By KBB.com Editors - Updated Date: 9/6/2011
America's top-selling passenger car for the past nine years, the Toyota Camry receives a major overhaul for 2012. While the seventh-generation of the front-drive sedan retains its midsize status, a new look, new features and an even more people-focused personality are all aimed at infusing its well-honed practical persona with a new measure of emotional appeal that Toyota hopes will curry favor with younger buyers. Available in L/LE/SE/XLE trims with four-cylinder and V6 (SE/XLE) gasoline engines as well an impressively redone Hybrid variant in LE/XLE variations, the 2012 Toyota Camry will need every edge it can muster as it takes intense challenges from perennial arch-rival, the Honda Accord, as well as formidable foes like the Ford Fusion, Hyundai Sonata, Nissan Altima and also-new-for-2013 Chevrolet Malibu.
Arguably better in every measurable way, the thoroughly tweaked 2012 Toyota Camry has what it takes to retain its already bountiful buyer base and make an even-stronger case for consideration by anyone seeking a top-rate midsize sedan with either conventional or hybrid power.
Its comprehensive list of enhancements notwithstanding, those with more avant-garde styling preferences still will find the 2012 Toyota Camry sedan falls short in the head-turning department, especially compared to the current sedan-class benchmark, Hyundai's high-profile Sonata.
The 2012 Toyota Camry sedan is a generational redesign that builds on the midsize sedan's historic strengths by complementing its practical nature with an even more modern character and better value at all trim levels.
Toyota engineers diligently worked to improve the new Camry sedan's structure and suspension. More high-strength steel increases rigidity of the body while trimming weight – significantly on gasoline models and by over 230 whopping pounds on the Hybrids. Revised chassis components and new geometry give all Camry versions a more confident feel with better ride compliance and body control, changes that are particularly noticeable when the going gets twisty. Numerous new noise-abatement technologies also make the 2012 Toyota Camry far quieter over most roads. Without a doubt, the biggest beneficiary of the 2012 Camry remake is the Hybrid. With major mass reduction, handling dynamics on par with its conventional kin, and a redone Hybrid Synergy Drive system that finally has the engine/motor/transmission triumvirate speaking far more directly to each other, the most fuel-efficient Camry variant should have far greater consumer appeal regardless of the price of gasoline.
Upgraded Hybrid Synergy Drive (HSD)
Taking a much-needed next step in the greener arena, the 2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid features a comprehensively redone HSD system that's lighter, tighter and far more impressively integrated – improvements that yield more spirited performance under all conditions and a stunning 30-percent bump in key fuel economy numbers.
Still a work in process, Toyota's new Entune multimedia/telematics system already shows solid introductory capabilities and offers both a user-friendly interface and the promise of an ever-expanding group of downloadable apps that should make it a worthy state-of-the-art rival to in-car alternatives of its competitors.
The redesigned 2012 Toyota Camry cabin adds both space and contemporary sophistication, highlighted by a leather-covered "layered" dash set off by trim-specific instrumentation and a center cluster inspired by portable music players. Headroom is up in all positions while aft passengers also gain significant hip and legroom. Other key plusses include more supportive front buckets and a revised lower cushion on the 60/40 folding rear bench seat that adds stretch space for the middle rider – although minimal padding still limits the center perch to part-time duty. Trunk space also is up, modestly in gasoline-powered Camrys; but by 2.1 cubic feet in the new 2012 Hybrid.
Although its external dimensions are virtually unchanged, the 2012 Toyota Camry's fully redrawn bodywork adds an edgier flair. The new sedan sports a bolder front and rear look with more expressive contours and character lines that impart a wider, lower look and a more wedge-like profile. Helping the cause are a host of subtle touches like mini-strakes on the mirrors and taillamps that channel air to improve stability, and new underbody work that further reduces drag. Unique front/rear/side-sill styling adds more cosmetic swagger to the Camry SE while blue-trimmed "Hybrid" and "HSD" (Hybrid Synergy Drive) badges visually define the most fuel-efficient 2012 Camry.
