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2012 Camry: Getting Just A Little Better Each Time

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On: Thu, Sep 22, 2011 at 9:02AM | By: Lou Ruggieri

2012 Camry: Getting Just A Little Better Each Time

The Toyota Camry has been the quintessential benchmark for mid-sized sedans almost as long as it has been in existence. In fact, it has been the best-selling car in America for 12 out of the last 13 years—and that's for all cars, not just sedans. People like the Camry, obviously, and the folks over at Toyota know it. So, rather than screw around and redo the whole car and mess with success, Toyota has opted to slightly improve the Camry in each of its model cycles. For 2012, the Camry upped the ante against its competitors by changing just enough to put it back on top as king of the hill in terms of mpg numbers and all-around usability.

Beginning with the base four-cylinder model, Toyota engineers kept the advanced techie stuff on the shelf, and opted to use some basic physics to improve the Camry's EPA numbers. Taller gearing, lower-resistance resistance tires, an electric power-steering pump (instead of a belt-driven unit that saps precious power from the engine), a better coefficient of drag thanks to modified sheetmetal, and shaving off 155 pounds didn't hurt either. These little tweaks up both the city and highway mileage to 25 and 35 mpg respectively.

The hybrid wars are heating up, and Toyota does not seem content to let its Prius be its only soldier. The Camry hybrid also gets the base model's weight-loss treatment plus an additional 66 pounds thanks, in no small part, to a reduced battery, as well as a more efficient Atkinson-cycle engine and a total horsepower bump of 13 ponies to make it an even 200 horsepower—not bad for a car that now gets 43/39 city/highway mpg (up from a paltry 31/35). Ironically, the hybrid is substantially quicker to 60 mph than the base four—how's that for technology?

Inside, all eight Camry models benefit from small interior updates, including improved steering wheel controls, a stitched dashboard now replaces the old outgoing plastic piece, and the new car has improved sound deadening compared to the 2011. Outside, the new Camry's styling may catch some flak for a bit more cladding than necessary. The rear tail lights go for an upscale and refined look, but may be a bit too unique for the Camry's usual middle-of-the-road styling. The front end is a bit more aerodynamic, but seems to recall a bit of Kia influence for good or ill.

The 2012 Camry offers a model for just about any middle-class budget or below. With a base price of $21,900 for the Camry L all the way up to $29,900 for the XLE V6 ranging from 173 horsepower and 165 pound-feet of torque to 268 horsepower and 248 pound-feet funneled through either a six-speed automatic or, if you opt for the hybrid, a continuously variable auto. 60 mph comes up quickest in the hi-po V6 XLE which posts a 6.8-second run as well as a 15.0-second quarter-mile blast.

All in all, the 2012 Camry isn't a huge departure from the 2011 model, but, then again, it was never meant to be. What the Camry has been, and continues to be, is solid, reliable transportation for the masses. The 2012 model just allows those coming off their 2009 leases or even those who might still be driving around in their 1988 first-year Camrys and want something just a little (or a lot) better to drive around for 36,000 or a few hundred thousand miles.

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