By on August 24, 2011

The year: 1992. The rental car: the then-new third-generation Toyota Camry. My father was surprised how much the car drove like his Lexus LS 400, it was so smooth and quiet. While enthusiasts might deride the Camry as an appliance, it had this, and for the last two decades has served as the midsize sedan segment’s benchmark for refinement. Despite dull handling and an interior that grew cheaper with each redesign, sales increased, to the point that the Camry has been the best-selling car in the U.S. for 13 of the last 14 years.

But with competitors more stylish, more powerful, better-finished, and even poised to pass the Camry in refinement, the Camry increasingly trades on past accolades, incentives, and a reputation for reliability. Consequently, younger drivers go elsewhere, and the average buyer has hit the big 6-0. Many have bought their last car. To maintain its leadership, the Camry must improve. With the 2012 redesign, does it? (This review covers the regular Camry. The SE and Hybrid will be evaluated separately.)


Time was, Toyota entirely revised its cars every other generation. But the 2012 Camry is the third generation on a platform that dates back to the 2002 model year. Exterior dimensions are unchanged, and interior dimensions increase by only fractions of an inch. Consequently, the Camry remains considerably smaller than the Honda Accord, the Mazda6, and even the new Volkswagen Passat. But many buyers have rejected the Honda and Mazda as too large; for them the Camry was already the right size.

Toyota notes that every exterior panel is new. At first glance the midsection looks much the same, though a closer study discovers simpler surfacing. The ends of the car have changed more dramatically, giving up their Banglesque curves for boxier shapes. Neither striking nor laden with controversial flourishes, the new exterior recalls the Camrys of the 1980s and 1990s in its utterly forgettable inoffensiveness.

Criticisms of the 2007-2011 interior clearly hit home, for Toyota has upgraded the Camry’s cabin for 2012. The instrument panel top has stitching in a contrasting color molded into it (a technique also employed by Buick and Lincoln), some other surfaces are somewhat soft to the touch, the instruments have a more sophisticated appearance, and the doors feel more solid when opened and closed. Though plenty of hard plastic lingers, the thin velour seat fabrics verge on chintzy even in the XLE, and the “stitching” molded into the trim pieces flanking the lower center stack (why?) could not be less convincing, the overall effect is a substantial step in the right direction. Not class-leading, but solidly average. The hard plastics feel solid and none of the switches screams cheap. The controls are easy to reach and generally intuitive.

The seating position and perceived roominess of the Camry have changed much more than the minimally changed interior dimensions suggest. The base of the side windows and especially that of the windshield seem higher and more distant. Part of this is real, but the interior panels have also been reshaped to provide the appearance of a roomier interior, with more horizontal lines, sharper corners where the doors and instrument panel meet, and fewer intrusive curves. The seats also seem to have been repositioned. The downside: forward visibility takes a modest hit in the front row and a more sizable one in the second row.

About those front seats: they’re larger and less contoured. Better for regular patrons of Old Country Buffet, less supportive for the rest of us. In the LE, the non-adjustable lumbar support is lacking, with a small bulge high up the seatback. The power lumbar in the XLE helps, but also hits a little high. The rear seat, perhaps the segment’s roomiest a decade ago, can’t match those in the Honda and VW for limo-like legroom and sits a little low. Rear air vents are only fitted with the XLE. Trunk room is much more competitive.

With an intense focus on what car buyers are willing and unwilling to pay for, and perhaps on minimizing first-year glitches as well, Toyota has carried over last year’s 178-horsepower 2.5-liter four-cylinder and 268-horspower 3.5-liter V6 engines. Meaning no direct injection, but the Hyundai Sonata and Kia Optima are the outliers here. Everyone else is in the same ballpark with their fours. Others’ uplevel engines kick out just a few more horses—is there an industry-wide gentleman’s agreement to limit midsize sedan buyers to 280 horsepower? (Not that it would make sense to channel much more through the front wheels alone.) Paired as before with a six-speed automatic, even the four is easily quick enough for most drivers. The manual transmission has been dropped, but the automatic is manually-shiftable in all non-Hybrid Camrys. The four’s shakiness at idle and buzziness when revved are larger issues. Winding the four out gets the job done, but is more irritating than exciting. Those seeking a smoother, much better-sounding engine should, as before, opt for the six.

Car buyers have put a higher priority on fuel economy than horsepower in recent years, and Toyota focused its efforts accordingly. Toyota cut curb weights (by 117 pounds for the four, 63 for the V6), smoothed the underbody, thinned the oil, raised the final drive ratios, fitted electric-assist power steering, and so forth to pick up a few tenths here, a few tenths there. The end result: EPA ratings of 25 city / 35 highway for the four, up from 22/32 last year, and 21/ 30 for the V6, up from 20/29. The four’s numbers are best-in-class (for now), tying the Hyundai Sonata on the highway and beating it by one in the city. Toyota claims best-in-class honors for the V6 as well, but this somehow ignores the Sonata 2.0T’s 22/34. A BMW-style instantaneous fuel economy gauge and attending row of green LEDs attempt to encourage more fuel-efficient driving, but they often swing wildly following a lag, so I found them of little help.

So far, incremental rather than game-changing improvements, but improvements nonetheless. The chassis changes are iffier. Revised suspension geometry reduces body roll and improves body control, while low-effort steering helps the car feel lighter than it is, almost agile. But the old car has a more fluid, natural feel. Steering is part of the difference. Though the old system was hardly chatty, the new, electric-assist system is light on-center and, though it weights up as the wheel is turned, provides hardly any feedback.

Then there’s ride quality. Especially for those first few feet and at low speeds, the last few generations have felt like they were gliding down the road. Well, this silky, cushy feel that has been a Camry highlight since 1992 is all but gone. Though large bumps are absorbed with more control than before, the small stuff is no longer almost entirely filtered out and the ride is more jiggly over patchy pavement. Toyota seems to have benchmarked the Ford Fusion or Honda Accord instead of the other way around. Toyota claims the new car is quieter, but my ears beg to differ. Sometimes objective measures are one thing, and the subjective experience another. The new Camry has the character of a “numbers car.”

Apparently aware that the incrementally improved, conservatively styled new car isn’t going to take the world by storm, Toyota has cut prices for every trim level save the loss-leader L, in one case by $2,000. Standard content reductions will likely offset much of the reductions; details to come. Toyota also touts the Camry’s storied reliability, pitching it as the “worry-free” choice. This remains to be seen, but with so many parts carried over, including the engines and transmission, bugs should be few and minor.

In the end, while the new interior is a definite improvement, efforts to improve fuel economy and handling, and perhaps to also cut costs, have robbed the Camry of a key distinguishing strength. If my Lexus-loving father rented the 2012 Camry, he’d notice…nothing. The new car isn’t coarse, but it’s no longer the segment benchmark for refinement. With their own redesigned midsize sedans on the way, and the Toyota and VW of years past in their crosshairs, Chevrolet and Ford will now vie for this title.

Toyota provided fueled and insured cars along with a light lunch at a press event.

Michael Karesh operates TrueDelta, an online provide of car reliability and fuel economy information.

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144 Comments on “Review: 2012 Toyota Camry...”


  • avatar

    Excellent review as always, but we need a little insert with a second opinion from a reviewer who is not as short.

    • 0 avatar

      Steve Lang has a review on the way, though I’m not sure how much taller he is. Tall people will fit a little better in the new Camry than they did in the old one. Enough room in the front seat, maybe a little tight in the rear.

      • 0 avatar
        VanillaDude

        2012 Camry – Second Opinion
        by Norman Peterson

        Since the War, I’ve been a man who likes his cars, his beer, and his broads. I used to be a Nash man. That was a damn fine car. I used to get really great gas mileage in my old Henry J. That was a piece of crap, if you don’t mind my language. But after the last of my kids left home, I needed a new car and one of my brothers at the Moose lodge told me about these Camrys.

        I have now had two Camrys and they are as good as my old Nash. Almost as good as that other car I used to drive. The blue one.

        The 2012 Camry is the car for me. It looks sporty. It has those things that light up under the bumpers and as long as I don’t forget about those damn parking curbs at the Old Country Buffet, that should be OK.

        I like my driver’s seat really soft like this. I had to have some work done on my behind, and the absorbent underwear I use is bulky, so I think the Camry is perfect. Roomy. I have to roll over on my left side because I get gas and the Camry seat lets me do that.

