It must be a difficult decision for manufacturers with popular models to substantially change what sells. The Toyota Camry, for example, has been the top-selling sedan in the United States in 13 of the past 14 years. Nevertheless, the seventh-generation Camry debuted in the 2012 edition with vast changes.
The standard Toyota Camry, with its 2.5-liter, 4-cylinder engine, has increased horsepower to 178. Additionally, the use of lower viscosity oil, according to the manufacturer, has helped increase gas mileage averages.
Beyond the engine, the exterior and interior designs are new. The exterior lines are sharper and the front fascia and taillights are new. The interior, completely redesigned, features upgraded materials. Toyota's new Entune infotainment system is now an option, and the SE edition has a sportier look with a new bumper, spoiler and 18-inch, five-spoke wheels.
Toyota made changes largely because the sedan segment is the most competitive in the auto industry and includes the Honda Accord, Chevy Malibu, Ford Fusion, Hyundai Sonata and Volkswagen
The Weekly Driver Test Drive
Like other long-time successful brands, Toyota offers a lot of Camrys, five editions and 18 total trims. My weekly test drive was the LE model, the mid-range offering with remote keyless entry, steering-wheel radio controls and automatic headlights. Like all Camry models, it also has 60/40 split rear seats and USB port with iPod connectivity.
Efficient, consistent and above-average grades in all areas combine to comprise the major Camry attraction. It's not flashy in any way, and that's a compliment. It offers good overall vision, a quality high-grade cloth interior and an efficient design with intuitive dials.
The Camry's only adequate quality is its acceleration. It doesn't struggle on hills or strain when in a sudden passing situation. But with its new styles and more sporting appearance, the Camry looks like it's more powerful than its new increased 178 horsepower provides.
New also for 2012 is the optional Toyota Entune system. It coordinates the featured apps of Toyota technology package: Bing, iheartradio, MovieTickets.com, OpenTable.com, Pandora as well as location-based services, such as personalized traffic, fuel prices, stocks, weather, and sports. The new tech stuff is coordinated with XM radio, HD Radio, CD player, USB connectivity, Bluetooth streaming and a phonebook.
There'sa learning curve for first-time users and Entune and is not the easiest to learn. But once familiarity commences, all the new tech conveniences have their place, particularly since the Camry is primed for long mileage trips via its comfortable cruising ride.
Good fuel economy.
Comfortable interior with plenty of head and legroom in front and back seats.
Ten airbags, traction control, anti-lock brakes, tire pressure monitoring system, electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist all standard and add up for good government safety ratings.
Navigation screen visibility not bad, but not good, either.
Facts & Figures: 2012 Toyota Camry LE
Acceleration: 0-60 mph, 8.7 seconds.
First aid kit: Not available.
Fuel economy: 25 mpg (city), 35 mpg (highway)
Government Safety Ratings: Not tested.
Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price: $22,500.00
Manufacturer's Web site: www.toyota.com
Price As tested: $23,700.00
Warranty: Bumper to bumper, 3 years/36,00 miles; Powertrain, 5 years/60,000 miles; Corrosion, 5 years/unlimited mileage.
What Others Say:
"With its improved interior materials, higher mileage, and lower prices, this Camry ought to retain its sales crown." —- Car and Driver.
"It's been twenty years, but the Camry might have just leapt back to the front of the pack as the worry-free car you'd gladly recommend to your mother – without being afraid to be seen in it yourself." —- Automobile Magazine.
"For those looking for a car that gets you from point A to point B with minimal fuss, the new 2012 Camry . . . is hard to beat." —- Road and Track.
The Weekly Driver’s Final Words:
"Not every car has to be edgy. That's the reason the Toyota Camry has been so popular. It won't turn heads with a stunning style or an overtly plush interior. But it does everything well, doesn't have any faults and with the 2012 model looks pretty good, too."
Article Last Updated: March 19, 2012.
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A sports, travel and business journalist for more than 45 years, James has written the new car review column The Weekly Driver since 2004.
In addition to this site, James writes a Sunday automotive column for The San Jose Mercury and East Bay Times in Walnut Creek, Calif., and a monthly auto review column for Gulfshore Business, a magazine in Southwest Florida.
An author and contributor to many newspapers, magazines and online publications, James has co-hosted The Weekly Driver Podcast since 2017.