July 26, 2012
For the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8, that is. What and why?
Rev-match downshifting. It's got to be completely embarrassing for the SRT boys that the boring old family sedan Camry blips the throttle on manual downshifts with the steering wheel paddles or center console lever, while the driver-focused Jeep can't.
Hey, I'm not saying the Camry always perfectly matches revs like the Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG Black Series (which stirs your soul, every time. No, seriously, it's addictive). But at least the Camry is making an effort. The Jeep SRT8? It's not even trying.
Mike Monticello, Road Test Editor @ 11,755 miles.
July 23, 2012
Over the weekend I did another road trip with our Camry. It was pretty much the same route I did back in April when I compared the Camry to the Explorer, though this time round-trip. As I expected, the Camry was an appealing companion. A few thoughts on why follow.
Composed and quiet ride. The Camry's not the quietest sedan out there, but it's still pretty good. My wife and I could talk easily. Our kids slept in the backseat. Oh, and at one point, I had to perform some unexpected maneuvering due to a tire blowout from a semi-truck ahead of us. The Camry's not the sportiest out there, but the SE is composed enough, and certainly preferable (in this situation) to some of the other family haulers in our fleet, such as the Explorer.
Comfortable front seats. We've covered these before in various blog posts, but I'll still call it out. I could drive the Camry all day and still be comfortable.
Plenty of storage space. The cupholders are nicely sized, as are the door bins and center console bin. We never had a problem trying to find a place to put something.
Decent power and responsive transmission. Sure, it's just a four-cylinder, but I wasn't ever left wanting for power. Having the responsive transmission certainly helps, as it did driving over the I5's 4,000-foot Tejon Pass. (I haven't calculated fuel economy for the trip, but will do that later this week.)
The only things that I found to be negative were the dim-witted touchscreen interface and trunk space. Trunk space is certainly adequate, but because of the bracing at the front of the trunk (behind the rear seats) and the gooseneck trunklid hinges, it's not as optimized as I'd prefer.
Looking this over, it reaffirms to me what I summed up back in April. The Camry doesn't really excel in any particular area, but it doesn't drop below a B anywhere, either. And for me, that's pretty impressive.
Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor @ 11,372 miles
July 02, 2012
Though I drove our Camry to a friend's birthday party on Saturday night, my wife drove home because I was, um, tired. Yes, let's go with that, tired.
"This steering isn't responsive at all!" she said mere seconds after pulling away. "Look at this."
She sawed back and forth on the wheel, demonstrating the yaw delay.
"And this is the sport model," I offered, rather amused.
"Yeah and I don't want to drive the regular model."
Yep, the wife just got hotter. True, she's really only driven Mazda 3s and Mini Coopers over the past seven years, but count her thoroughly unimpressed by the Toyota Camry -- even the sport model. Bodes well for the future.
James (and Sarah Carrillo) Riswick, Automotive (and Senior Total Beauty) Editors @ 10,300 miles
June 30, 2012
With the X Games, Rallycross and all the rest of that good dynamic chaos going on this weekend, a good time to remind ourselves of the limitless potential of our otherwise mild-mannered Camry SE.
June 08, 2012
It's interesting how your perspective on a car changes when you've got passengers. Our long-term Camry SE for example, with livelier steering and stiffer suspension than the vanilla Camry, seems a no-brainer for our staff. And I'd never spared a thought for our SE's rigidity until chauffeuring the wife and kid around recently.
This is all relative to one's perception of the Camry, of course. Without thinking, you assume the Camry is a docile, compliant ride around town. The SE isn't exactly track-day ready, but neither is it a cream puff. It cleanly transmits vibration from those speed bumps you're trying to skirt at the local big box parking lot. Push the Camry out of a driveway onto the avenue with conviction and you'll notice the car's stiff rigging while watching your passenger hold steady on the door pull.
The Camry SE compromises as best it can, trying to balance a big cabin, fuel efficiency, benchmark reliability, and Lexus-lite highway manners with crisp and lively handling. Tall order for around $24,000.
Dan Frio, Automotive Editor
May 24, 2012
So there I am driving down the street in this perfectly nice 2012 Toyota Camry SE, the latest expression of the Toyota's most influential automobile. It's been reinvented and everyone loves it.
Except me. No matter how much I drive this car, it still rubs me the wrong way.