        The car smells good. That’s important. It doesn’t smell like a Pontiac. I hated that Pontiac smell. My buddy Vinnie, nice old Italian guy, that Vinnie, tells me that the Camry is a better value than before. He’s senile, but he used to be an accountant for Arthur Andersen, so his word is good.

        The boys and I have decided that the 2012 Camry is for us. I just wish I can find my damn teeth.

      • 0 avatar
        86er

        And here I was wondering why Norm’s review had more bark than bite.

  • avatar
    86er

    Then there’s ride quality. The silky, cushy feel that has been a Camry highlight since 1992 is all but gone. Though large bumps are absorbed with more control than before, the small stuff is no longer filtered out. Toyota seems to have benchmarked the Ford Fusion or Honda Accord instead of the other way around. Toyota claims the new car is quieter, but my ears beg to differ, especially at low speeds and on concrete.

    I have a sneaking suspicion as to where those weight savings were realized.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    You know, I may have hit the big 60, but rest assuredly, I am NOT in the Country Buffet/feed-trough crowd!

    The Camry has never excited me, but I respect it just the same – hey! for being the best-selling sedan for all those years, that deserves at least grudging respect if nothing else. Kind of like I feel about the panther.

    My Impala is pretty much an “appliance” car too, but having begun my 100-mile-a-day commute today, except for a Corvette, a sports-oriented sedan may not be the best choice for me. I’ll drive my 2007 MX5 soon and let you know how that feels!

    The mid-section of the Camry is pretty much unchanged, for that’s the most expensive portion to re-design, but it does appear that some sharper angles have been made to the existing structure, which is quite do-able without major headaches.

    Personally, I’d like a domestic sedan to be the best-selling nameplate again. In any case, I will not be in the market for any Toyota if I can help it.

    • 0 avatar

      Toyota told us over and over that the Camry has the highest domestic content of ANY car.

      • 0 avatar
        tonycd

        I don’t believe them.

        Unless the rules have changed, it’s pretty easy to game the “domestic content” standard. As I understand it, you can ship a whole assembly over from Japan, make one change or addition to it in an American plant, and you’ve magically transformed the whole result into a piece of “American content.”

        And as Michael pointed out, if Toyota knows anything, it’s how to hit a numerical target.

      • 0 avatar
        Zackman

        It’s still a foreign company. I’m no flag-waver, but I still prefer locally-manufactured stuff – of what still exists if I have a choice.

      • 0 avatar
        psarhjinian

        I’m no flag-waver, but I still prefer locally-manufactured stuff – of what still exists if I have a choice.

        So, if you live in Kentucky, should you buy a Camry that’s made in the US, or an Impala that’s made in Canada?

      • 0 avatar
        TrailerTrash

        I wouldn’t buy any of those.
        I would get a non ecoboosted Taurus built in Chicago and have a better car than most.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    Not exactly a glowing review for the new Camry – an excellent review as always. I’m sure DrFill, I’m sorry, jj99 will have something to say about how you’re out to get Toyota.

    Glad to see they invested in the interior, the 08 – 11 versions were horrific in that department.

    Michael, I am not doubting your statement the average Camry buyer has now grayed out to 60 years old. That is a huge problem for Toyota, but can I ask for a source. The last data point I saw was in 2008, and the average demographic I saw then was 48 (IIRC). A 12 year shift in four model years up is horrific by any metric. Also very concerning that they have a fleet specific trim model now in the L, are more fleet sales ahead?

    • 0 avatar

      One of the journalists asked the Toyota execs present what the average age was, and they said 60. I was surprised by this myself.

      • 0 avatar
        wsn

        The figure means nothing, without:
        1) Published source
        2) Numbers for previous years
        3) Numbers for major competitors

      • 0 avatar
        rnc

        AKA….saying anything negative about toyota is not acceptable

      • 0 avatar
        mike978

        wsn – either the Toyota executive was wrong or you are calling Michael a liar. I understand the desire for sources but I trust Michael and if a Toyota executive says that then he must have sources. If anything Toyota would have a motive to say a lower age, so I believe what they said.

      • 0 avatar
        APaGttH

        Thanks Michael, if a reporter asked, and a Toyota exec responded that is good for me.

        A 60 year old average buyer for the Camry is a big problem with ear hair, sags, and receeding hairline written all over it. The average age of a Cadillac buyer (all models) is 58. The average Lexus buyer? 53. Oh, and since wsn deciced to call either Toyota or you a liar, here is my source for this information.

        http://www.motorwayamerica.com/editorial/audi-cadillac-lexus-buyer-demographics-exhibit-most-changes

        The average Buick buyer? 65 and dropping like a rock. Another source put it at 57 but be it far from me to upset the Toyota faithful, so I’ll go with the “older” number.

        http://wot.motortrend.com/buick-buyers-trending-younger-with-lacrosse-and-enclave-7287.html

        I’ve said that Toyota’s graying demographic, and Scions failure to pull in the younger buyers they want to target is going to be a bigger and bigger problem. They aren’t attracting young buyers. Hey, Toyota said it, that makes it true in my book.

      • 0 avatar

        wsn is right: the number alone is meaningless. Young people simply do not buy cars as they used to. Not even used ones actually.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      I’d be interested to know if the average age for just about every car, and especially cars in this class, hasn’t also gone up.

      With “structural underemployment” the watchword for most younger workers, I can’t see any new midsize sedan being a popular choice for anyone under forty, and I suspect those who can buy new would either go smaller, or SUV/minivan if they need the space.

      This type of car is, I suspect, the ananchronism, not the buyer nor the brand and model.

      • 0 avatar
        rnc

        Shit I’m in my late 30’s and could walk out and pay cash for a low level BMW if I wanted, I bought a 2002 saturn with 40k miles on it for $2k (when my 98′ jeep with 110k died) and I have $4k put away to buy something similar when the saturn dies (being an early 2000’s GM product that could always being sooner than later), but I’ll be damned if I’m going to buy a car, house or anything else that would hamper my abilities if I lost my job, cash is king and the economy is going to get alot worse before it gets better (think of a few million 50 year olds who have no chance of ever regaining equivilent compensation, living off thier cashed out decimated 401k’s, when that money is gone in the next few years, that’s when we hit rock bottom, because that was the class that was supposed to carry our trickle down economy for about 10 years)

  • avatar
    jmo

    Then there’s ride quality. The silky, cushy feel that has been a Camry highlight since 1992 is all but gone. Though large bumps are absorbed with more control than before, the small stuff is no longer filtered out.

    So, more than ever, the actual successor to the ’93 Camry is the ES350. Indeed, if they offered cloth and a 4-cyl, I’d bet the base price of the ES350 would be the same as the inflation adjusted price as the ’93 Camry – something in the very high 20k range.

  • avatar
    James2

    It will sell well, especially here in Hawaii where the sheep, uh, I mean, buyers reflexively buy Toyota the way businesses used to buy IBM. (Sometimes, the streets of Hawaii look like Toyota City’s.) Akio Toyoda said he wanted “more exciting” products, but his planners and engineers know how and why their bread is buttered, so we get this instead.

    • 0 avatar
      threeer

      Perhaps the “sheep” (like my mother) will buy these in sufficient numbers to allow Toyota to bring out “more exciting” products. Given that this is their #1 money-maker, did anybody really expect a radical change? It appears a marked improvement over the previous generation, which is enough for many to reconsider it. Back in the day, my mother and late father had a 1993 Camry and loved it. 10 years later, mom bought a 2003 Corolla (topped out LE, leather and all, while the outgoing Camry was a cloth and non-sunroof affair) and has been disappointed in it since. While I think she secretly wishes her last car to be a Mercedes, I suspect that one look at the improved Camry and her 30 year success rate with Toyota will most likely see her in an XLE as she drives off into the sunset.

      • 0 avatar
        mike978

        Will it continue to be their money maker if they have reduced volumes, lower prices and a high yen/dollar exchange rate. Toyota’s profit margins are quite low (from memory 3% vs 6-7% for GM and VW).

  • avatar
    red60r

    Grille looks like it was swiped from the spare-parts bin for Subaru Legacys of a couple years ago. The “rent-a-car” descriptor says most of what the review contains. Even Consumer Reports used the term to describe the Chevy Lumina.

