Test Drive: 2012 Toyota Camry XLE V6 toyota car test drives reviews
2012 Toyota Camry XLE V6. Click image to enlarge

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Review and photos by Greg Wilson

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2012 Toyota Camry

The 2012 Toyota Camry’s standard 178-hp 2.5L four-cylinder engine is all you really need in this mid-size sedan: it’s surprisingly powerful (with an extra nine horsepower this year), quiet, and gets better gas mileage than the six — plus, you’ll save on the Camry’s purchase price.

But after having driven the top-of-the-line Camry XLE V6 last week, I was thinking less about what I needed and more about what I wanted: like the extra smoothness, power, quietness, and refinement that those additional two cylinders offer. It’s seductive enough that, should I be in the market for a Camry, I would be sorely tempted to plunk down the extra three or four thousand dollars.

As it happens, the price premium for the V6 isn’t as steep this year. 2012 Camry prices have been reduced across the board. The 2012 Camry XLE V6, for example, is now $33,700, a $2,710 drop from its 2011 MSRP of $36,410. The 2012 Camry XLE 4-cylinder is now $29,900, down $1,335 from its 2011 MSRP of $31,235.

Test Drive: 2012 Toyota Camry XLE V6 toyota car test drives reviews
Test Drive: 2012 Toyota Camry XLE V6 toyota car test drives reviews
Test Drive: 2012 Toyota Camry XLE V6 toyota car test drives reviews
Test Drive: 2012 Toyota Camry XLE V6 toyota car test drives reviews
2012 Toyota Camry XLE V6. Click image to enlarge

For the Camry’s new lower price you get edgier styling, a redesigned interior that’s quieter and more spacious, more safety features, and improved driving dynamics. Oh, and good resale value when it comes time to trade it in.

The Camry’s 268-hp 3.5L V6 engine returns for 2012 and continues to offer more power and torque than a family sedan really needs. Power delivery is smooth and immediate, and acceleration is impressive for a family sedan. Consumer Reports tests show a 0–60 mph time of 6.4 seconds; that compares to 8.4 seconds for the four-cylinder model. At cruising speeds, the engine is very quiet: my tach was reading just 2,000 rpm at 100 km/h in sixth gear. The Camry’s V6 offers the best fuel economy of any V6-powered car in its class, 9.7 L/100 km city and 6.4 L/100 km highway; however, it should be noted that the turbocharged four-bangers in the Sonata and Optima claim even better fuel economy. My one concern with the Camry’s V6 is that the throttle response from a standing start is too sensitive; it’s easy to get the front wheels spinning if you’re in a hurry. The standard traction control does allow some wheelspin before cutting back on the throttle.

The standard six-speed automatic transmission goes about its job without drawing any attention to itself and drivers do have the option of shifting manually (SE models include paddle shifters). By the way, the six-speed manual transmission in the Camry SE was discontinued last year.

The Camry was never considered an exciting car to drive and neither is the newly redesigned 2012 Camry — but there is a subtle move in that direction. Its McPherson-strut front suspension has revised shock damping and coil springs and a thicker stabilizer bar while the rear dual-link strut configuration has been redesigned with new geometry to enhance cornering stability. As well, a stiffened cowl section increases suspension rigidity. (The Camry SE features an even sportier suspension setup with stiffer front and rear springs and shocks.) The XLE comes with standard 17-inch all-season tires and alloy wheels but it should be noted that some of its competitors, including the Mazda6 GT and Sonata 2.0T Limited, have standard 18-inch wheels. I found the new Camry XLE V6 more enjoyable to drive than the 2011 model, and while it’s not as engaging as a Honda Accord or Mazda6, the Camry’s fun-o-meter has gone from ‘boring’ to ‘satisfactory’.

Its new vehicle-speed sensitive electric power steering system could offer more steering feel, but it keeps steering effort light at low speeds and moderately firm at highway speeds. With one of the tightest turning circles in its class — 11.2 m (36.7 ft) — the Camry is easier to park and manoeuvre than many mid-size sedans. As before, the Camry’s very comfortable highway ride is enhanced by a whisper quiet cabin that is now even quieter thanks to more sound insulation in strategic places.

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