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2012 Toyota Camry SE V6 Sport Review & Test Drive

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‘KEEPING THE LEADERSHIP’ 

The all-new 2012 Toyota Camry is the seventh-generation andAmerica’s best selling mid-size car for nine years straight, and 13 of the past 14 years.  The all-new 2012 Camry debuts with a bolder, more sophisticated design, a more spacious cabin for five adults, improved driving dynamics and an even quieter ride than before.  With class leading safety, fuel economy and multi-media technology added in, the end result is the best Camry ever made.

I tested the ‘top-of-the-line’ SE and this model brought me back into the fold as the best all-around mid-size sport sedan offered in America.

The 3.5 liter V6 delivers 268hp at 6,200rpm and 248lb.ft. of torque at 4,700rpm while returning EPA specs of 21mpg/city and 30mpg/highway, the best for any current V6 midsize sedan.  The V6 uses chain-driven camshafts and Dual Variable Valve Timing with intelligence to give the engine a more flat torque curve.  To improve efficiency, the V6 features a new, lower oil viscosity and an automatic transmission fluid warmer that brings the transmission to operating temperature more quickly in cold weather.  Higher final drive-gear ratios also contribute to better fuel economy in the new Camry V6.

All gas-driven Camry’s come equipped exclusively with a six-speed automatic transmission that offers a sequential manual shift mode using the console shifter.  Intelligent control adapts shifting strategy in response to driver input, with fast kick-down.  In addition, the SE exclusively offers a ‘D range’ sequential shifting, which allows you to shift gears using the new steering wheel paddle shifters even when the console shifter is in the ‘D’ mode.  Also exclusive to the SE, the automatic transmission features faster shift times when in the ‘S’ mode, and more exciting, downshift blipping control emphasizes more sportiness and by matching rpms when downshifting or upshifting.  Now real enthusiasts can have more fun behind the wheel of the all-new SE.

Further adding to the fun, excitement and enjoyment of piloting the all-new Camry SE is a more rigid body structure, revised front suspension, redesigned rear suspension and aerodynamics that all help to imbue the new Camry with greater straight-line stability and crisper steering response to your inputs while also enhancing overall ride comfort.  Handling stability, more than just conveying a sense of driving enjoyment, also greatly influences your feeling of security.

The all-new 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 before.  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-rear 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 and stabilizer-bar and shock absorber damping have all been revised.

The SE model that I tested is further differentiated from the other models with further specific sport suspension components and tuning, including exclusive steering knuckles and lighter, stiffer lower control arms.  The front and rear springs are exclusive to this model, and the shock absorbers feature internal rebound springs for greater cornering roll resistance.  The rear suspension #1 control arm uses a pillow-ball bushing to further enhance handling agility.  If that wasn’t enough to increase the handling finesse of the SE, this model also features a power-assist ratio on the new electric power steering system that provides a more sporty feeling with quicker response than on the LE and XLE model Camry’s.  Also, electricity is only consumed when assist power is necessary, helping to improve fuel economy.

Slowing the all-new Camry SE down from speed are large, power-assisted, 4-wheel disc brakes.  Up front are 11.6 inch vented discs clamped with dual-piston calipers while 11 inch solid rear disc are clamped with large, single-piston calipers.  Enhancing your stopping power and control are standard ABS, EBD and BA with VSC and TRAC working together with the braking systems to keep you and your passengers safe in all braking situations.

The new SE rides on the first 18X8 inch alloy wheels on a Camry, and features a unique twist-spoke design wrapped with 225/45R18 inch all-season tires with excellent grip and smooth ride.

New rear combination lamps and sideview mirrors on the all-new Camry incorporate aero stabilizing fins, inspired by Formula One racing technology, that create air vortexes on the body sides to stabilize the body and contribute to handling stability.  New underbody aerodynamic elements up front and in the rear regulate airflow under the vehicle to further a smooth ride, and a standard rear spoiler is employed on the trunk lip on the SE to increase rear downforce.

The exterior styling of the new Camry also refines the model with elegant but modern forms emphasizing a wider and lower stance than ever before.  The design conveys an ‘architectural statement’ through crisp, precise character lines, while a more strongly curved door cross-section and more defined rocker panel molding give the Camry a more expressive appearance.

Headlights show a more dynamic shape, with a pronounced curvature of the main-beam unit merging into the bumper cover.  Foglamps are standard on the XLE and SE.  The rear lamp clusters wrap tightly into the body sides with their top section extending into the trunk panel.

The SE takes it further with its own lower-body design and exclusive fine-mesh upper grille section.  The SE also features a three-part lower grille section housing foglamps, along with black sport trim headlamp bezels.  The more prominent rocker panel moldings on the SE cleanly link to integrated front and rear underbody spoilers, emphasizing width, and the trunk lid carries an integrated spoiler.  Down below the rear bumper are two, wide chromed exhaust tips further adding to the sportier look.

While featuring nearly the same external dimensions as the previous model, the 2012 Camry offers a more inviting, modern and spacious cabin.  A new dashboard design, modified seat locations, redesigned seats and ‘lean’ door, pillar and headliner trim all combine to add both real space and greater perceptual spaciousness while also enhancing outward visibility.  Repositioning the driver’s seat and the standard tilt/telescoping leather-wrapped steering wheel on the SE (tilt has increased 33%) also aid forward visibility and enhance your position.