Not that anyone should care, really. I feel like just another cranky old guy standing on his porch, waving his cane at the sky as if to warn off invisible alien invaders, and yelling, "Hey, you kids, get off my lawn!"
May 16, 2012
I took an unplanned trip to Fontana this week, and our LT Camry was my ride. Previously, I've only driven the Camry during slow-speed scenarios, but this foray to Fontana allowed me to drive at real highway speeds. It was during this jaunt that I noticed the Camry's tires' tendency to hunt over the rain-grooved Southern California freeways.
It was like trying to fox trot while your partner insists on waltzing. I wanted to holler, "Will you just let me lead!?"
Any Camry owners having the same experience?
Bryn MacKinnon, Senior Editor, Edmunds.com, @ 8,623 miles
May 11, 2012
Here's a realization I had this week: The 2012 Toyota Camry SE might be my second favorite car in our long-term fleet right now.
I'm putting an asterisk next to the Acura NSX, which I really like but don't find practical to drive every day. My No. 1 pick is, wait for it, the Mazda 3. Since I claim to enjoy driving, our 5.0 Ford Mustang and turbo Chevrolet Sonic really should follow in order behind it.
And on some days, they do. The Mustang is fast and sounds fantastic, and the Sonic is, well, like driving a mini GTI.
But both of these cars have a few annoying compromises (bad sightlines and silly instrumentation in the Mustang; dead throttle response in the Sonic to appease the EPA), and this week, I wanted to drive a car that's all about the packaging, all about the total experience. And that's the Camry.
There's nothing to obsess over when you drive this car. The ride is fine; the car feels buttoned down through faster entrance ramps. The cabin is not what I'd call serene, but it stays reasonably quiet. The steering is acceptably accurate, but too electric to offer much feedback. Brake pedal feel is fine. The controls are never confusing.
Seat comfort really is very good (with the optional UltraSuede upholstery), so I always do remember that, probably because I've never liked past Camry seats. And, OK, I fixate a bit on the audio system, because it's pretty weak and makes you want an upgrade even if you're just listening to NPR.
But other than that, I don't do a lot of extraneous thinking in the Camry. I just relax in its comfy seats and focus on driving, with news or the Dodgers in the background. I like my boring life.
Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 8,986 miles
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
April 25, 2012
Our Camry is an excellent A-to-B car. It's comfortable, the controls are logical, there's plenty of interior storage and the trunk is decent sized. There are also some nice conveniences or upgrades on our car like keyless access, leather/faux-suede upholstery, heated seats and the Entune suite of features. I was thinking about this today as I picked a friend up from the airport. You just get in it and drive, no thought required.
But the nice thing is that the Camry doesn't bore or annoy me like the stereotypical A to B car. It goes around corners acceptably, has decent power and responds willingly to my throttle inputs. Our car's $28,658 MSRP (or mid 26K for Edmunds TMV) seems like a very agreeable price to me. I'd buy one.
Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor
April 12, 2012
One of the more appealing aspects to our Camry, at least in my mind, is the shift programming for the six-speed automatic transmission. So many automakers these days seem to have implemented a dull throttle response and delayed automatic transmission downshifts in the hopes of eking out better mpg. It can be annoying or even aggravating.
The Camry, however, is prompt in its responses to your extra inputs and snaps off quick one-gear downshifts. The sport mode works well, too.
Maybe some people would say this means the Camry is just shifting too much, but I like it this way. The shifts are inperceptible, and overall the Camry feels alert and makes the most of its four-cylinder's power.
Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor
The result is annoying (or even aggravatingly slow responses to your throttle inputs.
April 11, 2012
I've got a couple follow up thoughts about the Camry after yesterday's post. One, I'll agree with Erin -- the cabin is a bit noisy at freeway speeds. Not terrible, mind you, but certainly noticeable. There are quieter midsize sedans out there.
Then there's the ride quality. We've written a lot of positive posts so far about our SE's suspension tuning. And I'd agree that it's the ideal Camry setup for people who at least like to drive a little (likely, everybody reading this). But I can also picture many Camry buyers -- the multitudes who previously bought a Camry for the car's appliance-like personality -- being happier with the regular suspension tuning. The SE does let in a fair amount of road imperfections that those buyers might find objectionable.
In the end, though, it's nice that Toyota gives you a choice.
Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor
March 30, 2012
Paddle-shifters. In a Camry. The absurdity gives that Mayan thing some credence.
