When Toyota updated their top-selling midsized sedan for 2012, they addressed what needed to be improved without messing with the Camry’s recipe for success.
Consumer Reports bought three Camrys from local dealers to test at our track. The volume model is a LE four-cylinder; with an optional power driver’s seat, it stickered at $23,830. We also bought a top-trim, leather-lined Camry XLE V6; equipped with the optional Entune connectivity and navigation system plus blind zone monitoring, it stickered at $32,603. Finally, we bought a Camry XLE Hybrid with cloth seats and a convenience package that added a helpful backup camera. The hybrid had a price tag of $29,052.
Put simply, while car enthusiasts love to hate on the Camry, it’s now really hard to fault the car. There’s a good reason why seemingly every other suburban driveway has a beige or silver Camry parked there-it just plain gets the job done. It remains unexciting to drive, but a lot of families have never heard of the Nurburgring and don’t really care about engineering validation lap times there. Regardless, Toyota did (thankfully) improve this Camry’s handling, making the steering better-weighted and more responsive.
Improvements don’t stop there. The ride remains comfortable but is better controlled. The interior is nicer and offers Web-enabled connectivity through the optional Entune infotainment system. Toyota also held the line on price.
While other manufacturers mess with direct injection or tiny-displacement turbocharged engines, Toyota just keeps on tweaking their comparatively mundane powertrains. The result: Toyota fuel economy tops the class among gasoline-powered family sedans. The four-cylinder engine is smooth and refined, with willing acceleration. Few buyers will feel the need to upgrade to the downright quick V6; they’ll only give up one mpg overall to the four. And the Hybrid returns amazing fuel economy along with faster 0-60 mph times than the base four-cylinder. (It’s amazing that 0-60 mph times for the 200-horsepower Camry Hybrid are within 0.4 seconds of the 302-horsepower Chevrolet Impala-and the Camry has a bigger back seat.)
Some minor complaints remain. The stitched-and-padded dashboard is nice, but the rest of the interior finish is relatively mundane. Road noise is up a bit, but the Camry remains quiet inside overall. The new radio is overly complex with tiny, crammed-together on-screen buttons. You should be able to get Entune and a back-up camera on the LE model. And our brief drive of the stiff-riding SE version left us unimpressed with the “sportiest” Camry.
But none of these faults is likely to challenge the Camry’s place atop the midsized sedan sales charts. That doesn’t mean the Camry is invincible-far from it. Time doesn’t stand still in this amazingly competitive segment. The stylish (and less-expensive) Hyundai Sonata will continue to steal sales away from the plain-Jane Camry, and the roomy redesigned Volkswagen Passat tries to trade on the distinctiveness of the German nameplate. And just over the horizon is a redesigned Chevrolet Malibu and Ford Fusion.
For more information, check out our video and see our road test and Ratings of the Toyota Camry.