Lifeless steering; not a huge step forward from the last Camry.
It's been a banner couple of years in the midsize sedan market. Brands from South Korea have upped the ante considerably by introducing redesigned models that have been more rethought than refreshed, and all in an effort to dethrone the Toyota Camry, which dominates sales in the category.
In response the 2012 Toyota Camry has been redesigned, but while it can be considered to have been improved, this car is not a giant leap forward. The all-new model has addressed some of our past complaints, particularly in regard to interior refinement, features and quality. But in terms of overall styling and that elusive "joy-to-drive" feeling, it has barely moved the needle. That's not to say the Camry falls flat, though, as it's a perfectly admirable choice for the average shopper. The past formula worked, and the new model simply adds to the sum total.
It's only when you consider mounting competition from the Hyundai Sonata and related Kia Optima does the Camry's lack of style, personality and appeal become apparent. And competition in this category looks to grow even stronger when the redesigned Ford Fusion and Honda Accord debut later this year. In comparison, the 2012 Toyota Camry SE (which is the sportier model) banks on the core principles that have served the Camry so well in the past. It is an unassuming sedan that is comfortable, convenient, reliable and uncomplicated. It never dips below adequate and in some ways approaches excellence.
This 2012 Toyota Camry SE is powered by a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 178 horsepower and 170 pound-feet of torque. A V6 with a more robust output of 268 hp is available as an option, though the vast majority of buyers typically select the four-cylinder. Power is sent to the front wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission that features manual shift paddles on the steering wheel. The EPA estimates fuel consumption at 25 city/35 highway mpg and 28 mpg combined. In our extended test, we averaged 22.5 mpg in mostly city driving, with the best tank returning 27 mpg.
In Edmunds instrumented testing, the Camry SE accelerated from a standstill to 60 mph in 8.6 seconds, which is about average among its four-cylinder sedan rivals. Coming to a complete stop from that speed required 123 feet, which is also an average distance, though our test driver noted that the rear end had a tendency to drift to the right under maximum braking.
While acceleration and braking numbers were merely par for the course, we were surprised by how well the Camry fared in terms of handling. As a test driver commented, "This is a Camry? Seriously, it's not bad at all." He went on to note that the sport-tuned SE suspension possessed good damping and kept body roll to a minimum. The car's only weakness could be found in its low-rolling-resistance tires, which didn't offer much grip in their quest for maximum mpg. Still, we were surprised and impressed with the Camry SE's cornering ability.
A sport sedan the Camry is not, however, and in the end, the SE's sport-tuned suspension yielded only the slightest of performance advantages over a midrange Camry LE we tested. The steering lacks some communication, although it's precise and predictable. Besides the added features and cosmetic flourishes, the SE trim level essentially gives you a bit more confidence in the curves, but it doesn't transform the car's basic nature.
As the sporty trim level in the Camry lineup, the SE's unique suspension tuning does not compromise ride quality by adding unnecessary harshness, as some of the Toyota's rivals do. Imperfections in the road are smoothed over, yet the body is controlled sufficiently so the car doesn't feel disconnected from the road. Likewise, road and wind noise are abated, providing a fairly quiet cabin.
The SE's seats also provide a decent level of comfort, with enough space laterally and lengthwise for larger drivers. The tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel further widens this comfort range. Rear seats (middle position excepted) have enough space for the average adult without feeling confined. Overall support is acceptable for a family sedan, while the SE's faux-suede seat panels help to keep passengers in position.
Once seated in the 2012 Toyota Camry, the driver is afforded a mostly unobstructed view all around. The roof pillars are kept narrow enough for a clear view of the road ahead, while the dash and window sills are low enough to foster good sight lines and deliver a feeling of interior spaciousness.
The controls are well placed and clearly labeled, and even the more advanced features are intuitive. Equipped with navigation and Toyota's Entune infotainment system, our Camry SE test vehicle represents a fully loaded model, save for a stereo upgrade and V6 engine. Complete smartphone integration requires downloading the free Entune app, and pairing to the car is as simple as any other system.
Once set up, occupants can take advantage of streaming Internet radio via Pandora, as well as Bing search functions, real-time traffic, sports and stock information, and the ability to make restaurant reservations. These functions can only be accessed when the car is stationary, however, even if a passenger is present to operate the controls. The voice recognition system acts as a substitute, but we found it mostly inaccurate and sometimes frustrating.
We never found ourselves wanting for more in the way of internal storage, though. Numerous bins capably held all of our personal effects, as did the cupholders and water bottle door pockets. The trunk holds up to 15.4 cubic feet of cargo, which is right in line with other midsize sedans, and further benefits from hinges that don't impinge on that space. The rear seats fold down (though not flat) for transporting longer items.