This isn't our long-termer, but rather a V6 that came through the short-term fleet recently. Here I thought the RAV4 V6 was a sleeper. But this -- this is guaranteed to emasculate most dopey modified Civic drivers (kelly green New Era Yankees cap cocked to the side, gold sticker still affixed) from a stoplight.
You might even worry a Mustang V6 driver for about 1,000 feet or so in this car. This Camry posted a 14.7-second quarter-mile at 98.3 MPH in our testing. By comparison, we tested a Mustang V6 Premium at 14.1 seconds (100.3 MPH) and a Mustang V6 Sport at 13.9 seconds (101.2 MPH). Both were 2011 models.
Maybe we can agree that paddles have crossed the threshold of gimmickry in many cars. But these actually give the Camry V6 some heat. Maybe even a hint of soul, something that begs to be taken seriously and not written off simply as a six-speed refrigerator.
Dan Frio, Automotive Editor
March 26, 2012
I didn't drive our long-term Camry this weekend. Instead, I signed-out a short term V6-powered Camry SE just to see for myself if there's an appreciable enough difference to justify the $3,640 jump in price.
The short answer: No
As it is, the Camry is one of the quickest four-cylinder family sedans out there. I don't mean to underestimate the Camry's audience, but I contend that the vast majority of potential buyers will find the power more than adequate. I suppose if I lived on top of a very steep mountain with passing lanes, the V6 would make sense, but then again, it's not like the four-cylinder would be a pig. It would just sound a little ragged as you floor it.
If it's performance you're looking for, well, you probably shouldn't be considering a Camry in any guise. For the equivalent $30k we spent for our Camry SE, and if I was interested in more performance and personality, I'd choose the Dodge Charger or maybe spend a bit more for a Nissan Maxima.
What would you consider?
Mark Takahashi, Automotive Editor @ 6,285 miles
March 20, 2012
Add my name to the list of editors that thinks our longterm 2012 Toyota Camry SE is, dynamically, a nice improvement over the outgoing model.
Now, I can't say for certain how much the SE trim level's suspension calibration is responsible, but I can say this: there's no reason not to spec every Camry suspension like this one. I can't imagine anyone objecting to the SE suspension calibration since it strikes the sweet spot between tautness and compliance without ever, ever feeling harsh.
The same base-vs-SE situation applies to the Sienna, come to think of it.
Jason Kavanagh, Engineering Editor
March 16, 2012
Our long-term 2012 Toyota Camry passed the 5,000-mile mark this week, and we barely noticed as it happened in the midst of a five-car comparison test that saw us rack up hundreds of miles. The Camry SE is one of the five.
I drove our long-termer last night, and as in the past, it's the Camry's total package that impresses me -- the engine is, well, rather stellar among the four-cylinders this class (now that the Passat has lost the 2.0T motor).
In addition, the automatic transmission is well programmed (i.e., shifts quickly enough and smoothly enough to keep me happy), the seats are comfortable, the controls are simple... but you know, I'm not sure I'd get an SE if it was my decision. I don't care for the SE styling flourishes, and the combination of the suspension calibration and the tires makes for a busy ride on I-10 and California 60 -- the two freeways I use the most.
Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 5,539 miles
March 15, 2012
I didn't like the last generation Camry. It may have been a smooth performer and probably as reliable as an anvil, but that exterior styling! It was such a turn-off (was the hood inspired by a Bottlenose dolphin or what?) as was the downgraded interior.
This new one still has a few styling details wrought from the School of Disjointed Design, such as where the dash meets the door panels (looks like they're from two different cars) and the similarly mismatched taillights (thank you BMW for championing this horrid trend). But overall, it's fairly clean outside and there's better quality inside. Yet it's under the skin where the new Camry shines brightest. Add me to the list of those impressed with this car's driving dynamics, especially the performance of the four-cylinder/automatic powertrain. Along with the expected refinement there's crisp overall response with plenty of grunt down low and through the midrange. When the tranny should downshift, it does so pronto. Higher speed passing power is surprisingly strong too. Yes, we have the sporty SE trim, but like Monty pointed out, the handling is also solid.
John DiPietro, Automotive Editor @ 5,526 miles
March 08, 2012
Not gonna lie to ya: I was a little put off as I was about to head over the deliciously twisty Ortega Highway when I realized I hadn't turned off the Camry's stability control system before I left my garage. Fun Police, release your rage upon me in one, two, three...