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    When I was in high school (early 1990s) if I got stuck behind a slow moving car, chances were it was a Buick, Cadillac, Mercury, or Lincoln. Today when I get stuck behind someone driving like my grandfather, it’s usually a Toyota with the Camry, Corolla, and Avalon being the most popular offenders. (In fact this summer on the interstate for a 3000 mile round trip the fastest drivers were in Buicks!)

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      I see a lot of younger people in Buicks, so that’s not surprising. Mind you, those are usually turn-of-the-millenium Centuries and Regals, and they’re being bought because they’ve got a great TCO between reliability, maintenance and insurance.

      • 0 avatar
        Educator(of teachers)Dan

        This summer in the USA, between Gallup, NM and Ottawa, OH (where the Ottawa ‘First Peoples/Native Americans/American Indians’ lived before they moved to Canada). The fastest drivers on I40, I44, I70, and I69 were driving Buick Enclaves and were right around 35 to 45 yrs old.

      • 0 avatar
        psarhjinian

        Keep in mind this is anecdotal, but the Enclave seems to sell well enough to urban professionals as a minivan alternative. They’re not uncommon in, say, the underground parking lot at the TD Centre in Toronto (where I work two days a month), or at Whole Foods (yeah, yeah, I know…).

        I don’t see particularly many Regals, and the LaCrosse seems to hit the white-upper-middle-class-fifties-and-up mark that the Maxima used to and the TL still does: middle managers in finance or such.

        But as far as actual young people (eg, parents I see in the parking lot when I drop my five-year-old off) it’s Century/Regal all the way.

      • 0 avatar
        redmondjp

        Or they were “the price is right” estate spoils courtesy of the late Grandma Betty . . .

    • 0 avatar
      Bryce

      Volvos used to be the slowest cars on the road lawn bowls hat on the rear shelf retiree cars

    • 0 avatar
      Brian E

      Have you noticed the Kleenex box in the rear parcel shelf thing too? That’s always a red flag to me. I often get stuck behind beige or puke colored Toyotas with the Kleenex box. I have to remind myself that, yes, there are people who buy these things.

  • avatar
    jj99

    I read the new Camry uses a higher strength steel. This requires a new design. Complete new design. The nastran models must have been run, and they would deliver a different structure because the properties of the higher strength steel is different. I think your comment about the platform being the same should be called into question.

    • 0 avatar

      You call people into question too readily. Toyota said that the platform is carryover. Do you understand what it means to carry over a platform? The Buick LaCrosse and Saab 9-5 share a platform, but nearly ever piece in their body structures is different. The VW Phaeton and Audi A8 shared a platform, but one car was made of steel and the other aluminum.

      No one else inside or outside Toyota sees this as a substantial redesign. You’re unique in this perspective.

      • 0 avatar
        jj99

        Any degreed engineer will agree with my comment. When you change the metal properties, the nastran system used to design structures will deliver a different chassis design. This chassis design difference will deilver different dynamic properties. You are off on this one.

      • 0 avatar
        jj99

        Another comment. People frequently think the suspension is the reason why a car handles in a certain manner. However, the structural properties of the chassis is also very important. When you discuss the difference in handling of the Camry, much of that has to do with the higher strength steel and the resulting chassis design.

      • 0 avatar
        TEXN3

        I’m a PE with a degree, not sure how you’re an engineer without one, but I digress… new materials does not necessarily require a completely new design. A platform can be updated or revised, but that does not make it completely new. The Explorer uses different materials than a 500 or S80, but still the same platform.

        I do agree with the structure contributing to the ride quality.

        Overall, I am not impressed with this Camry. I’m not one to jump on the vanilla-car wagon, as the Camry serves a functional purpose as a roomy and efficient sedan. This car was built to a price point as well as several marketing advantages, or a “numbers” car as Micheal stated. I’d much rather get a Legacy if I was sedan shopping. There may be some cheapness to it, but the car is well designed and well engineered.

      • 0 avatar
        jj99

        Nope. Never did the PE thing. Rather than spend my time on the PE tests, I went for additional engineering degrees. I found that worked much better for me.

      • 0 avatar
        L'avventura

        A platform is merely that a ‘platform’. Common set of technology and part specifications that can be shared between models. Your article gives the impression that somehow that the chassis, suspension, all its parts are merely a carry over from 2002 and only the exterior panels are different.

        This is not the case, as the chassis and suspensions are re-designed. Just as you point out, perhaps for the worst, as its losses its Camry-esque ride comfort in some aspects.

        Toyota is very clear in their press release what changes they have made:

        “A more rigid body structure, revised front suspension, redesigned rear suspension and aerodynamics all help to imbue the new Camry with greater straight-line stability and crisper steering response, while also enhancing overall ride comfort. Handling stability, more than just conveying a sense of driving enjoyment, also greatly influences the driver’s feeling of security.

        The 2012 Camry body structure uses a greater amount of high tensile steel (440 Mpa or higher) than before and even stronger high tensile strength sheet steel (590 Mpa or higher), resulting in a stronger but lighter body than the previous model. A flared design on the doors and fenders enables use of slimmer but stronger construction. High tensile aluminum bumper supports are lighter yet stronger than before. Newly developed plastic for the bumper covers and cowl louvers reduces weight as well.

        The stiffened cowl section increases suspension-area rigidity, suppressing twist. The front-suspension towers are directly connected through the cowl to increase rigidity, and the attachment method and reinforcement braces have been strengthened. The all-new rear underbody and rear subframe increase lateral force control and torsional rigidity.

        The McPherson-strut front suspension now uses inversely wound coil springs that enhance straight-line stability. Shock-absorber damping and stabilizer-bar thickness have been optimized as well. The rear suspension retains the proven dual-link strut configuration of the previous model but has been redesigned with new geometry (increased toe-in during cornering and braking) and retuned components to enhance cornering stability. Coil springs, bushings, stabilizer-bar and shock-absorber damping have all been revised.”

      • 0 avatar
        jj99

        Based on llavventura’s post, I would say the SE version of the Camry may start stealing BMW’s 3 series and Acura TSX buyers. Looks like Toyota is copying structrual design from the Germans. I would say Detroit will have it’s hands full with this one.

        Time to road test the SE against german vehicles. Don’t waste time comparing this against low strength steel Detroit stuff.

      • 0 avatar
        TEXN3

        A PE is preferred since I work as a consultant in the energy and utility industry.

        My point was: being an engineer requires a degree.

        In regards to that point: Don’t make assumptions that every engineer will agree with you, I certainly did not.

      • 0 avatar
        jj99

        I agree a PE is good, and in many roles, it is required. But, I know the structural design since I ran nastran for a while after college. That is why I knew the high strength steel was a very big deal that would be missed by non-nastran types. Bottom line is high strength steel impresses structrual types.

      • 0 avatar
        mkirk

        “My point was: being an engineer requires a degree.”

        Not So! The Army will be happy to make you a combat engineer sans degree!

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        jj, without a PE, as I understand it, you are considered a “designer” not an engineer…I always was offended by that, but landing the PE took that concern off my mind.

        Michael, as I read your review, it made me think of the car mags doing a review of domestic cars 10 years ago. By that I mean that the improvements were qualified in an almost apologetic manner. This is in no way a slight to your excellent reviews, but rather a bit of a disappointment in Toyota. Toyota, and the Camry in particular, used to set the standard. Now we have a new model loaded with carry over parts, engineering choices made to make good numbers, and loss of class leading technology. All to save money and hope the buyer doesn’t notice. This so reeks of Old Detroit it is uncanny. Will this work? Well, the jj99s of the world will reflexivly buy it – note his incorrect statement about soft “Detroit” steel. But for those who are willing to shop and do research? I’d say Toyota has its hands full.

      • 0 avatar
        NulloModo

        Ford uses high strength and ultra-high strength boron steel throughout its lineup, including the Fusion. I’d imagine GM and other major automakers do the same. The use of high strength steel in the Camry is not unique.

      • 0 avatar
        L'avventura

        @NulloModo

        Its really not about ‘if’ they use high-tensile strength steel, but rather ‘how much’, and where they use it. A good example is Mazda’s SkyActiv body, they’ve made a detailed website explaining exactly why their application is unique:

        http://www.mazda.com/mazdaspirit/skyactiv/platform/skyactiv-body.html

        Basically, the new SkyActiv body will increase high-tensile steel usage from 40% in its current models to 60%. In particular, dramatically expanding the usage of 540Mpa-1500Mpa steel.

