2012 Toyota Camry Cuts Prices, Adds Style, Space and Features

By Keith Buglewicz | August 23, 2011
This could have been the year that the Toyota Camry took a chance. Competition in the midsize segment is tougher than ever, and since it went on sale in 2007, the current Camry has taken its lumps thanks to recalls, supply problems due to earthquakes, and widespread criticism of its lowball interior quality. For 2012, Toyota could really shake things up with a whole new Camry, putting it ahead of stylish newcomers like the Hyundai Sonata and Kia Optima, which are increasingly more attractive to new car buyers. Now the new Camry is here, and it's clear that once again Toyota has played it safe. The 2012 Toyota Camry remains what it always has been: A sensible sedan for sensible people. But is its renewed focus on refinement, fuel economy and even little dash of style enough for the 2012 Toyota Camry to fight off its Korean competitors, while still having enough in reserve to take on newcomers like the 2013 Chevy Malibu and the upcoming redesigned Honda Accord?
The most obvious changes to the 2012 Camry are visual, and our eyeballs are telling us that Toyota has done a good job. Although it's dimensionally identical, the new Camry's design uses sharper creases and more horizontal lines to make it look longer, wider and even slightly more aggressive. The new front bumper's fog-light pockets give the new Camry's face a jowly look, but at least it's a break from the previous car's suffocating blandness. There's even a dash of daring, with the new, angular headlights and harpoon tip-shaped taillights giving the car's style a little bit of tension. What you can't see is the 100 to 200-pound weight reduction, a change that's aimed at improving fuel economy.
Inside, the design is modern and tasteful, and Toyota says it put an emphasis on increasing both the reality and perception of interior space. Thinner roof pillars, new door panels and re-sculpted seats all help to increase interior space slightly and give the interior a greater feeling of spaciousness. Toyota also worked to combat the perception that the previous car's interior felt cheap. Higher quality materials such as soft-touch dash and door panels, plus a stitched-leather upper dash panel, combine with a less utilitarian design. In pictures at least it all looks like a significant step forward.
Toyota is introducing a few new electronic gizmos for the 2012 Camry, not the least of which is Entune. The advanced music/navigation/connectivity option offers owners the ability not just to integrate an existing music device or phone, but to download new apps, like a smartphone. Camry XLE models with a V-6 get Entune as standard equipment, but it's available on four-cylinder XLE and all SE models as well. There's also a backup camera, keyless ignition, and a host of other must-have gadgets available.
If you're the type to kick tires and open the hood, you'll be surprised by what hasn't changed. The mechanical aspects of the Camry are almost all carryover from the previous model. The base 2.5-liter four-cylinder gets a modest bump in power to 178-hp, but the 3.5-liter V-6 comes in the same with 268 hp. Both are still connected to six-speed automatic transmissions, although they've been redesigned for better fuel efficiency. Toyota says the four-cylinder now offers up 25 mpg city/35 mpg highway, and the V-6 will get 21 mpg city/30 mpg highway, which the company says is best-in-class V-6 fuel economy. Strictly speaking that's true, but the turbocharged four-cylinder engine available in the Hyundai Sonata and Kia Optima makes more power and handily beats the Camry's city and highway numbers.
About the only mechanical aspect of the 2012 Toyota Camry to come under any noteworthy revision is the Camry Hybrid, which gets a more powerful gasoline engine and electric motor. Combined, they put out 200 hp, an improvement over the previous Hybrid's 187 hp. Fuel economy is also improved, with the new Hybrid boasting 43 mpg in the city, 39 mpg on the highway and a 41 mpg combined average. Thanks to a smaller battery pack, the new Camry Hybrid also gets a noteworthy 2.5 cubic feet of extra trunk space over the previous generation.
Toyota is also simplifying its model mix, and all four-cylinder models get a lower price. The base Camry model is now the L, and costs $21,995, a $710 increase from last year. The next step up is the LE, now available only with a four-cylinder engine, and with a base price of $22,500, down $200 from last year. SE models with a four-cylinder cost $23,000, and a V-6 costs $26,640; that's a $965 decrease for four-cylinder SE models. The luxurious XLE is also available with a four-cylinder ($24,725) or V-6 ($29,845), with the four-cylinder XLE costing a whopping $2,000 less than last year. The hybrids also get price reductions, with the Hybrid LE costing $25,900 ($1,150 less than last year), and the Hybrid XLE going for an even $27,000 ($800 less than last year). Is playing it safe going to be enough for Toyota to keep the Camry a dominant force in the midsize segment? Or should the company have taken the road less traveled? Time will tell, and we'll have our first driving impression of the Camry tomorrow. But for now, check out the photos, and sound off with your opinion in the comments below.