Taut Ride, Road Feel…This Is the 2012 Toyota Camry?

By Joel Arellano | August 24, 2011
We told you about what to expect in the redesigned 2012 Toyota Camry yesterday. Toyota revamped the Camry in nearly every possible way for 2012, addressing the car's shortcomings with a new exterior design, higher quality interior, and more fuel efficient engines. Up close, the 2012 Toyota Camry looks as small and sporty as images suggest. The Toyota design team took the prior model, had trainers from The Biggest Loser reality show run it screaming and crying through their toughest regimens, and come out sleeker, stronger, and lighter. The redesigned Camry also looks related to the Corolla, Venza, and the rest of its Toyota siblings instead of a bloated version of the Lexus ES. The 2012 Toyota Camry interior, though, that got the most lovin'. For years, Toyota and rival Honda held the title for best interior designs, especially in the areas of fit and finish and material quality. And while Volkswagen sometimes matched, or even exceeded, both automakers in such areas, most Americans found the German brand too expensive and unreliable for serious consideration. Now rivals such as Ford and Hyundai have finally caught up and even beat Toyota in its own game.
We can safely say Toyota is back in the race. We found the interior of the 2012 Toyota Camry, while not a stylistic tour-de-force, a step above the prior model, finding the dashboard, center stack, and compartments looking more fresh and contemporary. Much of the change can be attributed to the use of more premium materials such as high-end plastics, cloth, leather, and faux chrome pieces, and design choices like stitching and faux wood inserts even on the shift knob. But the 2012 Toyota Camry drives the same, right? Toyota wouldn't chance actually altering one of the Camry's most definitive characteristics: its isolated, floating ride. The Camry may not attract sport-sedan buyers, but that comfortable cruise is what makes it consistently the best-selling car in the country. Tampering with it.... We drove both the 2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid and the sporty Toyota Camry SE on the cracked and pitted streets around Hollyweird and can safely say that—despite the short amount of time behind the wheel—Toyota did take such chances, but safely (of course). The 2012 Toyota Camry's suspension underwent the most transformation. Toyota engineers tightened the Camry's shocks and stiffened the suspension to let in more road feel than previous models, which would have floated right over such imperfections. However, this is still a Camry, and even though you can now actually feel such imperfections, they're still muted and not jarring. We couldn't discern any significant difference in feel between the hybrid's suspension and the sport-tuned SE on the same route, although the narrow and busy streets around Los Angeles afforded few opportunities to reveal significant differences. One aspect of the Camry that feels as isolated as ever is the steering. While Toyota recalibrated the Camry's electrically-assisted power steering supposedly to provide more feedback to the driver and improve vehicle response, there's still a video game-like quality to it. Not so numbing is the lack of interior noise. Toyota built part of its reputation on its vehicles' quiet interiors, and although the sporty car crowd wants a more involving experience, the Camry provides a serene environment. It's still disconcerting to hear virtually no engine sound when cruising lightly in the 2012 Toyota Camry, although the  SE's V-6 actually sounded pretty sporty when we stomped the gas pedal. Both Camry engines delivered plenty of power for the short test drive. The 2012 Toyota Camry SE comes equipped with a six-speed automatic offering optional manual shifting via the transmission shifter and paddles on the steering wheel. Unfortunately, we didn't have the opportunity to test the feature. Automotive.com take: We strongly suspected Toyota would change the 2012 Toyota Camry's suspension as part of its plan to reinvent itself and have mixed feelings on the reality. On the one hand, we welcome the change as road-feel appeals to the enthusiast side of us. On the other hand, we know more than a few consumers who enjoy that floating sensation of prior models while driving and may be put off by the Camry's new direction. There's only so much a single drive can tell, especially a short one, and we look forward, amazingly, when the 2012 Toyota Camry is available for our test fleet. What do you think of the 2012 Toyota Camry's driving character? Let us know in the comments below.
John Foley
John Foley

Quite frankly, the ride on the new Camry sucks!  I had an '06 and it was great.  Never thought about it.  It just glided right over bumps.

Well, I just bought a 2014 LE and it is a complete piece of you-know-what.  It is so HARSH and STIFF over every single little road irregulatiry.  I HATE this car.  WHAT was Toyota thinking?????