        In the case of the Camry, they’ve stated they too are also increasing the usage of high-tensile strength steel, which has contributed to the weight loss (which seems to be in the 60-100kg range).

        Again, emphasizing that this is in fact a new body, not merely a carry-over that Micheal Karesh seems to disingenuously insinuating.

    • 0 avatar

      I have to take Michael’s side on this issue. Based on what I’ve read of his on this site, and my dealings with him when it comes to TrueDelta, he is nothing if not honest and forthright. You, on the other had, have an obvious bias towards Toyota.

      Even Toyota admits that the platform remains the same. What else do you need? Besides who cares how old the underlying platform is? How the car that’s built on it preforms, is all that matters.

      • 0 avatar
        tonycd

        Exactly. Michael may be too gracious to raise his voice in his own defense, but I’m not.

        If Toyota says it themselves, and it’s not true, are they dishonest or incompetent? Those are the only two options.

      • 0 avatar
        redav

        A big problem is that people are using different definitions of the word “platform.” It seems clear to me that per the definition that Toyota uses, the platform has not changed, even if parts were altered. (And BTW, I am a “degreed engineer.”)

        As to an engineering degree being required to be an engineer: not always. Companies may permit job experience in place of a diploma. I have worked with some people that fall into that category.

        Also, NASTRAN (like FORTRAN, it should be in all-caps) is only a type of finite element software, not a generic name. My industry is dominated by Abaqus & ANSYS; no company I have yet dealt with uses NASTRAN.

      • 0 avatar
        jj99

        Brand of FEA used does not matter. They all get to the same place by setting up and solving a simular set of differential equations using a sophisticated technique. About 10 years ago, nastran ruled the aerospace business. Not sure what rules now, but that does not matter.

      • 0 avatar
        redav

        Vocabulary does matter in the court of credibility.

        After all, you don’t want people to think that you are a decade behind the times, nor do you want people to question whether you actually know the subject or just a few buzzwords.

        And BTW, many finite element models use a simple stiffness matrix with displacements and forces–all linear equations with no dif eq required. In fact, finite element solvers typically fall into the realm of linear algebra as it all about manipulating/solving matrix equations.

    • 0 avatar
      Mr Butterfly

      If one were to put higher strength steel into, say, doors’ side impact bars then no complete redesign would be necessary.

      Also, using higher strength steel wouldn’t mean that the entire body would swap whichever steel grade that was used previously for high strength grade. Steel for the soft bits (e.g. outside body panels) is unlikely to have been changed at all as those parts require maximum flexibility, while power-structure components could have received marginally harder steel. Some redesign would definitely be required, but it is relatively minor.

      • 0 avatar
        jj99

        Agreed with the doors comment. However, in order to cut the weight by as much as they did, a major change in the structure is very likely, and I would expect the higher strength steel was used in many places.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      Who says they used higher strength steel in any of the structural components. Maybe it’s the hood and fenders that are different material than in the past. Even if it is a structural component like say the B pillar that doesn’t mean the entire floor pan would have to be new. Often times the use of higher strength steel is to reduce weight and in this case the new car is lighter. So they may have designed the parts that use the new steel to produce the same strength with a lower weight. Yes they should evaluate how the new material performs with the carried over parts but that does not mean that they had to redesign other parts in all cases.

      Even if the entire body structure was a complete new design the fact that the basic dimensions, layout, suspension design and mounting points stayed the same means it is just a freshening of the platform.

      • 0 avatar
        cdotson

        Scoutdude +1

        A “platform” is an idea more than it is a physical part or assembly. About the only physical piece of a body-in-white that could be considered as contributing to the platform is the floorpan stamping. The rest of the platform is defined by the BIW’s ability to accept common suspension and powertrain subframes and utilize carryover steering geometry.

        Just because the structural analysis models have to update doesn’t make it a new platform. They could have converted main components over to higher-strength steels and eliminated some reinforcing brackets to deliver both increased stiffness and reduced weight, but remaining essentially the same.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        About the only physical piece of a body-in-white that could be considered as contributing to the platform is the floorpan stamping.

        That was my impression as well. And with the typical monocoque (vs. body-on-frame) designed used today, most of the structural rigidity is derived from the overall structure of the car, not just from the floorpan (or I guess what they used to call a chassis back during the body-on-frame days.)

        So the floorpan will largely determine the length of the wheelbase, but assuming that the floorpan isn’t completely outdated, it is possible to make substantial changes to the overall design without replacing the platform. Most of the feel of the car comes from its other parts, including the steering gear, drivetrain and suspension. And making the floorpan out of different materials would change it as well.

        (I’m not an engineer, so corrections to the above would be appreciated.)

      • 0 avatar

        “Platform” is most definitely a loose term. It can mean no more than the key hard points and the steps through which key parts are assembled, for compatibility with existing equipment. These days it doesn’t usually fix the wheelbase or other key specs. It can often freeze the location of the pinch flange between the rockers and the floorpan, and other such places where key structural components come together and how they come together.

        The key thing carrying the platform over implies is that Toyota did not rework the entire car from a more-or-less clean sheet, but started with the previous car and made incremental changes. The platform does impose some constraints, and carrying one over tends to mean that changes will be smaller than with a new platform. The entire thought process will be different.

        One case is part of the lore within GM. When they redesigned the Camaro in the early 1990s the team was told they had to carry over the platform. They then made so many changes along the way that only one part of the floorpan was retained. The cost ended up about as high as it would have been starting from scratch, but the car was not nearly as good as it would have been if they’d started from scratch.

        jj99 totally lost me when he suggests that the changes listed in the press release qualify the Camry SE as a BMW 3-Series competitor. Not even close.

        Most, perhaps all, cars use some high-strength steel. There’s nothing special about this. What varies is the percentage of the total. Parts of the structure can be redesigned with high strength steel so that they can be thinner and lighter. This absolutely does not require that the entire structure be reworked.

      • 0 avatar
        APaGttH

        jj99 lost basically all of us when he compared the Camry to the 3-series.

    • 0 avatar
      wmba

      High strength steel has the same stiffness as regular steel. Strength is not stiffness. Materials 101.

      So there is no need to use HSS for the load bearing structure of a vehicle. The carmakers have fed the public this BS of using HSS to make stiffer structures, when the same could be done at the stress levels found in cars by using regular steel. Strength is not stiffness!

      Stiffer structures come from different, better designs.

      HSS would be used in areas where ultimate strength is required, in other words, structures engineered to fail in a crash. In that case, higher ultimate strength structures can be made lighter and still absorb the required energy for correct performance. The lighter weight allows further lightening of the underlying support structure, and weight savings accrue.

      Good areas for HSS would be front side rails, A and B pillars, door beams, sills (rockers), parcel shelf, etc. Plus, of course, structures like Subaru’s Ring and Honda’s ACE crash passenger boxes. In fact, anything likely to get smashed up, where ultimate strength is needed. If Toyota had to add so much, then they were behind the game. The previous model didn’t do that well in some crash test or another, when it came out according to CU, IIRC.

      They gave me my mechanical engineering degree back in ’69 when Kleenex hadn’t even been invented, so we had to work on stone tablets with charcoal crayons. From first principles.

      I haven’t used an FEA package, but we started on that stuff way back when in Fortran, fer Chrissakes. Blindly using some program without understanding the basic principles is of course the modern way, and people confuse their ability to run a program with their knowledge of a subject.

      Strength is not stiffness.

      More interesting to me is discovering what inverse wound coil springs are. More bafflegab?

      P.Eng. (ret’d)

      • 0 avatar
        azmtbkr81

        I could be completely off base on this as I am NOT an engineer, PE, or holder of an advanced degree in any related subject but aren’t stronger steels typically stiffer in practical applications due to the fact that their strength comes from an increase in density?

        In addition to being a car geek I am also a bicycle geek and from my own experience most bike frames made out of the lightest steels, for example Reynolds 853 chromoly, have a much less compliant ride than say Reynolds 531 chromoly which is less dense and as a result heavier to achieve the same level of strength. Wouldn’t the same principle apply for steel used in cars?

        I’m not calling your expertise into question, just genuinely curious how this work.

