2012 Toyota Camry Review and Prices

Last Updated: Aug 23, 2011

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2012 Toyota Camry Buying Advice

The 2012 Toyota Camry is the best car for you if you want the all-new version of a family-car icon.

The 2012 Toyota Camry is fully redesigned with new styling, better fuel economy – and lower prices. It’s the first all-new Camry since model-year 2007, but Toyota steers clear of radical changes that threaten Camry’s standing as America’s best-selling car. The 2012 Camry continues as a roomy, front-wheel-drive midsize four-door sedan. Refinement and easy-driving predictability remain its hallmarks. Highlights include a vastly improved gas-electric hybrid model that rates a stellar 41 mpg combined city/highway. Toyota otherwise plays it safe with little-changed four- and six-cylinder gas engines. Exterior dimensions duplicate those of the 2007-2011 Camry but all-new sheet metal takes a cautious step toward livelier styling. The cabin’s design skews a bit younger, too, and the quality of interior materials improves slightly, reversing a trend.

Should you buy a 2012 Toyota Camry or wait for the 2013 Toyota Camry? Buy a 2012 Camry. It packs advances that accompany an all-new design and will look fresh for years to come. The 2013 Camry won’t change enough to warrant waiting, but its prices probably will rise.

2012 Toyota Camry Changes back to top

Styling: The 2012 Toyota Camry has creases where its predecessor had curves. Its body hints at a wedge-shape profile, the grille has a trendy big-mouth lower opening, and the taillights are boomerang-shaped. Slightly flared door sills suggest a road-hugging stance. The look is contemporary but prudent, aerodynamically efficient but deliberately unadventurous. Toyota points out that 50 percent of new-Camry buyers are current Camry owners. That’s loyalty no automaker wants to alienate with polarizing styling.   

The 2012 Camry lineup is familiar, as well. It again begins with an entry-level edition, formerly the called CE or “Standard” model but now labeled the L. Continuing are the volume-selling LE, sporty SE, and upscale XLE gas models. Previously offered in one trim level, the 2012 Camry Hybrid is now divided into LE and XLE versions. Visual features distinguishing the trim levels are limited mostly to subtle exterior details and wheel size. The 2012 Camry SE does stand out with some aero add-ons and a mesh-insert grille accented in body color instead of chrome. And the XLE gets a strip of chrome trim bridging the taillamps.

Dimensionally, this seventh-generation Camry is remarkably consistent and remains at the median of the midsize-class size spectrum. It has the same overall length, height, width, and wheelbase as the sixth-generation Camry. Designers did reshape critical areas of the interior to make it slightly roomier, however. The biggest gain is in the rear seat, where legroom and hip room increase a half-inch. The biggest loss is in front, where headroom is trimmed nearly an inch.

The overall result is another spacious-feeling cabin in which four adults won’t carp about being cramped. And thanks to improved sound deadening, they’ll seldom complain of unpleasant mechanical or wind noise. Still, the back seat isn’t wide enough to accommodate three grownups without some shoulder compression. That’s true of most midsize sedans, though it would be nice if the 2012 Camry emulated the few that elevate the rear cushion slightly so passengers don’t feel quite so buried. A middle-rear armrest tall enough to actually provide some elbow support would be appreciated, too. And only the top-line XLE model gets dedicated rear-seat ventilation outlets.

Bins and cubbies furnish more-than-adequate interior storage. Trunk space is a useful 15.4 cubic feet, up from 15.0, with only nominal intrusion from the gooseneck lid hinges. Housing battery hardware behind the rear seat gives the 2012 Camry Hybrid a 13.1-cubic-foot trunk. That’s 2.5 cubic feet more than in the 2011 Hybrid, thanks to a more compact battery pack. The right half of the Hybrid’s rear seatback folds to extend cargo space. All other 2012 Camry models have 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks.