Anyway, when I pressed the ESC-off button, I was quickly reminded I was in a Toyota, which generally means you can't turn off the ESC once you've started moving. You can turn off traction control if you're driving slowly, but not stability control.
Oh well, I wasn't about to pull over just to turn it off. I mean, I'm in a Camry, so how much excitement was I really going to have in this thing anyway?
Turns out, far more than expected. Two aspects stood out:
First, the stability control never once cut in on me (to add brakes or cut power), despite the fact I took some of the turns pretty aggressively. My fears about the system being overly controlling were unwarranted.
Second, the Camry SE's handling is more than respectable. Steering is fairly precise, has reasonable feel and body roll is decently controlled. We're not talking sports car speeds here, but there's enough precision to actually have some fun through turns.
Kept finding myself muttering, "This thing is a Camry?"
Mike Monticello, Road Test Editor @ 4,800 miles.
February 11, 2012
This might be the single ugliest engine bay in our fleet. I mean, just look at the size of that oxygen sensor. And what's going on with that plastic toupee on the cylinder head?
Luckily for the Camry, none of this matters whatsoever. Few owners are every likely to bother popping the hood and even if they do they're not going to care what the exhaust manifold looks like.
What they do care about is how this engine feels like from behind the wheel and in that capacity I'd say it's pretty solid. No raspy noises, no odd vibrations, just a reasonable amount of power when you need it and decent mileage no matter how you drive it.
I think it would feel much peppier if the transmission was a little more aggressive, but I can see why it's tuned not to kick down too quickly. It's certainly enough performance for the average driver, so I imagine that V6 sales are going even lower than ever these days.
Ed Hellwig, Editor
January 06, 2012
As a matter of policy, we test all of our new long-term cars when they enter the fleet. Yes, even if they happen to be of the Toyota Camry variety.
Thankfully, our Camry is the "sporty" SE edition. The SE bundles together larger tires, 15 percent stiffer springs, firmer dampers, sport-tuned electric power steering and SofTex-trimmed sport seats. Unfortunately, we got ours with the mainstream, volume-selling 2.5-liter inline-4 instead of the sauce-having 3.5-liter V6. And since we bought it in California, it's PZEV rated and thus produces 173 horsepower instead of 178.
So we've got the sporty suspension, the less sporty motor and a six-speed automatic transmission that kind of does rev-matched downshifts. How'd it do?
Vehicle: 2012 Toyota Camry SE
Driver: Mike Monticello
Drive Type: Front engine, front-wheel drive
Transmission Type: Six-speed automatic
Engine Type: Inline-4
Displacement (cc/cu-in): 2,494/52
Redline (rpm): 6,200
Horsepower (hp @ rpm): 173 @ 6,000 (PZEV)
Torque (lb-ft @ rpm): 165 @ 4,100 (PZEV)
Brake Type (front): 11.7-inch ventilated discs with single-piston sliding calipers
Brake Type (rear): 11.1-inch ventilated discs with single-piston sliding calipers
Suspension Type (front): MacPherson strut, stabilizer bar
Suspension Type (rear): Independent multilink, stabilizer bar
Tire Size (front): P215/55R17 (93V)
Tire Size (rear): P215/55R17 (93V)
Tire Brand: Michelin
Tire Model: Primacy MxV4
Tire Type: All-season, low rolling resistance
As tested Curb Weight (lb): 3,238
0-30 (sec): 3.2 (3.2 w/TC on)
0-45 (sec): 5.5 (5.7 w/TC on)
0-60 (sec): 8.6 (8.8 w/TC on)
0-60 with 1-ft Rollout (sec): 8.3 (8.5 w/TC on)
0-75 (sec): 12.6 (13.1 w/TC on)
1/4-Mile (sec @ mph): 16.3 @ 86.6 (16.5 @ 85.6 w/TC on)
Acceleration comments: Strong for a naturally aspirated four-cylinder, revs hard. But for some reason (perhaps our California PZEV car?), was 0.5 second slower to 60 than the last four-cylinder Camry we tested. Sport mode (with power braking) was quickest, as it lets the car rev to 6,200 rpm instead of 5,800, and shifts quickly. Manual shifting is via console lever (pull back for downshifts) or paddles. Does not hold gears to rev limiter. Sort of blips the throttle on downshifts.
