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  • 2012 Toyota Camry XLE

    Posted on January 20th, 2012 ninarussin

    Best-selling midsized sedan moves forward

    By Nina Russin

    2012 Toyota Camry XLE

    Toyota introduces an all-new version of the Camry sedan for 2012: the seventh generation of what is arguably its most successful model. Camry’s popularity stems from Toyota’s ability to capture the hearts of mainstream buyers. Camry owners love their cars’ low-maintenance reliability. Subdued styling is timeless, so a Camry ages more gracefully than competitive products with edgier exteriors.

    The downside to this strategy is moving the product forward. Under the hood, this means advancing technology without increasing maintenance.

    Twenty-twelve models feature four and six cylinder direct injection engines. Because fuel goes directly into the engine cylinders rather than passing through valves combustion is more efficient, enhancing mileage and reducing toxic emissions. Electronically controlled six-speed automatic transmissions have large overdrive gears to produce 35 mile-per-gallon fuel economy on the highway.

    Inside the car, owners can enjoy Toyota’s newest Entune infotainment system, which interfaces with smartphones for applications such as Open Table, Pandora, Yelp and IHeartRadio. Safety Connect automatically notifies emergency medical personnel in the event of a serious collision, and provides stolen vehicle location. A rearview backup camera and blind spot monitoring make it easier for drivers to park and maneuver through dense traffic.

    Designers needed to create a distinctive exterior which is contemporary without being gimmicky. Toyota describes the new design as “architectural,” referring to more angular lines which replace soft, curvy surfaces. While I wouldn’t equate the new Camry with Paul Rudolph, I believe that the stylists met their mission with aplomb. A fresh, bright grille and wrap-around headlamps capture one’s attention, as does the sedan’s crisp beltline.

    Camry buyers can choose from four, four-cylinder models and two V-6 grades. Base price on the upscale XLE four-cylinder sedan tested is $24,725 excluding a $760 delivery charge. The test car is equipped with five option packages: blind spot monitoring ($500); push button start, a backup camera and auto-dimming rearview mirror with Homelink and compass ($1195); premium audio with navigation, Entune, satellite radio and Bluetooth streaming music ($1700); safety connect ($450); and leather upholstery with heated front seats and a four-way power adjustable front passenger seat ($1650). MSRP is $30,980.

    Driving the Camry version 7.0

    2012 Toyota Camry XLE

    While the new Camry incorporates technological features which millennial buyers crave, it maintains its essential DNA. The term, DNA, is vastly overused in automotive parlance, but in this case, it’s applicable. The Camry is as much its own animal as any car I’ve driven.

    Shibui is a Japanese adjective referring to an aesthetic of simply, unobtrusive beauty. More than any other vehicle, the Toyota Camry is the embodiment of shibui: a four-wheeled Zen master which sets about its daily tasks with quiet determination. The car is never at odds with the driver. The two are a team, and therefore friends.

    Just getting behind the wheel of the car seems to mitigate chaos. The smart key stays in the driver’s wallet. Simply hooking one’s hand under the door handle unlocks the vehicle. A button on the dash fires the ignition.

    The four-cylinder engine produces 178 horsepower- ten more than the previous engine- while at the same time delivering two mile-per-gallon better fuel economy. Direct injection enhances the throttle response which drivers need to feel confident accelerating off the line.

    The six-speed automatic transmission is seamless, including hard acceleration. Drivers should be pleasantly surprised by the Camry’s performance accelerating into high-speed traffic, and passing slower vehicles on the highway.

    Designers narrowed the car’s door pillars to increase passenger room. The narrower pillar has the advantage of improving visibility to both sides. Optional blind spot detection illuminates LED lights in the side mirrors when other vehicle’s pass through the driver’s blind spots in adjacent lanes.

    The electric power steering system is virtually indistinguishable from a hydraulic unit, while reducing mass under the hood and parasitic power loss.

    A four-wheel independent suspension consists of a MacPherson strut setup in front and dual links in the rear. The suspension is compliant enough to protect passengers from being jarred while riding on uneven urban thoroughfares. Stabilizer bars on both axles keep the chassis flat in the corners.

    Four wheel disc brakes stop the sedan evenly in any kind of weather.

    Spacious interior

    Toyota Camry XLE Interior

    The Camry’s spacious interior includes seating for up to five passengers. Optional seat heaters on the test car keep the driver and front passenger comfortable in temperature extremes. A standard tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel enables smaller drivers to maintain a safe distance from the front airbag, and a clear forward view. Mouse type devices on the steering wheel control the Bluetooth interface and audio controls.

    The center stack screen displays music selections, navigation maps and images from the rearview camera when the driver shifts into reverse. Lines superimposed over the image show the car’s trajectory according to steering inputs and the distance between obstacles and the rear bumper.

    The gauge cluster includes an ambient temperature display and fuel economy meter. An eco light indicates when the driver is achieving maximum fuel economy.

    Access and egress to both rows of seating is quite good. The floor behind the front seats is relatively flat, giving the second-row passenger in the middle position a decent amount of legroom.

    All passengers have ample access to cup and bottle holders in the doors, center console and a fold-down rear armrest. A large glovebox and center console bin provide storage inside the passenger compartment.

    The trunk has ample room for luggage and groceries. Rear seats fold flat to extend the cargo floor for longer items.

    Standard safety

    The Camry comes with Toyota’s star safety system which integrates antilock braking, traction and stability control. There are ten standard airbags, including front, side, side curtain, rear side, and driver and front passenger’s knees. Other standard safety features include active head restraints, a tire pressure monitoring system and daytime running lamps.

    Toyota builds the Camry at its Georgetown, Kentucky assembly plant.

    Likes: The newest Camry carries forth Toyota’s tradition of elegant styling and seamless performance which will appeal to its legions of devotees. New safety and infotainment features connect the driver the important emergency services, and interface with his smartphone.

    Dislike: Expensive option packages on the test car bring the price of the four-cylinder sedan over $30,000.

    Quick facts:

    Make: Toyota
    Model: Camry XLE sedan
    Year: 2012
    Base price: $24,725
    As tested: $30,980
    Horsepower: 178 Hp @ 6000 rpm
    Torque: 170 lbs.-ft. @ 4100 rpm
    Zero-to-sixty: N/A
    Antilock brakes: Standard
    Side curtain airbags: Standard
    First aid kit: N/A
    Bicycle friendly: No
    Off-road: No
    Towing: No
    Fuel economy: 25/35 mpg city/highway

     

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