First Drive: 2012 Toyota Camry toyota reviews first drives
2012 Toyota Camry. Click image to enlarge

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Review and photos by Paul Williams

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2012 Toyota Camry

Picton, Ontario – Over the years, the Toyota Camry has established itself as a plain, dependable and reliable mid-size sedan that appeals to people who value, well, you know… plain, dependable and reliable transportation.

Nothing wrong with that! Indeed, the Camry sells in huge numbers and has become North America’s best-selling car for 13 out of the past 14 years, according to Toyota Canada.

But competition is really intense now, what with the Korean companies — Hyundai and Kia — fielding very appealing and strikingly designed models in the form of the Sonata and Optima, and other companies like Ford and Volkswagen, not to mention Honda, offering very strong vehicles in the family midsize sector.

So we have the all-new, seventh generation 2012 Camry throwing its hat in the ring, while Toyota shakes off the effects of some seriously rocky times over the past couple of years.

First Drive: 2012 Toyota Camry toyota reviews first drives
First Drive: 2012 Toyota Camry toyota reviews first drives
2012 Toyota Camry. Click image to enlarge

What would you expect? More of the same? The answer is both yes and no.

Yes, the car is visually similar to the outgoing model (that is, it’s recognizable as a Camry), having the same exterior dimensions, and generally similar lines.

But no, in that the 2012 Camry is clearly more refined in appearance; sharpened, more aerodynamic and more noticeable on the road. Making a much stronger visual statement than the last generation Camry, it is crisply rendered with new colours and redesigned lights front and rear. Subtle but effective exterior changes result in a more dynamic and expensive-looking vehicle than its new lower prices would suggest. It is, dare I say, and using the Canadian vernacular, a rather sharp car.

The differences are more than skin deep, however. Starting at $23,700 (a $1,610 reduction) for the base LE with automatic transmission, all the 2012 Camry models feature a significantly redesigned interior with new seat fabrics, an all-new instrument cluster and centre stack, new panels and overall a still comfortable but more technical feel to the design and execution of the interior components.

Additionally, and something that is perhaps less evident at first glance, the B-pillar (the vertical structural component that separates the front and rear doors) has been sculpted so that it’s thinner but no less strong. This provides more shoulder room in the Camry without making the car wider. Similarly the A-pillars (either side of the windshield) are also thinner, giving better outward visibility while making the car look more elegant and modern.

First Drive: 2012 Toyota Camry toyota reviews first drives
First Drive: 2012 Toyota Camry toyota reviews first drives
2012 Toyota Camry. Click image to enlarge

Inside, then, you have a roomier, higher-end environment, with pleasing new materials, textures and colours, and a more modern and precise feel to the controls and amenities.

Under the hood, the 2.5-litre four-cylinder (I4) engine is an enhanced version of the previous generation engine that makes 179 horsepower and 170 pound-feet of torque. It operates through a six-speed automatic transmission (no manual transmission is available for any Camry model).

The I4 engine is available on the LE, $26,950 SE and $29,900 XLE models, returning fuel consumption of 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 models.

The 3.5-litre V6 available in the $29,900 SE V6 and $33,700 XLE V6 makes 268 hp and 249 lb.-ft. torque with fuel consumption of 9.7/6.4 L/100 km, city/highway (8.2 L/100 km combined). As with the I4-equipped cars, the nine per cent improvement over last year’s equivalent model is achieved through weight reduction, reduced engine speeds due to a revised final-drive ratio, underbody panels to smooth air below the car, and lower rolling resistance tires with higher tire pressures. Those underbody panels, by the way, seem a bit flimsy, and one wonders what a tough Canadian winter will do to them.

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