      • 0 avatar
        rpn453

        The density and stiffness (modulus of elasticity) of the steel used in Reynolds 853 tubing is not significantly different from that of the 531. The differences in these values across different steel types is nothing compared to the differences in mechanical properties. If one steel frame is stiffer than another, it’s using either larger diameter tubes, thicker walls, or the tubes are butted or tapered in a way that reduces flex.

        I can recall one of my materials professors telling us about how, many years ago, a local trailer company began lightening their trailers by switching to a much stronger steel, making the walls of the structural components much thinner but just as strong as before. They began to have issues with their trailers tipping due to the additional frame flex.

        High strength steel isn’t always stronger than carbon steel. There are many forms of both. I’d be far more impressed to hear of chromoly steel being used in a mass production vehicle!

      • 0 avatar
        jj99

        I knew it. Detroit would be defending it’s mass use of cheap cold rolled steel. You say there is no difference between the two? Perhaps you can pass this off on people that are not trained as engineers …

        But, I know why you minimize the use of high strength steel.

        1) The material costs more
        2) The manufacturing process is more expensive

        That is the bottom line.

      • 0 avatar
        Shiny Bits

        “More interesting to me is discovering what inverse wound coil springs are.”

        The left and right front coil springs are wound in opposite directions.

        This is done to help balance out any twisting force on the steering due to the compression of the suspension.

        (for those who aren’t following this, as a coil spring is compressed, the top and bottom of the spring tend to rotate relative to each other)

      • 0 avatar
        rpn453

        jj99, please provide the material code, quantity, and location(s) of the high strength steel used. Without that, you know nothing. Even knowing that still-minimal amount of information will tell you nothing about the performance of the design.

  • avatar
    Guzzi

    Whee! I am holding my breath for the Solara and Venza variants now!

  • avatar
    philadlj

    “is there an industry-wide gentleman’s agreement to limit midsize sedan buyers to 275 horsepower?”

    The real question is, why would the average Camry buyer need more than 178? Do they even care about horsepower?

    • 0 avatar
      Mark MacInnis

      No…..no industry wide agreement. Just a Nazi-like government pronouncement….’Your cars vill make ze 56.6 miles per gallon by 2025, ja?” So, what financial, marketing or political advantage to increase HP when you’ll just have to DECREASE it more in the near future?…..Keeping at 275 is the new INCREASE… I can see the ad slogans now: “We CUT our horsepower less than the other guy.” Sort of the opposite of the Liberals in Congress, calling something a spending cut when all they’ve done is decrease the rate of growth…

      Man, it sucks to be an American lately….if it wasn’t for how bad off the rest of the world is right now, I’d be outta here.

      • 0 avatar
        geeber

        I’m not exactly enamored of certain recently enacted government regulations, but these horsepower figures are being driven by what family-sedan buyers in general, and Camry buyers in particular, are willing to pay for in their next car.

        If buyers were complaining about lackluster performance from their Camrys, I’m sure that Toyota would have taken steps to address this concern.

        The simple fact is that most pedestrian family sedans are quick enough for the people who buy them, and are pretty peppy by historical standards. (And let’s not compare them to a 1970 Hemi Barracuda – the accurate comparison is to a 1970 Plymouth Fury with a 383 V-8 and an automatic. And when comparing figures, let’s also include fuel economy, pollutants emitted and the amount of maintenance required to keep each car running properly.)

        A four-cylinder Camry can sprint from 0-60 mph in an acceptable amount of time, and cruise all day at 75-80 mph with the air conditioning running – without the engine sounding as though it may explode at any minute. This is what these buyers want. Same for buyers of Accords, Altimas, Fusions, Malibus and Sonatas.

        People aren’t buying these cars to drag race Camaros or Porsches at the stop-light grand prix, or drive 120 mph on the Autobahn.

        If anything, given recent trends, most people would probably prefer that this Toyota squeezes more miles from each gallon of gasoline, as opposed to shaving a second or two off the 0-60 mph time.

      • 0 avatar

        I need to edit the review to raise that to 280–forgot about the Passat.

    • 0 avatar
      Canucknucklehead

      As a family man at age 47, I do not need any more than 178 hp since I have absolutely nothing to prove to anyone. Oh and if I were looking to buy a new family sedan, the Camry would be high on the list. And I would pay cash, too.

      • 0 avatar
        Driver123

        As a family man at age of 48 I have rules. No minivans. No SUVs. Nothing from Toyota. Life it too short to spend in 178hp appliance. I have absolutely nothing to prove to anyone. I am just enjoying my 5 series BMW.

    • 0 avatar
      mnm4ever

      I think a more likely scenario is that anything over 275hp in a FWD car is going to make wheelspin and torquesteer an issue for non-car enthusiasts, like most Camry buyers, especially in slippery conditions. Why bother tuning up more power if its not needed??

  • avatar
    goacom

    So how would this Camry compare with the new US Passat in terms of interior quality, handling and refinement (2.5L engined cars only)?
    Thanks.

    • 0 avatar
      tankinbeans

      I have to wonder about odd-numbered cylinders in the engine. I make no bones about not being extremely mechanically versed, but aren’t 3 and 5 cylinder engines going to be a little bit less refined/smooth than 4 and 6 cylinder engines with the same displacement? I know that there are 4 stages (intake, compression, combustion, exhaust) in an ICE and especially with a 3 there is a gap between the final stage of the last cylinder and the first stage of the first cylinder.

      I know I ask a lot of dumb questions, but I figure I’m contributing because I bring the perspective of teh dumb so that you guys can explain things that might be taken for granted.

  • avatar
    Sparty21

    goacom beat me to it. How does the Camry compare to the Passat. I am curious since these are two of the latest redesigns in the class. The timing of these hitting the lots will be similar as well so it is worth comparing them.

    I am leaning toward a 2012 Passat TDI, but I will look at a 2012 Camry SE before making a purchase.

    • 0 avatar
      Canucknucklehead

      A Passat TDI automatic starts at $28,665. Much more than a Camry.

      The 2.5 gas starts at $19,995. To get an automatic you need to choose the SE package with sunroof for $5630. This gives an all in price of $26,395. Also much more than a Camry.

      • 0 avatar
        Wagen

        Perhaps that is how VW has structured the options packages in Canada, but south of the border, one can get a 2.5 with the S with appearance package which includes the automatic for a total of $22,690 without destination.

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        VW sells a Passat “S with appearance package” that includes the 2.5L, 6A, 16-inch alloys, and a rear armrest for $23,460.

        It is also possible to get the Passat SE without the sunroof at a total price of $25,595.

    • 0 avatar
      mpresley

      Weird. But considering its a Japanese car, it could always be weirder. So its got that going for it. After seeing the New Camry, I’ll never say anything bad about the New Passat again. And there’s a lot I could say.

    • 0 avatar

      Bear in mind that I haven’t driven these cars back-to-back on the same roads. I’m getting a Passat V6 for a week tomorrow, which will enable me to more thoroughly evaluate that car.

      My current sense: the Passat 2.5 has the best steering in the bunch, and the Passat is a more involving and enjoyable car to drive, such things being relative. It also has a roomier interior. The Camry has a small edge in materials, structural rigidity, and refinement. The Camry SE has the best front seats.

      Update: I now have the Passat V6 SE, and can report that its interior definitely seems cheaper than that in a Camry LE. Or, to put a positive spin on it, more spartan. The VW feels like a fleet car inside, between the very simple styling, vinyl seats, and pedestrian textures of the various surfaces. The light gray of the tested car’s interior doesn’t help. Road noise is higher than in the Camry, but otherwise the VW feels more solid. The V6 rides and handles more like the TDI than the 2.5, likely because it has a similar amount of weight in the nose.

      • 0 avatar
        n777ua

        I’ve actually diven back to back like you have and can’t disagree with you more. The Passat has a more solid body structure (laser welded mind you, not spot welded in a million places like the Camry), better/tighter body tolerances, MUCH heavier and more solid shutting doors (think German bank vault), and better refinement inside (footwell lights, control lights, puddle lights, more solid switches (w/ metallic trim), less tacky/cheesy looking switchgear. you seem to be gauging refinement on some imaginary lateral bump only you and I mean “only you” experienced, as well as because of perceived loud wind noise. Camry is better isolated, yes, but the Passat is still much better than Accord and Fusion here keep in mind, and Passat isn’t that far behind here. The S550 is not as quiet as LS460 – we don’t call it unrefined because of that. I vehemently disagree with here on this.