Camry’s 2012 redesign brings a new instrument panel with a more vertical and compartmentalized motif. It’s logical, orderly, and a bit more youthful in character than the sixth-generation’s layout. On LE models and above, the central dashboard section incorporates a screen that displays audio functions and, on models with the navigation system, maps and directions. In the 2012 Camry Hybrid, the screen can depict the flow of electric versus gas power; the Hybrid’s main gauges also are customized for more detailed fuel-consumption data. This hybrid, however, does without the fancy color-changing backlighting or digital foliage used in some rivals to coach or scold the driver to improve efficiency.

The need to cut weight and costs is compelling virtually all carmakers to use thinner cabin panels and minimize soft-touch surfaces. Other recently redesigned Toyotas have succumbed to the trend, but the 2012 Camry’s interior seems as nicely finished as that of the outgoing model -- and exceeds it for quality feel in some areas. Of note is the genuine cloth stitching evident across the dashboard, itself impressively padded in crucial areas. Each 2012 Camry model gets its own plastic console and door trim: silver on S, L and LE, grained gunmetal on the SE, faux wood on the XLE, and “metallic tech” on the Hybrid. None is particularly attractive, but the edge probably goes to the Hybrid for good taste. The XLE deserves a brickbat for evoking a 1980s Oldsmobile.

Mechanical: The 2012 Camry won’t completely shed its predecessors’ reputation as a boring driving experience – although the reputation was overstated by critics disinclined to appreciate the car’s intentionally isolating nature. Indeed, the 2012 Camry L, LE, and XLE models uphold that spirit of refinement while dialing in just enough additional road feel to add a welcome sense of enhanced control. The balance and response of the 2012 Camry Hybrid is a minor revelation, while the 2012 Camry SE model with the V-6 engine can entertain enthusiastic drivers.          

Toyota avoids the adding cost of developing new or significantly upgraded gas powertrains by launching the 2012 Camry with proven four- and six-cylinder engines. It also deviates from a fresh course being set by such competitors as the Hyundai Sonata, redesigned 2013 Chevrolet Malibu, and 2013 Ford Fusion. They’re among the midsize cars transitioning to an all-four-cylinder-engine lineup, and in the case of the Sonata and Fusion, are resorting to turbocharging to replicate the power of a V-6.

The 2012 Camry’s 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine carries over from the sixth-generation model but is enhanced to 178 horsepower and 170 pound-feet of torque. That compares with the outgoing version’s 169 horsepower and 167 pound-feet of torque (this engine made 179 horsepower and 171 pound-feet of torque in 2011 SE models). Think of torque as the force that supplies acceleration, horsepower as the energy that sustains momentum.

The V-6 available in the 2012 Camry SE and XLE models is again a 3.5-liter with 268 horsepower and 248 pound-feet of torque. The V-6, however, is no longer offered in LE models.

The 2012 Camry’s sole transmission is a floor-shifted six-speed automatic with a separate gate for manual-type gear control. The 2012 SE models add Camry’s first-ever steering-wheel manual-shift paddles. No longer available is the seldom-ordered six-speed manual transmission, which had been standard on base and four-cylinder LE and SE models.

With either engine, a 2012 Camry will accelerate well enough to sate any reasonable expectation, and throttle response probably will exceed expectations thanks to the astute calibration of the smooth-shifting transmission. Also deserving credit are Toyota’s laudable weight-trimming measures. Gas-engine versions of the new car are lighter than their sixth-generation counterparts by a minimum of 89 pounds and in some cases, by a significant 243 pounds.

Handling benefits from the weight-savings and from Carmy’s first use of electric power steering -- which also improves fuel economy by eliminating the drag on the engine of a hydraulic system. Steering on all 2012 Camrys is responsive and natural-feeling, but tires fitted to the various models have a noticeable effect on overall road manners. L and LE Camrys (including the Hybrid) have 16-inch tires and flow progressively through turns but suffer scrub and noseplow as cornering speeds increase. XLE models and the four-cylinder SE have 17-inch tires and afford a bit more cornering grip.

