Even all-time greats have off-days. Or off years, in the case of the Toyota Camry, which arguably rested on its laurels for much of the 2000s while its rivals were busy innovating. But fear not, Camryphiles: the all-new 2012 Toyota Camry is a return to form. Actually, it's more like Camry 2.0, offering a fresh arsenal of features and capabilities alongside familiar Toyota virtues. The market for midsize sedans has never been more competitive, but this new Camry still manages to stand out from the crowd. Here are five reasons why the 2012 Camry's got its groove back.
1. Leading Technology
Used to be that if you got a Camry, you were choosing reliability over the latest gadgets. But for 2012, even the base Camry L comes with Bluetooth and iPod/USB connectivity. Step up to the LE for a few hundred more, and you'll get a standard 6.1-inch touchscreen interface that controls the stereo and a variety of vehicle settings. If you really want to geek out, consider the optional Entune infotainment system, which uses your smartphone to power six touchscreen-based apps, including Pandora for music and OpenTable for dining.
2. Improved Interior
Long known for its fastidious construction, the Camry's cabin took a dive in the previous-generation model, receiving near-universal criticism for its laissez-faire build quality and middling materials. Apparently someone at Toyota was listening, because the new Camry interior is back to its old tricks. Materials are once again nicer than the norm, and we noticed none of the misaligned panels that plagued the outgoing model's dashboard. Lexus-like? Well, not exactly. But it's plenty fancy for this price point.
3. Greener Than Ever
The previous Camry was no slouch in the fuel-economy department, but the 2012 version takes the Camry's green credentials to a whole new level. Even the standard 2.5-liter inline-4 yields a remarkable 25 miles per gallon in the city, 35 mpg on the highway, and 28 mpg combined, putting it in a dead heat with the smaller Corolla (26/34/29 for 2011). Of course, the Hybrid model is in a league of its own, returning up to 43/39/41 versus 31/35/33 for the outgoing Camry Hybrid. As for the stellar V6-more on which below-it checks in at a still-healthy 21/30/25, and real-world experience suggests those numbers may be a bit conservative.
4. More Engaging Than Ever
Okay, so that's not saying much. Fair enough. Put it this way, then: new Camry is somewhat confidence inspiring when it comes to handling. If you care about vehicle dynamics, the new Camry won't disappoint. A key word there is "somewhat," as there's only so much you can do with a big family hauler that first and foremost needs to keep everyone comfortable (which it certainly does, by the way). But unlike every Camry before it, this one feels like it spent some quality time on the handling course during its development. The ride is less floaty than before, and there's a willingness to change direction that evokes the relatively nimble Nissan Altima. We'd even tell you that the sport-tuned Camry SE is downright entertaining on a road course, but you probably wouldn't believe us.
5. Oh, That Lovely V6
Yes, we know most people will stick with the inline-4 or the Hybrid, but the Camry's optional 268-horsepower, 3.5-liter V6 is simply too awesome to ignore. We don't care that it's basically a carryover from the previous Camry-it was already the best family-sedan V6 in the world (just ask Lotus, which currently uses it in the Evora sports car). No, we're simply relieved that Toyota's offering it at all, what with the downsizing trend that began with the V6-less Hyundai Sonata and continues with the new four-cylinder-only Chevrolet Malibu. What makes the Camry's V6 so great, exactly? That's easy. It delivers sports-car acceleration with luxury-car refinement, and it's got that combined 25-miles-per-gallon rating to boot. The SE model's transmission even matches revs on downshifts for 2012 (with either the inline-4 or the V6), an all-time first in this segment.