      • 0 avatar
        n777ua

        I’ve actually diven back to back like you have and can’t disagree with you more. The Passat has a more solid body structure (laser welded mind you, not spot welded in a million places like the Camry), better/tighter body tolerances, MUCH heavier and more solid shutting doors (think German bank vault), and better refinement inside (footwell lights, control lights, puddle lights, more solid switches (w/ metallic trim), less tacky/cheesy looking switchgear. you seem to be gauging refinement on some imaginary lateral bump only you and I mean “only you” experienced, as well as because of perceived loud wind noise. Camry is better isolated, yes, but the Passat is still much better than Accord and Fusion here keep in mind, and Passat isn’t that far behind here. The S550 is not as quiet as LS460 – we don’t call it unrefined because of that. I vehemently disagree with here on this.

  • avatar

    Seems like Toyota giveth with one hand (styling, interior quality, pricing) and taketh away with the other (ride, noise, equipment, manual transmission). Sounds like a lateral move at best.

    Still, I’m sure it will continue to sell well, seeing as they haven’t done anything to completely ruin it.

    When the new Accord, Fusion, and Malibu are released things should get interesting in a previously boring segment. The Altima is probably due for a redesign soon as well.

    • 0 avatar

      This preview was conducted in the same area as Ford’s HQ. If I’d been quicker with the camera I’d have a photo of the next Fusion or MKZ in camou–one was waiting to cross Oakwood Blvd as I drove by. One thing was clear from it: the next car will have a much higher beltline and smaller side windows. If the handling, ride, and level of refinement are similar to those of the Focus, Ford will have a huge winner. Especially since key competitors are coasting.

      • 0 avatar
        300zx_guy

        crap, I was hoping the short window trend might be waning. I like to be able to see out of a car.

      • 0 avatar
        Monty

        “I was hoping the short window trend might be waning. I like to be able to see out of a car.”

        It’s not just the visibility – I much prefer to drive with the windows open and the A/C off, resting my arm on the door sill. Try doing that in a 300 or Camaro.

  • avatar
    TheEndlessEnigma

    Why do I have a feeling that if the name plate said Chrysler/Dodge/Chevy/Buick the review would not have been as positive. The Camry is, at best, an average car for folks who want something “nice” to drive but don’t have the time to actually shop. The same can actually be said for most of the Toyota line-up nowadays. Boring cars.

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      Seriously? Did you even read the review?

      “the Camry increasingly trades on past accolades, incentives, and a reputation for reliability.”
      “the new exterior recalls the Camrys of the 1980s and 1990s in its utterly forgettable inoffensiveness. ”
      “Though plenty of hard plastic lingers, the thin velour seat fabrics verge on chintzy even in the XLE, and the “stitching” molded into the trim pieces flanking the lower center stack (why?) could not be less convincing,”
      “The four’s shakiness at idle and buzziness when revved are larger issues.”
      “fuel economy gauge and attending row of green LEDs… often swing wildly following a lag, so I found them of little help.”
      “the old car has a more fluid, natural feel.”
      “The new Camry has the character of a “numbers car.”

      I could be wrong, but I doubt that an “evaluation” Toyota with a trunk full of cash will be living in Karesh’s driveway anytime soon.

      • 0 avatar
        Steven02

        I think what he is trying to say is that it would have been much less kind to some other makes producing the same level of car. The language used and tone of the article is at times forgiving while some reviews of other cars are absolutely brutal. I could see this being reviewed as a GM product being far more brutal.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      Did you actually READ the review? It sure isn’t all that positive.

      But with competitors more stylish, more powerful, better-finished, and even poised to pass the Camry in refinement, the Camry increasingly trades on past accolades, incentives, and a reputation…

      … the new exterior recalls the Camrys of the 1980s and 1990s in its utterly forgettable inoffensiveness…

      …the thin velour seat fabrics verge on chintzy even in the XLE, and the “stitching” molded into the trim pieces flanking the lower center stack (why?) could not be less convincing…

      …The four’s shakiness at idle and buzziness when revved are larger issues. Winding the four out gets the job done, but is more irritating than exciting…

      …The new Camry has the character of a “numbers car…”

      The last statement is the biggest, “ouch,” of them all. I would hardly call this a lovefest.

  • avatar
    Conslaw

    Nice review. I’m interested in the weight issue. Toyota was already lighter than average, with the 2011 4-cylinder Camry coming in at about 3260 lbs. A 117 lb. reduction would put the 2012 in the low 3100 area, right about even with the compact Chevrolet Cruz. We’re about 6 months from the introduction of the redesigned 2013 Malibu, but as I understand it, the Malibu will be based on the same platform as the 2012 Buick Regal, which weighs about 3600-3700. A 500 lb. weight disadvantage is a lot to overcome.

    • 0 avatar

      3,260 must be with the now-discontinued manual transmission. The new Camry starts at 3,190 pounds, which is light for a midsize car these days. But it’s also smaller than most competitors.

      The new Malibu will be heavy. But if it drives like the Regal the Camry will feel cheap in comparison. There are tradeoffs, and GM and Ford have been making much different choices than Honda, Toyota, and VW.

  • avatar
    tonycd

    It sounds to me like Toyota has really hurt themselves here, to a depth that will take years to become fully obvious.

    We can say “Toyota was never about leading-edge product,” but that really wasn’t true of the ’92-95 Camry. It was reported that Toyota dealers who saw this car previewed last month were ecstatic about the return of visible quality. It sounds like they’d had a bit too much Vegas Kool-Aid before that religious experience.

    I also suspect that Toyota’s committees failed to reach an agreement on what this car was supposed to be like. The reason to stiffen it was to meet Mr. Toyoda’s exhortation for a driver’s car. Then they got sidetracked into seeking 25/35 mpg instead of 24/34 and ruined the whole thing with numb electric power steering.

    There were two goals in front of Toyota if they were to protect the Camry supremacy. Make it better to drive, and if you didn’t do that, at least invest to make it seem like a bank vault again. Two missions unaccomplished.

    Toyota knows perfectly well how to put together an interior that hits any increment of quality they choose. This slightly improved one, with its fake wood and park-bench seats that are visible even at a snapshot level of detail, shows that they simply didn’t feel like taking slightly reduced margins on this car in order to make the investment. They’ll reap what they’ve sown.

    Toyota just surprised me by hitting a bunt single on its #1 volume product. More than ever, I think they’re in real trouble.

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      Or, in a down economy, with potential customers pressed by higher food and fuel prices, Toyota gambled that they would accept only slight improvements in exchange for price reductions. We’ll see whether Toyota is correct in this assessment…

    • 0 avatar

      They’ve fallen into the old GM trap, comparing the new car to the old one rather than upcoming competitors. Compared to the 2011 Camry’s interior, the new one is a substantial improvement. But GM, Ford, and (if there most recent products are any indication) Chrysler are poised to launch cars with much nicer interiors.

      • 0 avatar
        APaGttH

        You’ve nailed it. The competition is not the 2011 Camry, the competition is the 2013 Malibu, the 2014 Fusion, the 2013 Accord, the 2014 Sonata…

        If you are at equal or slightly behind the current competition at new product release, and typical release cycles are five years – you’re in trouble out of the gate.

  • avatar
    NN

    99% of Americans will look at this car and see that it looks better, has a nicer interior, costs less, gets the best fuel economy (probably will in the real world, too), has great resale value and has the best reputation for durability amongst any midsize sedan–a reputation that won’t change thanks to carryover powertrains. They will sell millions of them. Toyota knows its customers, and the American buying public, better than anyone. I think it will be a massive hit and will put some more space between it and the others on the sales charts.

    If we made our car choices with 100% brain and zero heart, we would all buy this car, too, as it is the most rational choice due to the items listed above. It is objectively the smartest choice, which means you need to have emotional reasons to buy anything else.

    • 0 avatar
      Mr Butterfly

      This car is a testament to the depressing fact that vast majority of population is hopelessly dull.
      I might end up buying a Fiat500 out of desperation. (But I won’t)

    • 0 avatar
      majo8

      Looks better? — that is subjective, and appreciation of physical beauty resides in the “heart”.

      Nicer interior? — subjective as well.

      Costs less? — yes, but that may be subjective as well, due to possible decontenting.

      Best fuel economy? — for one or two years, until the competitions new products arive.

      Great resale value? — not what it used to be.

      Reputation for durability? — not what it used to be.