The 2012 Camry SE’s tauter sport suspension and specific steering tuning are most evident when teamed with the 18-inch tires supplied with V-6 SE models. This car bites nicely in changes of direction and can tackle a twisting road with zest, especially if you employ the steering-wheel paddles to keep the 3.5-liter in its powerband. The V-6 SE, however, is the only 2012 Camry to suffer undue tire roar on coarse surfaces and to fail at keeping sharp bumps and ruts from registering through the seats and structure. On the upside, it’s also the lone 2012 Camry model that fully resists porpoising motions during rapid passage over wavy surfaces.  

The 2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid again teams a gas four-cylinder engine with an electric-motor/battery system. It retains the ability to run on either or both power sources and requires no plug-in charging. The engine is of a more advanced design than the sixth-generation hybrid’s and displaces 2.5 liters instead of 2.4. Net output is 200 horsepower, up from 187. (Toyota does not list a net hybrid torque figure, though it says the electric motor alone generates 199 pound-feet). Some rival hybrids have adopted advanced lithium-ion battery technology, but the 2012 Camry Hybrid again uses nickel-metal hydride batteries. Toyota has reduced the size and weight of the pack, however, and has improved its ability to store and deliver power.

The Hybrid’s onboard sensors still automatically determine what blend of gas and electric propulsion best balances power and fuel economy. The 2012 Camry Hybrid gains a dashboard button to engage an EV (electric-vehicle) mode. Battery charge permitting, EV mode can lock in pure-electric running up to 25 mph. The car also gains an Eco button that modulates throttle and air conditioning to maximize fuel savings. Under ideal conditions, Toyota says the 2012 Camry Hybrid can reach 47 mph and travel about 1.5 miles on electricity alone. The Hybrid again uses a continuously variable transmission (CVT), which performs the duties of an automatic transmission but without stepped gear ratios.

Weight savings for the 2012 Camry Hybrid are pronounced; it’s more than 230 pounds lighter than the 2011 Camry Hybrid. Combine that with the stronger and more responsive gas-electric system and the 2012 Camry Hybrid is surprisingly satisfying to drive. It’s lazier off the line than LE and XLE four-cylinder models but feels faster otherwise, and is tangibly better balanced in turns. Reduced fuel consumption and lower exhaust emissions are no longer the only reasons to choose a Camry Hybrid over a gas model.

The 2012 Camry retains front-wheel drive, which concentrates the mass of the engine and transmission in the nose of the car. That’s best for efficient packaging. And by concentrating weight over the tires that also propel the car, it aids traction in rain and snow. Front-wheel drive seldom matches the handling balance of rear-wheel drive. But Camry’s aim is a predictable, easy-to-drive nature. All models have a fully independent suspension and four-wheel disc brakes with an override system that counteracts the throttle if the brake and accelerator pedals are activated simultaneously.  

Every 2012 Camry also comes with Toyota’s Star Safety System. Designed as a comprehensive aid to vehicle control, it integrates the actions of Toyota’s Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) antiskid system to combat sideways slides, an anti-lock braking system (ABS) to improve control in emergency stops, and traction control to reduce wheel spin on take-offs.  Every 2012 Camry also has 10 passenger airbags that include, in addition to head-protecting curtain side airbags, driver and passenger front knee airbags and torso-protecting rear-seat-mounted outboard-side airbags.

Features: Toyota could hardly have sold 15 million Camrys in more than 20 countries since 1983 without a clear idea of the car’s blueprint for success. Techo-wizardry is clearly not part of the formula. So the redesigned 2012 Camry does without features like Hyundai’s BlueLink onboard telemetry that sends the owner a text if the car leaves a predetermined geographic area.

However, the 2012 Camry does supply the infotainment and connectivity features even conservative midsize-car buyers demand these days -- plus some they may not anticipate.

