Toyota?s Camry is all new for the 2012 model year. The Camry has been America?s best-selling car for nine years running, and for 13 of the past 14 years. This latest iteration Camry represents the seventh generation of the iconic Toyota model, which was first introduced in 1983 and has since sold over 15 million Camry models globally.
The new Camry displays a bolder, more athletic design persona, with a more spacious interior, enhanced driving characteristics and a more comfortable ride quality. It is literally the best Camry to ever be built, leading its class in terms of safety equipment and features, fuel economy and state-of-the-art multi-media technology. The 2012 Camry was designed to deliver a more appealing and stylish form along with a more rewarding driving experience while striving to maintain its long-standing class leadership.
The 2012 Toyota Camry will again offer three powertrain choices, all of which have been enhanced providing better fuel economy along with a more spirited performance. All Camry models with the revised 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine now deliver 178 horsepower, and 170 lb.-ft. of peak torque. The 2.5-liter engine employs Dual VVT- for optimal performance and efficiency at all engine speeds, while the Acoustic Control Induction System aids in optimizing torque over a broad engine speed range.
The DOHC 3.5-liter V6, available in the SE and XLE grades, generates 268 horsepower at 6,200 rpm and 248 lb.-ft. of peak torque at 4,700 rpm. Enhancements to this engine boost fuel economy to projected EPA-estimated ratings of 21-mpg city/30 mpg highway, the best for any current V6 midsize sedan.
Gas-engine LE, XLE and SE models come equipped exclusively with a six-speed automatic transmission offering a sequential manual shift mode utilizing the console shifter.? Intelligent control adapts shifting strategy in response to driver input, with fast kick-down. The Camry SE exclusively and additionally provides a ?D range? sequential shifting mode that allows manual shifting with new steering wheel paddle shifters even when the console shifter is in the ?D? mode. Also exclusive to the Camry SE, the automatic transmission features?faster shift times when in ?S? mode and a downshift blipping control delivers a sporty feel.
The all-new Camry Hybrid is a highly revised version of the Toyota?s Hybrid Synergy Drive powertrain, which includes a new 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine with a more-than 30 percent fuel economy improvement, thanks in part to the new hybrid powertrain, but also lighter vehicle weight and optimized aerodynamics.
Through its unique transaxle, the Hybrid Synergy Drive system combines output from the four-cylinder engine with a small high-torque electric motor. The system produces a combined 200 horsepower and varies power between the gas engine and electric motor, or combines both, as needed.? The new 2.5-liter engine, uses the Atkinson cycle principle. An electric water pump, a roller-rocker type valvetrain and a variable-output oil pump combine in helping to reduce internal friction, boosting economy.
The 2012 Camry Hybrid meets AT-PZEV (Advanced Technology Partial-credit Zero Emissions Vehicle) standards, and because there are scenarios in which the Camry Hybrid?s gas engine shuts off, air conditioning and power steering systems are electrically driven.
The proven nickel-metal-hydride battery is located in the luggage compartment behind the rear seats and now features enhanced air-cooling. Its more compact size, along with moving the DC/DC converter to the engine compartment, results in a trunk that is 2.1-cubic feet larger than in the previous-generation Camry Hybrid.
Lighter overall vehicle weight also contributes to better performance and fuel economy, with its 7.6-second zero-to-60 acceleration time placing the Camry Hybrid between the four-cylinder and V6 models. Lower rolling resistance tires, available in 17-inch size, also helps to boost fuel economy.
New for the 2012 Camry Hybrid, an EV Drive mode allows the driver to operate the car on the electric motor alone for up to 1.6 miles at lower speeds (below approximately 25 mph). The EV indicator illuminates when the vehicle is being propelled solely by the electric motor.
As before, an ECO mode optimizes throttle response and air conditioning output to prioritize maximum fuel economy. A Hybrid-exclusive instrument cluster with Hybrid System Indicator and fuel consumption indicator helps the driver tomonitor the car?s economic operation. Instantaneous fuel economy is indicated by LEDs around the outside of the average fuel economy gauge. The car?s Multi-Information display graphically displays fuel economy in real time and can also depict energy flow, and cruising range information.
Applying the brake converts the motor to a generator that captures kinetic energy from the vehicle wheels, storing it in the hybrid battery pack. Placing the shifter into ?B? uses regenerative braking as a form of engine braking for?enhanced control on steep descents, while a new hill-start assist control helps prevent the vehicle from rolling backward when starting off on an incline when the brake pedal is released.
The all-new Camry and Camry Hybrid will be available in six different model grades. Camry will be available in an entry-level L grade, a value-driven LE grade, and premium XLE and sporty SE grades.? The XLE and SE are available with four-cylinder or V6 engines.? The Camry Hybrid is offered in LE and XLE grades.
In terms of its styling, the 2012 Camry lineup showcases an ?architectural statement? via crisp, precise character lines, while a more strongly curved door cross-section and more defined rocker panel molding (chrome accented on LE and XLE) give the car a more expressive appearance. Headlights provide a more dynamic shape, with a pronounced curvature of the main-beam unit merging into the bumper cover. Rear lamp clusters wrap tightly into the body sides, with their top sections extending into the trunk panel.? LE and XLE grades feature additional exterior chrome trim, while the SE grade debuts its own lower-body design and exclusive fine-mesh upper grille section.
My test 2012 Toyota Camry was a Hybrid model in XLE grade, with a base price set at $27,400. The exterior was finished in Clearwater Blue metallic, while the interior was done in two-tone Grey seating with charcoal accents and faux dark wood trim. The final sticker climbed to $34,817 after adding: the Blind Spot Monitor, Convenience Package; the Leather Package; Safety Connect; Power tilt/Slide Moonroof; Premium HDD voice-activated DVD Navigation with JBL digital AM/FM/MP3 4-disc in-dash CD changer with Bluetooth and 8 speakers in 6 locations and more, a along with Toyota?s Entune infotainment connectivity feature.
SUMMARY:? The front-wheel drive 2012 Camry Hybrid XLE posts EPA fuel economy estimates at 40-mpg city and 38-mpg highway. It is loaded with an?impressive inventory of standard equipment and features, while offering an extensive array of optional equipment and feature packages for individual personalization.
Driving the Camry Hybrid is actually no different from piloting a conventionally fueled version, other than the notably improved fuel economy and the fact that the gasoline engine shuts off when it?s not needed.
Acceleration is not really any different from any other 4-cylinder Camry, and the ride quality and handling characteristics are nearly identical. Braking feels totally normal, except that it is regenerative, and restores energy to the battery cells when applying brake pressure or when coasting.
Up to date safety technology is fully in evidence in the Camry Hybrid, making it a secure and desirable family sedan for the discerning consumer, and the Entune Multimedia System keeps one in touch while on the road with entertainment, and useful information.
Arv Voss is a Northern California based freelance motoring Journalist and member and past officer of several noted Automotive Journalist organizations who contributes regularly to a number of national and international media outlets. He reviews not only cars, trucks and SUVs, but motorcycles and unusual wheeled vehicles as well.