Redesigned for 2012, the seventh-generation Toyota Camry features two new engines, an all-new interior and a retuned suspension. But the change is most noticeable on the outside, where hard edges meet at severe angles to create a menacing new design that lies somewhere between the 2010 refresh and a space helmet.
It’s a neat look, and probably not too radical a departure to discourage fans of America’s best-selling car. … Except for those who prefer a stick shift, because the Camry has joined the growing list of vehicles that no longer offers a manual transmission. In its place are a “sequential manual shift mode” on all models and steering-wheel shifter paddles on the SE edition.
The Camry’s aggressive new styling is justified by improved handling across the lineup. The new car features front and rear stabilizer bars and a retuned front suspension. The rear suspension was completely rebuilt with new springs, shock absorbers and bushings.
Those adjustments, coupled with stiffer, high-tensile sheet metal, were designed to produce a tighter, more responsive ride. The new body helped the 2012 edition maintain NHTSA’s “Five-Star” rating, which now requires more rigorous testing than in years past.
Both engines received a boost in power and efficiency. The base four-cylinder now delivers 178 hp at 170 lb.-ft. of torque and manages a respectable 28 mpg. The V-6 adds a liter in output and nearly 100 horses, but burns only 30 mpg on the highway. The Camry Hybrid, also new for 2012, boasts a 30% improvement in fuel efficiency, now earning up to 43 mpg.
The Camry is known for its spacious interior, and the 2012 edition is the roomiest yet. The A-pillars and door panels are thinner, and the top edge of the rear windshield was moved up and back to improve rear headroom. The front seats feature higher headrests, longer cushions and, at the top trim level, an eight-way adjustable power driver’s seat. Surface materials were upgraded throughout, and leather is available for the SE and standard on the XLE.
Camry drivers will also enjoy a host of standard and available electronics. Bluetooth and iPod connectivity are standard across the line, and the LE, SE and XLE include a six-inch screen that displays sound, tracks fuel use and displays the backup camera on the SE and XLE. Starting MSRP for the 2012 Camry ranges from $21,995 for the L up to $24,725 for the XLE.