Every new Camry comes with Bluetooth hands-free mobile phone connectivity and a USB iPod interface. On LE models and above, Bluetooth and audio functions are controlled by buttons and a rocker switch attached to the spoke of the redesigned Camry’s new steering wheel. The controls work as intended but reside in a bulky pod that looks like a slap-dash addition to the steering wheel rather than an integrated component.

Also standard on every 2012 Camry is cruise control, an outside temperature gauge, air conditioning, and power windows, locks, and mirrors. All models come with a six-speaker audio system, but LE and four-cylinder SE and XLE models upgrade with Toyota’s Display Audio. This includes a 6.1-inch dashboard touchscreen, plus expanded Bluetooth connectivity that includes phone-book access and more robust music streaming than in the L model.

Standard on V-6 2012 Camrys and optional on four-cylinder SE and XLE models is a further upgrade Toyota calls Display Audio with Navigation and Entune. This retains the 6.1-inch touchscreen but adds a navigation system, satellite and HD radio, and the automaker’s new Entunes technology. Entunes works with smartphones to access popular mobile applications, including the Bing search engine and iheartradio and Pandora Internet radio services. It enables casual-speech voice command of audio and navigation functions and can convert incoming text messages to speech, answering with programmable responses.

Optional on all SE and XLE models is Toyota’s Display Audio with Navigation, Entune, and JBL. This mouthful incorporates the JBL-brand Green Edge audio system, which is designed for high-end performance at a fraction of the weight and power consumption of comparable systems. It has 10 speakers and a subwoofer. Exclusive to V-6 XLE models is the 2012 Camry’s ultimate infotainment option. This includes all the aforementioned navigation, connectivity, and audio systems but uses a 7-inch dashboard touchscreen. This not only is a valuable size advantage over the 6.1-inch screen but the 7-inch screen delivers markedly sharper resolution, dual-screen-display capability, and a clearer presentation of information.

The 2012 Camry L doesn’t come with remote keyless entry and is not available with any factory options. Key options for other 2012 Camry models include a power moonroof for LE and SE models; the moonroof is standard on XLEs. A Convenience Package with proximity unlocking, pushbutton ignition, and a rearview backup camera is optional on SE models and four-cylinder XLEs and standard on V-6 XLEs. Leather upholstery and heated front seats are optional on the four-cylinder XLE and standard on V-6 XLEs. All SE models are available with leather seats trimmed in imitation-suede.   

Interestingly, Toyota reserves some safety adjuncts for the XLE model. This is the only 2012 Camry available with blind-spot detection to warn of unseen vehicles in adjacent lanes and with Toyota’s Safety Connect system, which provides emergency assistance, automatic collision notification, and stolen vehicle location assistance.

2012 Toyota Camry Prices back to top

Base-price range for the 2012 Toyota Camry is $22,715-$30,605.That represents a price decrease for every Camry model except the entry-level version, which increases $710. By way of comparison, the base 2011 Camry started at $22,005 with automatic transmission and the equivalent 2012 Camry L model starts at $22,715. At the top the 2012 Camry lineup, the 2012 Camry XLE V-6 model is priced the same as its 2011 counterpart while the 2012 Camry XLE with the four-cylinder engine starts a full $2,000 below that of the corresponding 2011 XLE. And the 2012 Camry Hybrid line’s new LE trim level starts $1,150 below the lowest priced 2011 Camry Hybrid.

By holding the price increase on the least-expensive 2012 Camry to an effective 3.3 percent and by reducing or maintaining prices on the other models, Toyota aims to position the 2012 Camry as a highly competitive value while encouraging Camry LE shoppers to consider the newly affordable SE and XLE versions.

Historically, LE models accounted for about 65 percent of Camry sales, but Toyota says it hopes the new pricing strategy will reduce that share to around 50 percent. Part of the agenda is to promote interest in the sporty Camry SE to attract more buyers in their 40s to a car line that has traditionally appealed to folks in their mid-50s. And Toyota says the addition of the lower-cost LE trim should help increase 2012 Camry Hybrid sales slightly, to about 13 percent of Camry’s total anticipated 360,000-unit annual run.

