2012 Toyota Camry SE: Friend of Commuters
May 02, 2012
Earlier this week, circumstances necessitated that I wade right into evening freeway gridlock at an ill-advised time of day and drive to an unfamiliar part of town (not pictured above since I ended up parking in front of a bail bonds agency; instead, enjoy the gloomy Pacific coastline as seen from this parking lot in La Jolla, California).
When it was my turn to choose a car, I knew I was taking the long-term 2012 Toyota Camry SE if it was still available. It was indeed.
Although I profile myself as a lover of compact hatchbacks, I really like the Camry as a commuter car, and this particular SE model is set up just right for me. The simulated suede/leather driver seat is really comfortable. I like having a factory navigation system (especially since this one costs a little less), and I don't mind using Entune to get traffic data and Pandora integration (when I want it) -- it's a bit of a process, yes, but now that I have everything set up on my iPhone, it's easy.
More substantively, the 2.5-liter four-cylinder provides good throttle response in traffic, and for the most part, the six-speed automatic shifts when and how I want it to -- I never really think, "hey, I'd like a manual in this car."
Ride quality is comfortable enough over the rain-grooved concrete slabs on the 405 freeway. And while steering feedback isn't so great, the ratio feels right for the car and the steering offers good precision in normal traffic.
Honestly, it's the overall experience that keeps me coming back to Camry. No one of these attributes is particularly special on its own, but they come together in our SE in a way that I really like.
This overall-ness stood out to a lot of us who participated in the recent 2012-'13 Midsize Sedan Comparison Test. No doubt, the Camry's a great package for commuters -- trouble is, the Hyundai Sonata offers darn near the same experience and, even when you adjust for equipment, it's cheaper. Of course, that doesn't mean I wouldn't buy the Camry if it was my own money.
Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 7,858 miles