  • avatar
    romanjetfighter

    I like the previous generation interior look better. The lines flow better, and the interior has a lot of scalloped shapes, especially on the doors. They also made the steering wheel a lot softer for 2011 vs. the early 2007, so it’s not THAT bad. I like that they skinnified the A-pillars and decreased the side bolsters. Getting into the car with the big side bolsters started wearing against the fabric at the seam of the bolster on the driver’s side. I’m glad they also made the fold-down seat more sturdy, too. Incremental improvements, I guess.

    Tundra, Avalon, Tacoma, Corolla, all going through really mini-redesigns like the recently redesigned Taurus. And if I remember correctly, a few people on TTAC said it was a mere refresh, rather than redesign. The Camry needs a huge overhaul.

    By the way, did you notice if the engine shuddered right if you turned it on then immediately off before it got a chance to warm up? That happens in mine… (same engine, previous gen.) and it’s a bit disturbing.

    Btw, at the Toyota dealership, I saw the Sienna’s crash test ratings. Wow. They really dropped the ball there! Amirite?

  • avatar
    swilliams41

    Is this another car that has gotten WORSE for the sake of change???

  • avatar
    tankinbeans

    There’s an open spot by that last gen Camry; it would be interesting to see just how similar they are aside from memory of the old one. :)

  • avatar
    Robert Fahey

    Could someone please clarify this sentence?

    “Toyota claims best-in-class honors for the V6 as well, but this somehow ignores the Sonata 2.0T’s 22/34.”

    The Sonata engine is a four-cyl, right? Different class, no?

    • 0 avatar
      mike978

      I assume Michael was commenting that the top engine choice in the Camry (the V6) goes up against the turbo charged I-4 in the Sonata and that the turbo I-4 has better EPA mileage. If you strictly interpret class as being V6 only then you are right but if you widen it to be top engine choice and around 270hp each then Michael is right.

      • 0 avatar

        The Toyota presentation claimed better fuel economy than “Competitors’ V6s and turbocharged fours.” Obviously an error. So the other information they provided could also contain errors. Honest ones, but errors nonetheless.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        The Toyota presentation claimed better fuel economy than “Competitors’ V6s and turbocharged fours.”

        The press release is more restrained:

        “The DOHC 3.5-liter V6, available in the SE and XLE grades, delivers 268 horsepower at 6,200 rpm and 248 lb.-ft. of peak torque at 4,700 rpm. Enhancements to this engine boost its fuel economy to projected EPA-estimated ratings of 21 mpg city/30 mpg highway, the best for any current V6 midsize sedan.”

        http://www.toyota.com/upcoming-vehicles/camry/pdfs/2012_Camry_Press_Release.pdf

        Sounds as if the guys who write the press releases and those who lead the press conferences don’t always communicate.

      • 0 avatar

        Well, the guys giving the presentation might not be reading directly off a thoroughly fact-checked script.

  • avatar
    mjz

    The instrument panel looks a lot nicer that the current car, but that seat fabric looks really cheesy, and why is the fabric a different color? Exterior is bland and unoffensive, but like the new Civic, doesn’t look like a “new” model.

  • avatar
    Marko

    I know this might seem like an odd comparison, but how does the new Camry compare to the new Scion tC? I have heard good things about the 2011+ Scion tC, with only two real complaints:

    1. the tires
    2. a certain stigma passed on from the first generation

    As for the 1992-1996 Camry, those were a true benchmark! I still see them all the time, and they have held up quite well – maybe a little rust here and there, but no peeling paint or disintegrating trim unlike, you know, certain “best-selling” competitors of the time…

    (Though a lot of 1997-2001 Camrys have fading paint, especially beige ones. I think around 1995 or so, Toyota started to cheapen paint/trim/etc., which explains the Tacoma rust issues. IMHO, Toyota worked that issue out with consumers well, however.)

    • 0 avatar
      threeer

      Kind of hard to compare the two, really. I own a 2011 tC…the interior pieces are a tad inexpensive for what I had come to hope for…but my wife loves the car, so there ya go. It runs the same (more or less) 4 cylinder with a six speed (we have the AT, as my wife can no longer comfortably drive a manual). It is much more comfortable over long distances than my 2004 Lancer Sportback Ralliart, but that comes from the a) bigger engine and b) different gearing. Sure, any number of folks will write to tell me that “XYZ” manufacturer’s two door is better/faster whatever. But given that it is Toyota running gear underneath (see previous posts regaring my family’s 30 year record with Toyota), we’re happy with it. But again, I’m not sure I’d attempt to compare it to a 2012 Camry. Different driving dynamics, way different style. And I got over the “chick” stigma of the tC…I rather enjoy driving it.

  • avatar
    carguy

    Nice work Michael. When seeing picture of the improved interior I was wondering what they had to sacrifice in order to get the price reductions. It’s no surprise that Toyota haven’t been able to meet their ’93 benchmarks. When you see that the old model was nearly $30K in today’s dollars (http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/08/chart-of-the-day-the-toyota-camry-index/), those cost savings have to be noticeable.

    The Koreans have really shaken up this market and I’m sure that things won’t get any easier as the Chinese will enter the fray over the next few years.

    What’s also worthy of note is how the consumer focus in this segment has changed of the last 15 years from refinement and luxury aspirations to cost and fuel economy front and center. Chalk it up to rising rising gas prices and the declining economic circumstance of the average buyer, but no one would be paying $30K today for this Camry even if the ride and engine smoothness were Rolls-Royce quality.

  • avatar
    jaje

    I normally consider “best selling” to mean to retail customers who paid closer to MSRP. For instance the Accord sold more to retail customers at higher margins than the Camry did for many of those years. Honda’s average fleet sales is < 2% of its total sales whereas Toyota's is much higher especially with the Camry / Corolla.

  • avatar
    azmtbkr81

    My parents are the stereotypical middle aged Toyota die-hards; Mom picked out her current Toyota, a 2005 Camry, by pointing to one on the lot in a color that she liked and that was it, the salesman had to twist her arm to get her to take it for a test drive. While it is comfortable, easy to drive and roomy it has had a number of problems that any conservatively driven, dealer maintained car with 75k on the clock shouldn’t have.

    This isn’t to say that she wouldn’t consider another Toyota, but she will look at other cars next time around which is a very scary proposition for Toyota. They’ve got to do better than the 2012 Camry or they risk losing what goodwill they have left.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      My sister is a card carrying Toyota lover. Has a ’97 Camry with 185K miles on the clock, all her, original owner. The car is a cream puff and lives a rather ideal life of 90% open highway driving, 5% suburban driving, and 5% horrific stop and go please kill me now. Garage kept at home and work. No kids. No pets. No smokers. Shoot I don’t think the backseat has been used 20 times. Total cream puff.

      She look in 2008 and again in 2010, hated the previous gen Camry, hated fit/finish/ride/feel and concluded, rightly, her ’97 was put together better and has a higher/richer level of content when it comes to materials.

      Doesn’t appear this will move the needle for her either. I’ve told her she should just keep the car until the wheels fall off, which appears to be happening sometime after 2024, if ever. The saying, “they just don’t build ‘em like they use to,” definitely applies to the Camry.

      • 0 avatar
        rpn453

        The saying, “they just don’t build ‘em like they use to,” definitely applies to the Camry.

        Yep, my buddy’s ’92 V6 5-speed will attest to that! When his mother was looking for a replacement before handing it down to him back in ’05, I helped her look at cars. On the Camry test drive, she thought it felt “unstable” on the highway because it was so floaty. She was also unimpressed with the interior quality. After driving that and a Matrix, she didn’t want a Toyota to replace her beloved Toyota that she had owned for 13 years and was happy to give to her son. She bought a Forester.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    “Toyota also touts the Camry’s storied reliability, pitching it as the “worry-free” choice.”

    Sure, but until they match Hyundai’s 10/100 warranty, it really isn’t.

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    I have to say, I am frustrated by all the accusations of being either pro-Toyota or anti-Toyota in the comments. There are a LOT of Camry reviews hitting the web this week, and from what I have read, MK’s is the best. As usual, Michael is honest, relevant and insightful. Thank you!

    • 0 avatar
      jj99

      In my opinion, the high strength steel upgrade is something usually seen on higher end German cars. This is a big big deal. But this review seems to hide this by trying to claim this vehicle is just an upgrade to the old model. High strength steel should provide best in class safety and best in class handling.

