- Elegant yet straightforward instrument panel
- Bluetooth included on all models
- Segment-leading 10 airbags
- Base front seats lack side support
- Rear seatback doesn't fold flat
- Drives like an appliance (albeit a good one)
The redesigned 2012 Toyota Camry remains the most conservative-looking pick among mid-size sedans, but if you want comfort, value, and frugality above all else, it's probably just your style.
Toyota has given its lineup of best-selling Camry sedans a full redesign for 2012, but at first look you might not even know it. Nearly everything—every piece of sheetmetal, every element of the Camry's underbody structure, the suspension, and all the interior components—is different in the 2012, with only some engines and transmissions carried over. Instead of trying to make the new car radically different, Toyota essentially took a look at the existing car and asked how it could redesign nearly every component to make a better end result for core values like comfort and safety.
The Camry's new design (yes again, it's really new) definitely skews toward pragmatism at every possible opportunity. Corners are a little boxier this time, for aerodynamic reasons; front A-pillars are narrower (yet stronger) for better visibility; and the roofline has been tucked up and back just a tad for rear headroom.
Besides, the Camry has never been one for sex appeal. It's been such a strong seller for its combination of soft ride and roomy interior appointments, and for its strong value for the money, reliability, resale value, and other very sensible factors.
In most of those respects, the 2012 Toyota Camry is even better. Overall, the Camry rides and drives in a more refined, responsive way, and the package and features have been much improved. Thanks to some very significant weight savings, the base four-cylinder Camry performs better than ever, while the V-6 fills a niche for those wanting a particularly strong, refined (yet still budget-priced) sedan.
Toyota has refocused the Hybrid model, making it a more significant part of the model lineup and offering it in both LE and XLE trims. It's both better-performing and more frugal this year, gaining many of the improvements to the nickel-metal-hydride battery pack and Hybrid Synergy Drive that the Prius got last year. Just like the previous-generation Camry, the Hybrid version feels about as quick as the base four—possibly a little more so when you tap into full electric-motor boost. And the mileage improvement is phenomenal: 43 mpg city, 39 highway for the LE.
With 10 standard airbags, Toyota has reclaimed top safety ratings with the 2012 Camry. It also has made Bluetooth hands-free connectivity a standard feature; sound systems have been upgraded; and the Entune system allows easy access to integrated apps—for Pandora music streaming, for instance.