Toyota Camry sedan for 2012 goes back to its roots to outshine competition

The Toyota Camry gets 30 mpg on the highway (Photo provided).

By LARRY CORNWELL

Special to The Post and Courier

This is simply one of the most important reviews I have written this year. Why, you might ask. One reason is the Toyota Camry is the top selling contemporary sedan.

A car like the Toyota Camry will appeal, be bought, rented and driven by the broadest cross section of people of any other type of model

Car enthusiasts like myself, love motorsports, are true drivers, gear heads and actually enjoy driving. Although we make the most noise, we own but a tiny slice of the overall automotive pie. It is the mainstream buyer and contemporary models like the Honda Accord, Ford Fusion and Honda Accord that have numbers.

This feature will appeal and make a connection with more people than a review on a sports car ever will. Tear …

There is one other reason this is a very important review. This may seem outrageous, but this is the first time I have done a full review of the Toyota Camry. Yes, I know that is Gorillas’, right? I have driven Camrys before, but this is the first time Toyota has provided me one to test for a week.

The importance of this review demanded that I not only look at the Camry, but at its direct competition as well. During my week long test, I also drove some of these competitors to gauge how good the 2012 Toyota Camry is by comparison. These models were the Ford Fusion, Honda Accord, Nissan Altima and a fourth model that will remain unnamed.

It will remain unnamed, because the manufacturer has shown that it does not care about this column. This is reflected by their decision not invite me to test their models, like other manufacturers such as Ford, Honda and Nissan. By extension, this action also shows that they don’t care about you, the readers of this column.

The oldest model in this group is the Honda Accord. Yes, there is a new Honda Accord, but I have yet to test it.

Surprisingly the 2012 Honda Accord compared very well against the all-new Toyota Camry and the other two models. In comparison, the 2012 Honda Accord had the least appealing design, its interior was also the least appealing and its transmission was the most intrusive. This is where the negatives stop with the 2012 Honda Accord. Again, although the oldest model in the group, the 2012 Honda Accord had the second best steering, suspension and engine. In fact, its engine was probably the best. Yes, very impressive for an outgoing generation. So to say I’m looking forward to testing the all-new 2013 Honda Accord is an understatement.

The 2012 Ford Fusion is another older model that is scheduled to be replaced in 2013 with an all-new generation. Unlike the Accord, the Fusion’s steering was among the heaviest. Although the Fusion is old, its design still has some life. The ride in the Fusion is nice, but the transmission is really slow. I rank the Fusion third in this group, which like the Accord’s performance is impressive. However, the 2013 Ford Fusion is projected to be a show stopper.

Although the 2013 Nissan Altima is one of the freshest designs, it did not do too well. The all-new 2013 Nissan Altima is a fresh design, but misses the mark a bit. I do like that the Altima’s design is more dynamic than the Camry’s boring design. The 2013 Nissan Altima falls short primarily with its transmission. In full disclosure, I am not a fan of most CVT transmissions. CVT transmissions appeal to many drivers because they do not shift like traditional automatics or old school manual transmissions. The Altima is rated last in this comparison.

Toyota, meanwhile, has taken the Camry back to its roots. The 2012 Camry has been a success because it does a little bit of everything well. It has a touch of luxury, a touch of performance and a touch of utility. The 2012 Toyota Camry also goes back to the proven game plan of bland designs. Most Camry buyers are not like enthusiasts in that they don’t really care about design or performance. They simply want to get from point A to point B in relative comfort, reliably.

The 2012 Toyota Camry impressed me with the touches of luxury accenting its interior. Its seats and dash even has contrasting stitching, which gives the Camry an even more luxurious feel. The ride was comfortable and the cabin remained quiet below and above highway speeds.

I was most impressed at how quickly the Camry spooled up and sprinted up to 100 mph. The feel of the 2012 Toyota Camry’s engine felt more powerful than its 268 horsepower rating indicates. Overall the 2012 Toyota Camry was truly impressive making it the best in this lineup. The quality, comfort, engineering and performance levels of the 2012 Toyota Camry places a bright red bulls eye on its hood.

Look next for my review of the 2013 Acura RDX.

Larry Cornwell is an automotive journalist based in the Charlotte area.

VEHICLE TYPE: Four-door contemporary sedan

PRICE RANGE: $23,000-$34,000

ENGINES: 3.5-liter V-6 producing 268 horsepower and 248 pounds-feet of torque

DRIVETRAIN: Six-speed automatic transmission

FUEL ECONOMY: 21 mpg city/30 mpg highway (28 mpg city/highway combined average observed under hard driving)

COMPETITOR MODELS: Ford Fusion, Honda Accord, Nissan Altima

PRODUCTION LOCATION: Georgetown, Ky.

WEBSITE: http://www.toyota.com/camry/