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Test Drive: 2012 Toyota Camry

After a week in the redesigned 2012 Toyota Camry, I could not get over how big this midsize sedan is. My test car was a 2012 Camry XLE, which is the highest trim level of the new Camry lineup, excluding the Camry Hybrid.

Toyota says it increased interior space in the 2012 Camry, and if you need lots of room in your next midsize sedan, the Camry has it. Not only is the back seat enormous, but the trunk is gigantic too. I took the Camry to Target for a grocery run and there was more than enough room for my stuff.

My test car had a 178-horsepower, 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, which was more than sufficient for running errands around town and passing cars on the highway. I never felt like the Camry lacked power, whether I was going up a steep hill or accelerating from a stop. The Camry’s brakes were strong but a little grabby.

Although I was impressed with the Toyota Camry’s engine, the Camry floated down the road like a big, fluffy marshmallow, and I noticed lots of nose-dive when I hit the brakes. If you prefer a car that provides a gentle, cushy ride, the Camry is a good choice, as it took the bumps with ease. Since I prefer a sportier ride, I wasn’t wowed by its handling. It’s not bad, but the Camry isn’t a car I’d label “fun to drive.”

The Camry’s interior, although very spacious and comfortable, was uninspiring. The seat material in my test car looked and felt cheap, and its light grey color would stain easily. At an automotive press event in September, I test drove a 2012 Camry with a V6 engine and upgraded leather-trimmed Ultrasuede seats. Compared with the upgraded faux-suede seats, the seat fabric in my test car felt like something you’d find in an entry-level subcompact car.

The Camry’s navigation and audio system worked fine, but the buttons were confusing. Even the steering wheel-mounted controls weren’t very logical. The infotainment system in the Kia Optima I test drove this summer was much easier to use than the Camry’s. I did like the Camry’s upscale materials on the redesigned dashboard and I think the interior looks better than the previous generation.

Overall, I think the new Camry is a good choice for shoppers and families who need lots of room in their midsize car and don’t prioritize an exciting driving experience. This mass-market sedan is good at what it aims to be: a practical car that appeals to many types of buyers. 

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