30-0 (ft): 31
60-0 (ft): 123
Braking comments: Very firm pedal and not too much ABS commotion or tire squeal. Moderate nosedive, but the rear tires would lock up enough to cause the rear to kick slightly to the right each time. First stop was 124 feet. Shortest was fifth stop at 123 feet.
Slalom (mph): 64.6 (63.9 w/TC on)
Skid Pad Lateral Acceleration (g): 0.81 (0.80 w/TC on)
Slalom comments: This is a Camry? Seriously, it's not that bad at all. Steering has some feel, even if the effort is a bit artificially heavy. Suspension has good damping and it corners pretty flat. The tires are the letdown, as they give up and start sliding pretty easily. The Camry needs to be manhandled, thrown around the cones, to reach its max time. But with ESC on, you need to be very smooth to keep the system from stabbing the brakes. Thankfully, the intervention point is pretty high.
Skid pad comments: Good steering effort around the skid pad, could actually feel what the front tires were up to. Still, not much you could do about it, though. It just wants to understeer. ESC has high limits when on. But it's rather abrupt about cutting in when it does come on.
Db @ Idle: 39.4
Db @ Full Throttle: 69.7
Db @ 70 mph Cruise: 63.7
December 20, 2011
Yeah, I'll say it, the last Toyota Camry was terrible. Let's put aside the utter forgetability of driving it that made me depressed before even turning it on. The Camry has always been boring, I'm not talking about that.
I'm talking about the fact that every last-gen Camry I ever drove had misaligned interior panels that were always and literally different shades of grey. Oh, and they often had sharp flaring on them. I'm talking about the center stack switchgear that looked removed from a child's toy. I'm talking about the shapeless seats. I'm talking about the suspension that would bob and float over road undulations and slap its wheels over bumps. I'm talking about steering devoid of any semblance of feel. I'm talking about a general feeling of cheap that didn't permeate past Camrys. I'm talking about the perception that the entire car was just phoned in for people who'd never cross shop anything else. I'm talking about it being worse than every family sedan not named Sebring, Avenger or Galant. I'm NOT talking about floor mats, unintended acceleration and people who don't know what Neutral does.
Then I drove our long-term Camry SE last night as well as a lesser equipped, non-quasi-sporty Camry LE last week. I am happy to report the 2012 Toyota Camry is not terrible, far from it. The interior is a gargantuan improvement, though not quite the nicest in the class. Better built, better switchgear, better looking, better functionality, better pizza, Papa Johns. I really like the seats; comfortable and their thin profile frees up backseat room. The suspension is better sorted and provides a more solid, substantial ride. The steering on the LE is still devoid of feel and utterly lifeless, but hey, at least the SE offers a bit of feedback and response for people who see the value of having some idea about what their tires are doing.
In short, I will not be feeling depressed every time I get our Camry SE for night as I was with our last-generation Camry long-termer or any other time I had the misfortune of driving that ... um, let's be nice, automobile.
James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 1,861 miles
December 19, 2011
I could pretend (and sometimes I do pretend) that I find mid-priced, midsize, front-drive sedans boring, but the reality is I have a huge soft spot for cars like our 2012 Toyota Camry. They are easy to drive, they have just the right amount of room for four people and, more often than not, they have exactly the features I want.
After yet more Camry time over the weekend, I've decided that I like the suspension calibration on our SE. Indeed, it's firm by historical Camry standards, but I like how this car expediently deals with bumps and seams instead of flopping around for a couple beats.
Also, after a family dinner and a sightseeing tour of Pasadena residents' holiday lights, three of the car's four occupants were sacked out on the drive home -- real-world evidence that the ride quality is just fine.
December 15, 2011
Last night a friend and I ran a bunch of errands in our long-term 2012 Toyota Camry SE. It was a mix of city driving and freeway travel, and at every store, yet more bags were loaded into the midsize sedan. In short, it was like any other day in the life of a Camry, which took it on without complaint and without drawing attention to itself. It really is the Marcy of cars as the great Dan Pund once wrote.
Except twice it did draw attention to ourself. See, for the first time in my memory, the SE really feels like an SE. The ride borders on firm. When you hit a major expansion joint or bump on the freeway, you really feel it once, and then it's done... it's not some floaty, drawn-out affair. In this regard, it's like no other Camry I've ever driven, and my Camry experiences go back a couple decades.
I think the ride quality on our Camry SE is an improvement. I think. Sometimes I'm not sure the world is ready for a firm-riding Camry... so, well, are we?
Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 1,663 miles