2012 Toyota Camry SE: Greater Than the Sum
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