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2012 Toyota Camry SE V6: Real World Test

If you’re a combat veteran, smokejumper or ER Nurse, then I can understand why a car like the 2012 Toyota Camry SE V6 might seem boring. For everyone else, this car provides more than enough thrills to effectively remove its "Boring" label permanently.

But without some facts to back that up, that’s just our opinion. Here’s one fact that might change your mind about the new Camry. The 2012 Toyota Camry SE V6 can accelerate from 0-60 mph in 6 seconds. For the sake of comparison, the current BMW 535i goes from 0-60 in 5.7 seconds according to BMW. It takes a 2012 Nissan Maxima (the "4-door sports car") about the same amount of time to reach 60 mph, and a Cadillac CTS with the 3.6-liter V6 will do it in 6.1 seconds.

We’re not saying the Toyota Camry is somehow comparable to a BMW 5 Series or even a Cadillac CTS, but in terms of off-the line acceleration, 6 seconds puts the Camry in some pretty good company. And the Toyota’s power is noticeable as soon as you tap the accelerator. Hold the pedal down and the car has an urgency and swiftness not typically found in Toyotas. The SE V6 specifically feels quick and tight – more like you’d expect from Nissan or Mazda.

Toyota also beefed up the Camry’s handling for 2012. Even in LE trim, the car feels lighter on its feet and a little more athletic. The SE has even stiffer suspension than other Camry variants, and comes standard with 17-inch alloy wheels. Opt for the V6 like our tester, and you get 18-inch wheels wrapped in 255/45 tires.

Granted, the Toyota Camry SE doesn’t feel like an all-out performance sedan, but it is rewarding to drive, even if you drive it hard. The ride is neither overly harsh nor too soft. Like most BMWs, the new Camry SE strikes a remarkable balance between ride comfort and handling prowess. Toss it into a corner and it feels stable and predictable – a lot like the first Mazda6. The Camry’s steering doesn’t provide enough feedback, but it is light and quick enough that the overall feel is responsive.

Since the SE V6 is not the top of the line model (the XLE is), the interior is about what you’d expect from a mid-grade, volume-selling sedan – nice looking but not luxurious. The stitching on the dash, faux leather and suede seats, touch screen radio with satellite radio, HD Radio, iTunes tagging, a power driver’s seat and steering wheel mounted paddle shifters are all included in the SE’s price. Including the optional V6, the price is a reasonable $27,400.

Inside, the SE is nice looking, but once you touch some of the knobs and buttons, they clearly feel like plastic. Steering wheel mounted controls for audio and hands-free calling are the exception. These feel nicer and better quality than the other buttons and switches. The SE also gets sportier seats. Although the sport seats lack the initial cushy feeling of the XLE’s seats, the SE’s seats are ultimately more comfortable over a long haul.

Is the 2012 Toyota Camry SE V6 an all out, performance sedan? No, but it is one of the most comfortable sporty sedans available. Ultimately, the new Camry SE is everything you’d expect from a Toyota – it’s reliable, it’s affordable and it’s overall look and feel reflect the high sales volume compromises any popular and affordable car must make. However, the SE V6 adds an element of fun that other versions of the Toyota Camry just don’t have.

Brian Moody
Brian Moody is an author specializing in transportation, automotive, electric cars, future vehicles as well as new, used, and certified pre-owned advice. He also specializes in liking ridiculous cars like the Buick Reatta, Studebaker Lark, and the GM A-Body wagons from the late 80s and mid-90s. Why? You'd have to ask him. Brian graduated from Cal State Long Beach and has been creating written... Read More about Brian Moody

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