Impressively packaged at all levels, even the base Camry L sedan offers numerous power assists, air conditioning, cruise control, AM/FM/CD/MP3/WMA audio with AUX/USB/iPod inputs, Bluetooth, Toyota's STAR safety system and 10 airbags. The LE adds keyless remote entry, multifunction steering wheel, and an upgraded Display Audio sound system. Moving up to the Camry SE nets you a dedicated sport suspension/wheel/tire package with unique trim, Softex covered sport seats and paddle shifters. The top-line Camry XLE sedan features dual power seats, dual-zone climate control, power moonroof and premium fabric or leather (V6-only) upholstery. Both the SE/XLE V6s add Navigation and Entune multimedia telematics, HD radio and SiriusXM Satellite Radio. The Camry Hybrid sedan offers LE and XLE trim-level appointments.
The 2012 Toyota Camry sedan's extras roster is confined to color choices on the L trim and a power driver's seat and moonroof on the LE. Upgraded Display Audio packages with Navigation and Entune – including a 10-speaker premium JBL system with energy-saving GreenEdge speaker technology – dedicated Convenience Packages and Leather-trimmed Ultrasuede Sport Seats with deluxe trim also are available on SE/XLE models, while SEs can be had with a power moonroof. Camry Hybrids offer a Leather Package, Moonroof Package and two tiers of JBL-enhanced Upgrade Packages, one with Navigation and one without.
Focused drivetain revamps yield impressive gains in both performance and economy for all 2012 Toyota Camry sedans. Modest internal enhancements to the largely carryover 178-horsepower 2.5-liter four and 268-horse 3.5-liter V6 coupled with revised final-drive ratios in their standard 6-speed automatic transmissions, plus lower-rolling-resistance tires, help raise EPA city/highway numbers by three mpg on four-cylinder Camrys and one mpg on V6s. While its electric motor remains unchanged, a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine replaces the previous 2.4-liter in the Camry Hybrid, which also features lighter, more compact and better-managed electrical components – including a new battery pack and a CVT (continuously-variable transmission) automatic with new ECO/EV modes. While the total hybrid-system output rises from 187 to 200 horsepower, preliminary EPA figures – 43/39 mpg for the LE and 41/38 mpg for the XLE – reflect a huge 30-percent uptick in fuel economy.
2.5-liter in-line 4
178 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm
(PZEV 173 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm)
170 lb-ft of torque @ 4,100 rpm
(PZEV 165 lb-ft @ 4,100 rpm)
EPA City/highway fuel economy: 25/35 mpg (6-speed automatic)
268 horsepower @ 6,200 rpm
248 lb-ft of torque @ 4,700 rpm
EPA City/highway fuel economy: 21/30 mpg (6-speed automatic)
2.5-liter in-line 4 plus a 105-kilowatt Permanent Magnet AC Synchronous Electric Motor and Ni-MH battery pack
Engine: 156 horsepower @ 5,750 rpm
Battery: 141 horsepower 4,500 rpm
Total hybrid system (engine and battery): 200 horsepower
Engine: 156 lb-ft of torque @ 4,500 rpm
Battery: 199 lb-ft of torque @ 0-1,500 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 43/39 mph (LE with CVT automatic), 41/38 mpg (XLE with CVT automatic)
Toyota has placed more emphasis on total value for the 2012 Camry while encouraging more buyers to consider moving beyond entry-level trims. Although the 2012 Toyota Camry L sedan opens just under $22,800, a $710 rise versus a comparably equipped 2011, the spread between the high-volume LE – which now starts $200 lower at around $22,300. Four-cylinder SE and XLE models start just under $23,800 and $25,500, respectively, roughly $1,000 and $2,000 under their 2011 counterparts. Stickers on the V6 SE and XLE sedans are unchanged, opening around $27,400 and $30,600. On the Camry Hybrid front, the LE gets a $1,150 price slice to start just under $26,700 and the premium XLE version opens below $28,200, reflecting an $800 drop from the 2011 LE Hybrid with an upgrade package. Historically, the Toyota Camry has shown above-average reliability with similarly robust long-term resale stats. Intense competitive pressures notwithstanding, that tradition seems likely to continue on with this new Class of 2012.