Our 2012 Camry XLE test car was powered with a revised inline-four cylinder engine of 2.5-litres displacement making 179-horsepower and 170 pound-feet of torque (a V6 is optional). Mated to a six-speed automatic transmission with a very tall top gear, the 2012 Camry fuel consumption is rated at 8.2/5.6 L/100 km city/highway (7.0 L/100 km combined), which is a nine per cent improvement over last year’s equivalent model.

2012 Toyota Camry XLE
2012 Toyota Camry XLE; photo courtesy Toyota. Click image to enlarge

Complementing the interior improvements, the 2012 Camry exterior is both more dynamic and more aerodynamic. Lines and graphics are crisper, and the car makes a strong visual statement leaning toward refinement and class rather than ostentation.

Some of the aerodynamics, however, are not visible as they reside underneath the car in the form of flat panels to smooth the flow of air. It’s the same approach found in racing cars.

On the road, the Camry’s strong suit is its wonderfully refined four-cylinder engine and six-speed transmission. That’s not to say the car’s lacking in chassis dynamics as it handles well while providing a very comfortable ride, but this engine really is notable for its smoothness, power and fuel efficiency (my combined, mostly city, result was 9.0 L/100 km).

The 2012 Camry has excellent outward visibility, enhanced by the commendably thin a-pillars that are also stronger than those found in the previous generation Camry. Wind noise from these pillars and the rear-view mirrors is largely absent.

2012 Toyota Camry XLE
2012 Toyota Camry XLE; photo by Paul Williams. Click image to enlarge

What is a little odd is the operation of the navigation system, which actually doesn’t have buttons marked “Navigation” or “Map” as you would expect. Instead, you access the navigation system through a button marked “App,” after which you select, presumably, the navigation “app.” As I say, odd.

Another oddity (for me, at least) is that if you don’t get the timing just right when turning off the engine (via the push-button next to the steering column), an alarm will sound as you exit the car. There’s no indication why the alarm is sounding, but it’s because you opened the door a split-second too soon. I get it, but don’t be in too much of a hurry get out of your car!

My final quibble is that the controls on the multi-function steering wheel look like something out of a 1990s Pontiac. Clunky and chunky: who designed this?

But these are small concerns when compared with the vehicle as a whole. As North America’s best-selling car for the past nine years, the Camry clearly resonates with a large and loyal segment of consumers. The 2012 Toyota Camry improves on an already successful product, and should hold its own in the face of strong competition from other manufacturers. It was recently given a “five-star” crash-test rating by the US-based National Highway Traffic and Safety Authority.

Pricing: 2012 Toyota Camry XLE four-cylinder
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