Note that base prices in this review include the manufacturer’s mandatory destination fee. Toyota’s fee for the 2012 Camry is unchanged at $760. The fee may vary for Toyotas purchased in Southeastern and Gulf states.

The 2012 Camry L model starts at $22,715, including the newly standard automatic transmission. That’s actually some $1,500 above the starting price of its 2011-model counterpart, which came with a manual transmission and was valuable in attracting buyers doing Internet searches for cars under $21,000. Expect the 2012 Camry L to interest mainly rental- and business-fleet buyers.  

Base price of the 2012 Toyota Camry LE is $23,260. Like the 2012 L model, the LE comes with 16-inch tires on steel wheels with plastic wheel covers. It adds to the L such standard features as variable intermittent windshield wipers, remote keyless entry, the steering-wheel Bluetooth and audio controls, and two 12-volt power outlets instead of one. Key extra-cost features for the 2012 Carmy LE include an option that bundles a power driver’s seat, power moonroof, dual illuminated visor mirrors, and a rear reading lamp.   

Base price of the 2012 Camry SE is $23,760 with the four-cylinder engine and $27,400 with the V-6. Along with the sport-tuned suspension and steering, SE models add to LEs such features as halogen headlamps, fog lamps, heated mirrors, chrome exhaust tips, and the specific grille and aero trim. Four-cylinder SE models get the 17-inch tires, V-6s the 18s, both on alloy wheels. Inside, SEs add a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, paddle shifters, and front buckets contoured to provide additional lateral support. A power driver’s seat is standard on the V-6 SE and optional on four-cylinder SEs. In addition to the aforementioned audio/navigation/Entune systems, key Camry SE options include the moonroof, the leather/Ultrasuede upholstery with leather door trim, and heated front seats.

The 2012 Camry XLE is priced from $25,485 with the four-cylinder engine and around $30,605 with the V-6. Standard XLE equipment includes 17-inch alloy wheels, power moonroof, and chrome touches front and rear. To the LE’s level of equipment it adds dual-zone automatic climate control, power front seats, and unique fabric trim. Optional on four-cylinder XLEs and standard on V-6 XLEs is leather upholstery and heated front seats, an automatic-dimming inside rearview mirror, and HomeLink remote garage and gate control.  

Base price for the 2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid is $26,660 for the LE model and $28160 for the XLE. Aside from the hybrid-specific powertrain and gauge displays, standard equipment on the LE and XLE Hybird models generally mirrors that of their gas-only LE and XLE counterparts, though leather upholstery and the moonroof are options exclusive to the XLE version of the Hybrid.  

2012 Toyota Camry Fuel Economy back to top

Lighter weight, improved aerodynamics, low rolling resistance tires, and powertrain tweaks tailored for maximum efficiency result in improved fuel-economy ratings for all versions of the 2012 Toyota Camry. Indeed, the 2012 Camry vies with the 2012 Hyundai Sonata as the most fuel-efficient midsize sedan.  

With the four-cylinder engine, the 2012 Camry rates 25/35 mpg city/highway and 28 mpg combined city/highway. By comparison, all 2011 four-cylinder Camrys with automatic transmission rated 22/32 city/highway and 26 combined.

With the V-6 engine, 2012 Camrys rate 21/30 mpg city/highway, 25 mpg combined. That beats their model-year 2011 counterparts’ rating of 20/29/23 mpg.

The 2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid LE model rates 43/39 mpg city/highway and 41 mpg combined. The slightly heavier 2012 Camry Hybrid XLE rates 41/38/40. Both are significantly more fuel-efficient than the 2011 Camry Hybrid, which rated 31/35 city/highway and 33 mpg combined.  

All 2012 Camrys again use regular-grade 87-octane gas.

2012 Toyota Camry Release Date back to top

The 2012 Toyota Camry L, LE, SE, and XLE models will be in showrooms in October 2011, with the 2012 Camry Hybrid LE and XLE following in November. The majority of 2012 Camrys sold in the U.S. are assembled at a Toyota plant in Kentucky, with some also built at a Subaru facility in Indiana.