The throttle pedal and front seats were moved forward, and the rear-seat hip point was positioned rearward, increasing the couple distance by 0.6 inch; together with reshaped front seatbacks help increase rear-knee room by 1.8 inch.  The redesigned center console and front edge of the rear-seat cushion increase rear middle seat legroom by two inches.

Not as obvious are the many areas where Camry designers reshaped interior trim to increase the feeling of spaciousness, including the A and B pillars, headliner over the rear seat and door trim.  Three-dimensional construction and contrasting-material textures give the new instrument panel a feeling of depth, while the shapes themselves contribute to a more spacious cabin and improved forward sightlines.  The prominently curved center cluster appears to float over the instrument panel, reducing its visual mass.  Soft textures used on the upper instrument panel, upper door trim; door armrests and center console armrest contribute to greater comfort.  Stitching on the instrument panel soft padding and matching stitching-look trim elsewhere helps to create a sense of luxury.  Aluminum color and chrome trim are used judiciously.  The SE model features unique front and rear upholstery in black-on-black, or black-on-gray.  The height adjustment on the driver’s seat offers nearly a half inch grater range than before.  The SE’s sporty front seats provide thicker side bolsters, and the exclusive 3-spoke leather-wrapped steering wheel offers paddle-shift control for the six-speed automatic transmission.

The new Camry provides the added functionality demanded by consumers today, yet keeps it controls straightforward and intuitive to use.  Control knobs impart a high-precision fee when used.  The instrument cluster is easy to see and understand.  Special attention was paid to function and comfort with the center console design.  Soft kneepads on both sides add comfort up front; the front section offers a 12-volt accessory connector and an easy-to-access USB/input jack port for connection iPods and other media devices.  A sliding rear console door-rather than a more traditional flip-up design-enables easier access from either seat.  All Camry’s now feature a standard 60/40 split folding rear seatback to expand cargo capacity.  The seats can be lowered by remote release from the trunk area.  Rear-seat side airbags are standard, and an armrest with dual cupholders adds comfort and convenience.

Seamlessly integrated into the Camry are state-of-the-art electronics and enhanced connectivity features.  A Bluetooth wireless connection for compatible hands-free phone calls is standard, now improved by an available phone book transfer function.  Also standard is a USB port that allows playing of music and video from portable devices, using the vehicle sound system and available in-dash display screen, including full iPod integration.

The top-of-the-line audio is equipped with a new seven-inch Premium HDD Navigation system with Entune and JBL.  This system offers a new split-screen feature that allows for simultaneously displayi8ng navigation and audio information.

My Camry SE had the new JBL GreenEdge audio system that combines a eight-channel amplifier and door-mounted ‘acoustic lens’ speakers, to provide a high-quality sound.  The GreenEdge amplifier achieves a 66% reduction in overall mass and a 50% enhancement in sound efficiency.  The GreenEdge speakers produce a high output of sound with the same power or less consumption of conventional models.

The all-new 2012 Camry is the firstToyotato offer the Entune multimedia system.  For the first time ever in aToyotaautomobile, this new system leverages the mobile smartphone to provide a richer in-vehicle experience with fully integrated access to navigation, entertainment and information services.  Entune is the first ever to support for engaging mobile apps, such as Bing, OpenTable and movietickets.com.  Entune brings the largest selection of music options available to a vehicle including iHeartRadio’s 750+ stations and Pandora’s personalized music service.

The all-new Camry is one of the safest vehicles to be driving or as a passenger with standard features including 10-airbags, driver/front passenger knee & seat-mounted side front and rear side curtain airbags, LATCH system, tire pressure monitoring, front/side/rear crumple zones, whiplash-injury lessoning front seats, 3-point safety belts with pretensioners/load limiters up front.

The all-new 2012 Camry is a much better mid-size family sedan than ever-more refined, more contemporary.  Overall it should keep it leadership sales position in 2012.

COPYRIGHT: 2011: HARVEY SCHWARTZ

SPECIFICATIONS

  • Price: Base Camry L $21,955 / Base Camry SE $26,640.00
  • Engine: (SE V6) 3.5-liter 24-Valve DOHC V6 268 horsepower @ 6,200rpm / 248 lb.ft. torque @ 4,700rpm
  • Wheelbase: 109.3in.
  • Total length: 180.2in.
  • Total width: 71.7in.
  • Total height: 57.9in.
  • Track: f/r-62/61.6in.
  • Ground clearance: 6.1in.
  • Coefficient of drag: 0.28
  • Turning circle: 36.7ft.
  • Fuel tank: 17 gallons
  • Legroom: f/r-41.6/38.9in.
  • Headroom: f/r-38.8/37.9in.
  • EPA passenger volume: 102.7cu.ft.
  • EPA cargo volume: 15.4cu.ft.
  • Curb weight: 3,420lbs.
  • EPA mileage: 21mpg/city, 30mpg/highway
  • 0-60 mph: 5.8 seconds

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