First Drive: 2012 Toyota Camry
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The last Camry featured soap-bar styling and a Play-Doh interior that did little to stir the soul. Not that a Camry’s ever been about soul-stirring, per se; but against a fresh crop of quality cars, it seemed dated. Unlike a somewhat subpar effort with the new Yaris, however, the latest iteration of Toyota’s mainstream sedan is a clear example of the company calling all hands to the deck in an attempt to woo back buyers. The result? If you’ve ever liked a Camry before, you’re almost certain to like this one.
That sounds like the sort of faint praise an enthusiast dismissive of the entire class of mid-size sedans would toss off and then suggest that you look into purchasing a vintage Lotus Elite II (a practical hatchback, after all!). But rather than damn the new Camry with faint praise, we’re praising it outright.
In fact, the only member of the new Camry line we’d have a hard time recommending is the sporty SE model ($23,760—$27,400). While it features the best steering of the bunch, the sport-tuned chassis feels out of character with the rest of the car, while the trunk spoiler and chunky 18-inch wheels resemble unfortunate tuner add-on bits. If we wanted a powerful, loaded Camry, we’d go with the V6 XLE ($30,605). The more luxury-oriented variant is still capable of sprinting from stoplight to stoplight or out on the highway — where it will comfortably cruise at extralegal speeds. The four-cylinder L ($22,715) and LE ($26,660) models are perfectly adequate for puttering around town and don’t feel underpowered; they’re classic examples of the family sedan as we’ve come to know it; simply good, solid cars that get 35 mpg on the highway and 25 in the city.
The best of the new Camrys, however, is the thoroughly revised hybrid. For many years, I was a hybrid skeptic. It wasn’t that Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive system didn’t