      If you want to see an upgrade to an old model, look to the recent Fusion. I wonder how the steel strength ranks in that one to the camry. Likewise, same question should be asked of Hyundai and GM. I would bet the answer would not be pretty, so the issue is sidelined.

      This is a substantial vehicle that should be given the title as best in class. Anyone that considers this vehicle a mistake or boring should not be in the auto industry.

      • 0 avatar
        tonycd

        No, jj, that’s where we differ. It shouldn’t be given the title as best in class.

        It should have to earn it.

      • 0 avatar
        mkirk

        So if I purchased the Yugo tooling and built it out of high strength steel instead of the commie stuff…

      • 0 avatar

        jj99,

        You’re reading far too much significance into the additional high-strength steel. Most, even all cars have some of it. Only the extent of its application varies. The primary impact in the current case is on the curb weight. The additional high-strength steel hasn’t magically transformed the Camry into a “premium” car. If you want a car built like a bank vault at a semi-affordable price, check out the Buick Regal. I don’t know how much high-strength steel is employed in the Regal, but can report that the car feels rock-solid.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        The use of high strength steel in and of itself doesn’t mean anything, other than maybe they spent more on materials. Many automakers use it to some extent or another usually to save weight. The fact that they lost 65lbs also does not point to the virtures of the car or the use of high strength steel. Many modern run of the mill cars have significant amount of weight in sound deadening and vibration dampening material. Did cutting back on that account for some or a large portion of that weight. Did they put a smaller battery in it and save a pound or 2 there?

        When a given engineer was assigned to a give part/sub assembly what were the target specs given: A. Decrease weight B. Decrease weight maintain current structural properties. C. Decrease weight while increasing one or more structural properties. or D increase certain structural properties.

      • 0 avatar

        This is a substantial vehicle that should be given the title as best in class.

        How much time have you spent behind the wheel of a 2012 Camry? Have you even sat in one?

        This is the automotive appliance equivalent to bench racing, like fanboys who have never gotten near a GT-R say that it’s “better” than a ZR1.

      • 0 avatar

        jj99,

        I live in the Detroit area where automotive vendors and suppliers have billboards and radio ads. Thyssan and other steel companies have been advertising and selling high strength steel to the domestic automakers for more than a decade.

        Also, while you obviously think that Japanese companies are inherently superior, I’m not sure that you realize that a good deal of the design and engineering of the new Camry was done not in Toyota City in Japan but rather at Toyota’s billion dollar R&D center in Ann Arbor, less than an hour from, gasp, Detroit.

  • avatar
    vvk

    Thank for the review!

    That 1992 Camry was really an amazing car at the time. We rented one to travel to Montreal and it was quite a wonderful car for me and my family. We really enjoyed it!

    My co-worker just bought a 2011 Camry with manual gearbox. It is really and excellent car and a great value for money. He paid something like $18.2k with 0% financing over 60 moths. The clutch feel is a little weird but not bad. The car eats up miles like there is no tomorrow. It is very quiet, exceedingly smooth and is really a great family car. And super economical — easy 35 mpg on the highway.

  • avatar
    300zx_guy

    Not bad for a Camry. The interior looks pretty good, but the center stack design, especially the way it rolls up over top of the dash, is completely incongruous with the rest of the design. All the changes sound like they are for the better, but based on the review, it sounds like the total is less than the sum of its parts (though I doubt the typical customer will notice). I expect the new Camry will sell well, but I think the days of CamCord dominating the charts are over, too much good competition out there. As an aside, I find it interesting that for a decidedly non-enthusiast oriented car, all articles I have seen online about the new Camry, from the previews to the reviews that have just come out since the embargo was lifted, have tons of comments posted.

  • avatar
    NulloModo

    Michael –

    Do all new Camrys have the LCD screen in the dash? Is it only included in models equipped with navigation, or is a non-nav LCD screen present across the entire line? I haven’t seen any press photos without the screen, but it could be Toyota is just photographing the higher end models.

  • avatar
    Davekaybsc

    RS4s and M3s will quake in their boots when they see Camry SE rolling up in the rear view! High strength steel people!!!!!!!! JJ you are cracking me up man, seriously. I hope Toyota is paying you, if they aren’t they should be.

  • avatar
    Advo

    I still think that Japanese cars are being designed to retain as much profit as possible because whatever gets sent back to Japan gets eaten away by an ever increasing yen.

    In a way, it’s like the Americans designing to the bean-counter’s specs to offset the increasing number of retirees to employees, with all those pensions and medical costs to pay off.

    Camry sales probably won’t decline much given that they recognized a main deterrent to sales in that people feel they’re no longer worth such a price premium. They can always put back content in the next version if circumstances become more favorable (and a lot can happen 4 to 5 years down the road).

    I wonder how easy it will be for Toyota to drop prices if they felt the need to defend their market position? Ford and Chevy can increase their interior quality to new Focus-like levels, but they have to be able to charge the prices that will cover the extra expense.

    BTW, I really like Ford’s cloth compared to the Japanese cars I’ve driven. It seems like it will wear a lot better for those who keep their cars longer.

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      “I still think that Japanese cars are being designed to retain as much profit as possible because whatever gets sent back to Japan gets eaten away by an ever increasing yen.

      In a way, it’s like the Americans designing to the bean-counter’s specs to offset the increasing number of retirees to employees, with all those pensions and medical costs to pay off.”

      Excellent observation Advo. This is a characteristic I’ve noticed for the last several years, too.

      The Detroit manufacturers had no choice in the face of higher costs domestically, and inadvertantly started a decontenting war. Now VW and the Japanese have picked up the gauntlet, while BK allows GM and Chrysler to reboot and make profits.

      This Camry comes into an entirely different world than it’s predecessors, it’s no longer the default choice. Ford, GM, VW and Hyundai/Kia are all gunning for midsize segment superiority, it will be interesting to see who will get the crown.

  • avatar

    I have to admit, this market segment is new territory for me so be patient with me. I am looking at the Civic, Focus SE, Eco Cruze, and the Ellantra for their 40 mpg highway rating. I visit the Toyota website and I can not find a single vehicle from Toyota that matches these numbers in non hybrid guise. Am I missing something?

    Another observation. I have several friends with Hondas and they all swear by them and I have to agree that their reliability is unmatched except maybe Toyota. But, after test driving them, I observe the same decontenting that others have mentioned in this discussion. I went to adjust the seat and no power! This gives a bad first impression since it is the one of the first things a person does when they enter a vehicle. I could go on but you get the picture. Honda is stagnant and in this market, that is as good as dead.

    • 0 avatar
      tonycd

      Westcott, you seem to be asking this question in good conscience, so I’ll try to offer you a simple and sincere answer.

      First, gas mileage: Toyota’s entry in this class is the Yaris. It will be arriving in the next several months as a redesigned model, probably with a gas mileage improvement that will put it roughly at parity with these competitors. But keep in mind that there’s nothing magical about 40 versus, say, 38. Services like IntelliChoice.com or Michael Karesh’s own TrueDelta.com can help you gain a perspective on the true difference in price and operating cost, feature for feature and MPG-for-MPG.

      Second, decontenting: Most people feel you’re right. Toyota and Honda have drawn a lot of unfavorable commentary for this kind of decontenting. It’s a reason why Hyundai and sister company Kia, in particular, have been able to close the sales gap on them substantially by delivering more equipment and higher-line trim at lower or similar prices.

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    You can count on the following

    A) The old foggies will continue to snap these up
    B) They will notice the firmer suspension and complain vocally about it
    C) 90& of the populace will not even notice that most of the exterior body panals are new
    D) They will still sell like hotcakes but not quite at the insane rate they did before with better competition
    E) The interior on most will still be boring gray with mouse fur seat material

  • avatar
    tallnikita

    You cannot but cheer them on. Knowing what they want, achieving it, and making money in the process.
    Meanwhile, public service announcement for all those buyers sweating over $18K+ spec sheets for Jetta, Golf, Civic, Elantra, you can get a brand new Camry for that kind of money, and you can even go all out with a stick shift and feel young again. Thanks, Toyota!

    • 0 avatar
      Bimmer

      but Camry is one class bigger, not everyone wants that. Plus 2011 Camry is outdated comparing to competition. I assumed you were talking about 2011, since 2012 is not yet available and no stick is offered.


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