Thursday, April 26, 2012

Tweaks add to luster of popular Toyota Camry

No car in America outsells the Toyota Camry. So when the Japanese automaker turned its design attention toward a seventh generation of the high-volume midsize sedan, the results were more subtle than a creeping shadow.

The 2012 Camry has the same dimensions of length, width and wheelbase of its predecessor with new materials trimming 150 pounds from the overall weight. There is a slightly different profile with a more raked windshield and freshened taillights being the most noticeable alterations.

Inside, though, is another story. It’s hard not to be impressed by the new leather dashboard that has a layered effect with full-length flap and pronounced stitching. Very classy. The instrument panel is new, and a 6.1-inch touchscreen absorbs many functions.

All Camrys now have a 60/40 split/folding rear seat that enhances a 15.4 cubic foot trunk. Rear seat passengers also gain a bit more legroom from past models.

The base engine is a 178-horsepower, 2.5-liter 4-cylinder that teams with a 6-speed automatic transmission to offer quick-start response and adequate performance in all operations. For those desiring a V-6 engine, a 268-horsepower, 3.5-liter should do the trick.

Camrys come in L, LE, XLE and SE trims. Prices start at $21,955 for an L and extend to $29,845 for an XLE with a V-6 engine. The SE comes with a sport-tuned suspension. There is also a hybrid version that is treated separately.

I tested the XLE with a 4-cylinder engine that started at $24,725. With a power sunroof, power front seats, dual-zone automatic climate controls, heated power mirrors, fog lights, alloy wheels and 17-inch tires on top of the L and LE features, this was a well-equipped car. Three extensive option packages brought leather interior, navigation, push-button start, back-up camera and Toyota’s Entune multimedia system that links a smartphone to dining and entertainment options via the touchscreen.

Among the keys to the Toyota Camry’s success has 
been that it can be many things to many people.

While it may not be the perfect car, it’s proven good enough to be No. 1.

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