published Saturday, January 28th, 2012

Kennedy: Redesigned Toyota Camry adds more flash and cool dash

This 2012 Barcelona Red Camry SE Sedan from Toyota of Cleveland, Tenn., combines good fuel economy and sporty handling.
This 2012 Barcelona Red Camry SE Sedan from Toyota of Cleveland, Tenn., combines good fuel economy and sporty handling.


Model: 2012 Toyota Camry SE

Exterior color: Barcelona Red Metallic

Interior: Gray and black

Engine: 2.5 liter, four-cylinder

Horsepower: 178

Transmission: Six-speed automatic

Fuel economy: 35 highway/25 city

Dealer: Toyota of Cleveland.

Price (as tested): $24,363

When the Toyota Camry, the best-selling car in North America over the last decade, gets a major re-design, it's big news in the automotive world.

The 2012 Camry went on sale in September in area Toyota stores and already is turning heads on Chattanooga area streets. This marks the 30th year of production for the Camry, and most of the domestic supply is assembled up the road in Georgetown, Ky.

Our test car, a Barcelona Red Metallic Camry in SE trim from Toyota of Cleveland, exemplifies Toyota's attempt to add a little pizzazz to its bread-and-butter mid-sized sedan.


The new exterior sheet metal has sharper lines than the last-generation Camry, and the interior has been redesigned with a more upscale dash. In SE trim, classy tri-color seats are added.

Unlike the previous generation Camry, which was a bit more cat-like in appearance, the new sheet-metal is crisp and aggressive. The lack of pronounced lateral lines makes the Camry seem taller. Moreover, the uncluttered body style should wear well for the Camry's typical five-year design cycle.

Our sport-tuned SE also comes with such embellishments as 17-inch alloy wheels with Bridgestone all-season tires, fog lights, heated outside mirrors and a leather-clad steering wheel.

Our test car also had Toyota's Display Audio system with navigation. The display deploys the company's new Web-based Entune interface. The touch-screen was easy to use, even for a novice. Brushed aluminum accents add to the interior's sporty feel.

I immediately noticed other drivers checking out the new Camry on a test drive on N.W. 25th St. in Cleveland. Meanwhile, I was busy squeezing the nicely padded steering wheel and surveying a new leather-look dash treatment that is positively Jaguaresque. (Unfortunately, plastics in the doors don't have the same tactile richness.)

Sport seats featuring leather bolsters and textured cloth inlays are big upgrades from the previous model.

The center stack features a display screen that serves as the command center for Entune's radio, CD and navigation functions and eliminates the array of switches and buttons on many new cars. Heat and air controls are oversized and intuitive to use.


Our test car was powered by Toyota's 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine, which makes 178 horsepower. A V-6 engine packing 268 horsepower also is available. Cruising down I-75 near exit 20, our four-cylinder test car was quiet and well-composed at the speed limit, exhibiting Toyota's legendary cabin isolation. Still, the SE is the driver's car in the Camry line, and the handling was much crisper and the steering more responsive than the previous generation. Paddle shifters on the steering wheel let you shift gears manually without a clutch if you desire.

It's easy to find a comfortable driving position in the 2012 Camry.

On the safety front, 10 airbags are set to deploy in case of a crash.

When it comes time to close the sale, expect your dealer to point to the new Camry's fuel-sipping nature. Expect 35 mpg on the highway and 25 mpg in the city.


The new Camry arrives at a time of intense competition in the mid-size class with the Chattanooga-made Passat and the popular Korean-company sedans, the Kia Optima and Hyundai Sonata, vying for market share. And don't forget the venerable Honda Accord and the sporty new Ford Fusion on the horizon.

Still, the redesigned Camry will generate tons of traffic for Toyota dealerships nationally this year. And, as usual, expect it to be the default choice of hundreds of thousands of American car buyers who value dependability and see in the new Camry an attractive combination of price and spice.

about Mark Kennedy...

Mark Kennedy is a Times Free Press columnist and editor. He writes the "LIfe Stories" human interest column for the City section and the "Family Life" column for the Life section. He also writes an automotive column, “Test Drive,” for the Business section. For 13 years, Kennedy was features editor of the newspaper, and before that he was the newspaper’s first Sunday editor. The Times Free Press Life section won the state press award for ...

Comments do not represent the opinions of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, nor does it review every comment. Profanities, slurs and libelous remarks are prohibited. For more information you can view our Terms & Conditions and/or Ethics policy.
rjanmozkie said...

The redesign model of Camry was far from the old one. This is just a proved that innovation really works majority for the automotive industry. Toyota camry has actually fulfilled the expectations of the public after the issue in the prius several years ago. The latest series is equipped with the most advanced engine and interior features that would truly take driving to the next level. On the other hand, upon the launching is the ready to use replacement Toyota parts that would truly help people in addressing the issue. There are also manuals that would assist drivers and car owners especially during the installation.

February 27, 2012 at 5:09 a.m.
J3rrYcid said...

With the recent Toyota failures that result in casualty crashes, I wonder if car customers continue to trust in the brand. It is hard to fully support a brand after discovering such a serious fault. To protect the brand’s reputation, I believe in the importance of checking the auto parts before shipping it to the consumers. It might be tedious, and it might cost money, but in the end, it will give extra reassurance to the customers that the brand truly cares for them, and that they can trust in the quality of the car parts.

December 27, 2012 at 2:26 a.m.
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