Design/Fit and Finish
From the outside, the 2012 Toyota Camry is hardly a departure from the previous-generation car. The addition of sporty-looking 17-inch wheels, front and rear fascia, rocker-sill extensions and a rear spoiler add a dash of visual interest to the SE, but on the whole, the Camry gives the impression that the designers took the safe route rather than create a stir.
The Camry's interior represents a much bigger shift between generations. Any point at which you contact the interior is lightly padded, and the surrounding harder plastics are convincingly grained to match. There are a few gaps here or there that might bother the more obsessive out there, but the Camry's overall fit and finish is quite good, considering the mainstream market in which it competes.
Who should consider this vehicle
With the complete redesign, the 2012 Toyota Camry SE is worthy of competing with the best of the midsize family sedan segment. It doesn't lead the class in any respect, but neither does it lack for the fundamentals, notably the stress-free driving experience. What the new car lacks in excitement, it makes up for with the Camry's customary feature-rich content and sterling reputation for reliability. If these attributes appeal to you and you're looking for a comfortable sedan that doesn't need to make a statement, this and any other Camry will serve you well.
Edmunds purchased this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.
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Review Fantastic motor, it feels effortless and with a combined(city and highway) reduction of only 3 mpg it was a no-brainer decision to get the SE V6. Another factor which pushed me to the SE V6 were some of the other features that are standard with the V6 but are costly options on the 4cy SE like the display audio with Nav/entune, smart key system, SofTex powered driver’s seat with lumbar, acoustic windshield and also the great 18” wheels which are only available with the V6. The redesigned interior is very nice, a huge improvement over the previous model and nicer than the competition. After considering the Kia Optima(nicest looking), Hyundai Sonata(ghastly looking), Passat TDI(very intriguing), and Fusion(too bad I was not getting a car next year) I found that the Camry SE V6 provided the best of the bunch.
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What options are available on the 2012 Toyota Camry?
Available Toyota Camry 2012 Submodel Types: Sedan
Available Trims: LE, SE, XLE, XSE, XLE V6, SE Sport, LE V6, CE, L, Base, SE V6, SE Limited Edition, Special Edition, Standard, DX
Exterior Colors: Super White, Celestial Silver Metallic, Predawn Gray Mica, Midnight Black Metallic, Attitude Black Metallic, Classic Silver Metallic, Magnetic Gray Metallic, Cosmic Gray Mica, Galactic Aqua Mica, Ruby Flare Pearl, Barcelona Red Metallic, Brownstone, Wind Chill Pearl, Parisian Night Pearl, Black, Creme Brulee Mica, Blue Crush Metallic, Desert Sand Mica, Cypress Pearl, Lunar Mist Metallic, Blue Ribbon Metallic, Blue Streak Metallic, Blizzard Pearl, Titanium Metallic, Aloe Green Metallic, Sandy Beach Metallic, Phantom Gray Pearl, Catalina Blue Metallic, Magnetic Gray, Sky Blue Pearl, Cashmere Beige Metallic, Clearwater Blue Metallic, Spruce Mica, Salsa Red Pearl, Wind Chill Pearl/Midnight Black Metallic Roof, Aspen Green Pearl, Blue Streak Metallic/Midnight Black Metallic Roof, Stratosphere Mica, Graphite Gray Pearl, Champagne Mica, Mineral Green Opalescent, Black Walnut Pearl, Celestial Silver Metallic/Midnight Black Metallic Roof, Sailfin Blue Metallic, Antique Sage Pearl, Classic Green Pearl, Indigo Ink Pearl, Lunar Mist, Mineral Green Opal, Silver Taupe Metallic, Woodland Pearl
Interior Colors: Ash cloth, Black leatherette/cloth, Ash leather, Black premium cloth, Black cloth, Black leather, Macadamia cloth, Ash leatherette/cloth, Ivory cloth, Black leather/suede, Black/Ash leatherette/cloth, Black and Ash leather/suede, Bisque cloth, Macadamia leather, Almond cloth, Dark Charcoal leather, Almond leather, Ivory leather, Stone, Gray, Cockpit Red leather, Ash premium cloth, Black/Ash premium cloth, Dark Charcoal premium cloth, Taupe, Bisque leather, Bisque premium cloth, Fawn, Black/Blue leatherette/cloth, Stone cloth, Taupe cloth, Charcoal/Taupe, Dark Charcoal, Dark Gray
Popular Features: Rear Bench Seats, Audio and cruise controls on steering wheel, Fold Flat Rear Seats, Aux Audio Inputs, Tire Pressure Warning, Power Driver Seat, Stability Control, Trip Computer, Bluetooth, USB Inputs, Back-up camera, Alarm, Upgraded Headlights, Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Departure Warning, Pre-collision safety system, Auto Climate Control, Sunroof/Moonroof, Multi-Zone Climate Control, Heated seats, Blind Spot Monitoring, Keyless Entry/Start, Leather Seats, Navigation, Post-collision safety system, Mobile Internet, Upgraded Stereo, Heads up display, 360-degree camera, Remote Start