Just like the previous Camry—and still like most mid-size sedans today—the new 2012 Camry can be had with either four-cylinder or V-6 engines. The 178-horsepower, 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that was introduced for model-year 2010 remains the base engine in the Camry, and it's uncharacteristically smooth in the way it starts and idles; though you can hear a hint of coarseness if you push it hard, this engine provides plenty of power for most needs. The 268-hp, 3.5-liter V-6 is still available and gives the Camry a completely different, luxury-car personality. In either case, the six-speed automatic transmission shifts unobtrusively and doesn't balk to downshift.In general, we like the base model's lighter front end and more balanced feel. And if you want a little more sportiness—and to maximize all the Camry's improvements—sporty SE models get stuffer springs, rebound springs, solid stabilizer bars, and exclusive steering knuckles and lower arms, and we found that altogether these changes make the Camry feel a little more responsive without riding all that harsher on most surfaces. In the SE, you also get steering-wheel paddle-shifters and downshift rev-matching.
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. Hybrid models get an Atkinson-cycle version of the four, making 156 hp and 156 lb-ft, and altogether the powertrain makes 200 horsepower. Just like the previous-generation Camry, the Hybrid version feels about as quick as the base four—possibly al 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, or 41/38 for the XLE (because of different tires and more component weight).