December 07, 2011
Like 313,212 people did in 2010, we have just gone and bought ourselves a brand-new Toyota Camry. It's not just any Camry, mind you; it's a fully redesigned 2012 Toyota Camry. Maybe you've seen the commercials.
Although the Camry isn't exactly an enthusiast's dream, its status as the best-selling car in America means that a redesign is a big deal. And as if that pressure wasn't enough, Toyota is counting on the new sedan to pull it out of a rut that started with the old Camry's sudden acceleration problems. The earthquake in Japan last spring certainly didn't help, and then floods hit many of Toyota's suppliers in Thailand.
If ever Toyota needed the Camry to be a hit, now is the time.
What We Bought
There are four trim levels of the 2012 Toyota Camry. You've got your stripper model dubbed the "L," a nicely equipped midgrade LE, a loaded XLE and the sporty SE.
"The SE is far and away our favorite, with larger tires, 15 percent stiffer springs and 50 percent firmer dampers.... It's composed enough that we think it could serve as the base setup and no one would complain." That's what our director of vehicle testing, Dan Edmunds, said about the Camry the first time he drove it.
It's rare that Mr. Edmunds (no, he doesn't own the company) gives such high praise to the suspension setup of a high-volume family sedan. With that in mind, we figured the Camry SE was worth testing for the long haul.
And as much as we love the 3.5-liter V6 that's also available, it's no secret that the four-cylinder — capable of an EPA-estimated 25 city and 35 highway mpg — is the volume motor. It's also cheaper. Seemed like a better deal to us.
This particular car started life at $23,000 and came with the aforementioned inline-4 which makes 173 horsepower (thanks to its PZEV rating) and a six-speed automatic (with rev-matched downshifts). The SE model also includes 17-inch alloy wheels, sport-tuned EPS, sport-tuned suspension, SofTex-trimmed sport seats, 60/40-split rear folding seats, tilt-and-telescoping wheel, Bluetooth capability, 10 airbags, 6.1-inch touchscreen display and a six-speaker stereo.
But, as usual, we couldn't leave well enough alone. We really wanted to try out Toyota's new Entune system, which integrates smartphones and apps into a handy and hopefully safer-to-operate-while-driving package. To get that, though, we had to settle for a car that had more options than we initially wanted.
Entune is wrapped in the $1,050 "Display Audio with Navigation and Entune" package that includes HD radio with iTunes tagging, USB port with iPod connectivity and control, text-to-speech and navigation. Further, the car we found had the $1,195 Convenience package with a smart key on the front doors, trunk and start, and an integrated back-up camera. Finally, this one also had the $1,490 Leather package, a $915 sunroof, $130 for carpeted floor mats, a $49 cargo net and a $69 rear bumper appliqué.
Sticker price: $28,658.
Our guys who buy the cars are good, though. Real good. We paid $26,397 for our 2012 Toyota Camry SE, which is exactly invoice for the car. That's better.
Why We Bought It
So we know what we got, but how did we get to the decision to buy a Camry? Go back to the first paragraph of this story for an efficient answer to that. The 2012 Toyota Camry can't get by on name alone anymore. Toyota has been too tarnished in the media, and the competition from the Korean, German and American automakers these days is just too darn good.
Without the bulletproof shield of the Toyota logo, is this 2012 Camry good enough to compete in the highly competitive midsize sedan segment? Moreover, is it good enough to focus people's attention back on Toyota as a carmaker and not as a target of federal investigations?
We've got 12 months and 20,000 miles to see if this new car lives up to the Camry name. Follow along on our Long-Term Road Test Blog for daily updates on our long-term test fleet.
Current Odometer: 1,148
Best Fuel Economy: 30.1
Worst Fuel Economy: 23.0
Average Fuel Economy (over the life of the vehicle): 28.5
Edmunds purchased this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.