The Cookie-Cutter-Mobile! The first car I have conscious memories of riding in was a silver Camry; the first car I had ever driven was a black Camry, and the car I've most likely logged the most seat-time in is a Camry Hybrid which was a daily driver for a couple years.
As someone who has grown up surrounded by different models of the Camry, I was ecstatic when I learned that I’d have the opportunity to spend some quality time with the all-new 2012 Toyota Camry SE. The first car I have conscious memories of riding in was a silver Camry; the first car I had ever driven was a black Camry, and the car I’ve most likely logged the most seat-time in is a Camry Hybrid which was a daily driver for a couple years.
When I arrived at Toyota to pick up the vehicle, which was a gorgeous gunmetal grey SE with the leather and moonroof package, the first thing I noticed was how good-looking the front end on the new Camry actually is. The side profile is elegant and the smoked wheels are a beautiful added touch to the sporty appearance of the SE.
The Camry is powered by a smoother-than-ever 2.5L inline-4 featuring 175 horsepower coupled with a 6-speed automatic. The Camry has always been one of the quietest and most serene sedans on the road, and this latest one doesn’t differ from that tradition. The SE, with its added sway bars and other “sporting” credentials, does make for a slightly harsher ride, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. From impressions I gathered from the previous generation of the Camry, the non-SE versions are lifelessly boring to drive.
Those hoping for a bit more power can opt for the monumentally quicker 3.5 V6 model, which has been documented to sprint to 100 km/h in 5.7 seconds. However, for every day driving, the 4-cylinder SE is a wonderful choice. Its leather seats have pseudo-suede inserts in the centre, which I found to be advantageous in corners, as it made for less sliding around of my behind. The “Leather & Moonroof” package also includes Toyota’s Smart Key system, which I personally prefer to nearly every other manufacturer. This is due to the lack of having to push a physical button on the door to lock/unlock it.
The navigation system on our test car was absolutely stellar, picking up every destination we asked it to. It seamlessly sensed the differences between driving in the Collectors’ versus the Express section of the highway, as well as quick route recalculation. Gone are the days when a $150 Garmin unit from Best Buy is infinitely better than a factory navigation system. The sound system was not up to par with Toyota’s JBL Synthesis system from the previous-generation Camry, but it was still well ahead of its class.
While I personally still find the Camry a bit of a bore to drive, it’s certainly the perfect choice for those who care about value, a comfortable ride, and most of all, a respectable car. However, at an as-tested price comparable to that of the Legacy 2.5i Limited, the Camry needs a few improvements to make it even more competitive in its class.