What's next for the 2012 Toyota Camry back to top

As the sophomore edition of an all-new model, the 2013 Camry won’t receive any major alterations. Given Camry’s most recent pace of change, expect the seventh-generation Camry to have a lifecycle spanning six model years, from 2012 through 2016. It likely will receive a freshening for model-year 2015, getting minor styling tweaks and perhaps mechanical updates.

Seventh-generation powertrain changes could include more fuel-efficient versions of the current four- and six-cylinder engines. Chances of a turbocharged four-cylinder Camry are slim. It doesn’t fit the car’s performance profile. Similarly, Toyota is very likely to retain the V-6 engine to satisfy the demographic for whom the image and smoothness of a six-cylinder are important – and to help set Camry apart from its four-cylinder-only competitors.

2012 Toyota Camry Competition back to top

Honda Accord: Accord is Camry’s archrival and perennial runner-up for the U.S. passenger-car sales crown but is quite different in character. If Camry is the automotive equivalent of a comfortable sweater, Accord is a veritable track suit because of its athletic road manners. Accord in fact sacrifices some ride comfort and a fair degree of isolation to achieve that edge. But it hardly compromises room, quality, or smart engineering. Accord is arguably one of the world’s best automotive values, though it tends to be slightly higher priced than the Camry. A fully-redesigned Accord is due for model-year 2013 and likely will retain four- and six-cylinder engine choices. The 2012 Accord lineup returns sedan and coupe body styles, both with front-wheel-drive and four-cylinder engines of 171 and 190 horsepower and a V-6 with 271. No hybrid is offered. Base-price range for 2012 Accord sedans with automatic transmission is $22,950-$30,545 for four-cylinder models and $28,050-$32,600 for V-6s. Fuel-economy ratings are 23/34 mpg city/highway, 27 mpg combined with the four-cylinder, 20/30/24 with the V-6s.

Nissan Altima: Another midsize staple in its final model year before a full 2013 redesign, the 2012 Altima has experienced a sales resurgence and vies with the Ford Fusion for No. 3 among midsize cars. Altima continues in sedan and coupe form, with the sedan a good foil for the Camry in terms of room, performance, and pricing. Altima, however, already has a bit of the youthful styling and road feel Toyota is trying to capture with its 2012 Camry redesign. With its various model-year 2012 infotainment upgrades, though, the Toyota sneaks ahead of the Nissan in the geek-appeal derby. Four-cylinder Altimas have 174 horsepower, rate 23/32/27, and start at $21,170. V-6 models have 270 horsepower, rate 20/27/23 and start at $26,190. No hybrid is offered. All Altima sedans have front-wheel drive and use a CVT in place of a conventional automatic transmission.

Hyundai Sonata: An adventurous model-year 2011 remake put this sedan from Hyundai of South Korea on the midsize-car map. The 2012 Sonata continues to stand out as a forward-looking, forward-thinking example of aggressive and confident design.  No car in the class looks sharper and none has more interior volume. And for model-year 2013, prime competitors will finally begin to emulate Sonata’s strategy of an all four-cylinder engine lineup. At 198 horsepower, the 2012 Sonata’s base engine is the most powerful standard four-cylinder in the class and among the highest rated, at 22/35/26 mpg with automatic transmission. Sonata’s turbocharged four-cylinder has 274 horsepower and rates 22/34/26. The 2012 Sonata Hybrid combines a gas four with electric power for a net 206 horsepower and a 35/40/37 mpg rating. On the road Sonatas don’t quite match the polish of a Camry or Accord, but the difference is no deal-breaker. And few cars in the class equal Hyundai’s long list of standard connectivity features. With automatic transmission, starting prices range from $21,445-$27,105 for base-engine models, $25,405-$28,885 for turbos, and some $27,000-$32,000 for Hybrids.