than ever and we suggest checking out the competition thoroughly before settling on a Camry. The Honda Accord and Mazda 6 continue to set the standard for those who want their car to feel responsive, while the Hyundai Sonata offers more style, comparable refinement and stellar value. Meanwhile, the new Volkswagen Passat is bigger and cheaper than ever while still maintaining its European flavor. The Camry may have corrected many of its predecessor's faults, but its improved competition means choosing one still isn't the slam-dunk it once was.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2012 Toyota Camry is offered in L, LE, SE and XLE trim levels. The L features 16-inch steel wheels, air-conditioning, power windows and mirrors, cruise control, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, split-folding rear seats, Bluetooth and a six-speaker CD sound system with auxiliary input and USB jacks.
The Camry LE adds auto headlamps, power locks with remote keyless entry, Bluetooth streaming audio and a central touchscreen interface for audio, phone and car information.
The SE includes a sport-tuned suspension, 17-inch alloy wheels, foglamps, heated exterior mirrors, unique interior and exterior styling treatments, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and sport seats. SE V6 models get 18-inch wheels, keyless ignition/entry and an upgraded display interface that adds navigation, HD radio, satellite radio, voice recognition and Entune smartphone and Web integration.
The luxurious XLE reverts to the LE's softer suspension settings and adds heated exterior mirrors, foglamps, a sunroof, dual-zone automatic climate control, an eight-way power driver seat and the upgraded display interface with Entune. XLE V6 models add a rearview camera, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, leather upholstery, a power front passenger seat and heated front seats.
Some of the extra features found on the higher trims can be added as options to the lower trim levels, though availability can vary depending on which region of the country you live in. A premium 10-speaker JBL audio system is optional for the SE and XLE. On the XLE V6, Toyota also offers a hard-drive-based navigation system with a larger central display.
Powertrains and Performance
Every 2012 Toyota Camry features front-wheel drive and a six-speed automatic transmission, but there are two engine choices. Base Camrys are powered by a 2.5-liter four-cylinder that produces 178 hp and 170 pound-feet of torque. In Edmunds performance testing, this engine brought the Camry from zero to 60 mph in 8.1 seconds, which makes it one of the quickest four-cylinder midsize sedans. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 25 mpg city/35 highway and 28 combined, which puts the Camry among the class leaders.
Optional is a 3.5-liter V6 that generates 268 hp and 248 lb-ft of torque. It hits 60 mph in 6.6 seconds, which is average for upgrade engines in this class. Its fuel economy is an impressive 21/30/25.
The 2012 Toyota Camry 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 braking tests, both the Camry LE and SE came to a stop from 60 mph in about 120 feet, which is a bit better than average for the class.
In government crash testing, the Camry 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 the best possible rating of "Good" in the frontal-offset, side and roof strength tests.
Interior Design and Special Features
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. The redesigned front seats are not only more comfortable and supportive, but their thinner backs result in more rear seat legroom. This, in addition to a nicely reclined seatback angle, helps the Camry match the Honda Accord for the most comfortable backseat in the class.
But the most notable improvement has been regarding interior design and 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. The SE trim in particular has a certain hip vibe that the Camry hasn't possessed in, well, possibly ever.
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. (Entune is optional with the Display Audio package). We're especially fond of the Camry's new touchscreen interface and accompanying steering wheel controls, which makes operating your myriad radio and media player choices a snap.
In terms of power, both four-cylinder and V6 engines are pretty similar to last year's model. The 2012 Toyota Camry's new electric-assisted steering (once limited to the hybrid) feels pretty decent in the V6 and SE versions. But non-SE four-cylinder versions, which use an electric-assist steering system from a different supplier, feel vague and somewhat lifeless. On the bright side, this new Camry feels more alert, with a more refined suspension that feels less floaty and disconnected. Still, we highly recommend the SE. It's not exactly what we'd call sporty, but its dynamics do feel more in line with the handling and responsiveness of its best rivals.