Strengths and weaknesses:
- comfort for five
- fuel economy
- classic looks
- quiet and smooth riding.
- shopper prejudices
Don’t mistake Camry efficiency for blandness
"What other, more-exciting, five-occupant sedans can you purchase for the same price?"
Just about every Toyota Camry review of the past decade makes mention of the car’s oh-so-boring demeanour, so who am I to buck the trend.
On the other hand, I think I may have reached that stage in life where boring isn’t really such a bad thing.
I drive to the office every day to provide for my family, I coach an under-8 soccer team, and I sit for a half-hour each week listening to my daughter learn to play guitar.
So yeah, I lead a boring existence. And the 2012 Camry would fit perfectly into my life plan, if I had the need for a family car.
You can get into a Camry (LE) for as little as $23,700. And for those who think “what do you expect for such a boring car?” let me ask what other, more-exciting, five-occupant sedans can you purchase for the same price?
Dodge’s Avenger starts under $20,000 but it’s a yawner (if you want to step up the excitement level, you have to get over $24k), ditto for the Kia Optima, unless you step up over $25k; the new Ford Fusion is going to start at under $23,000, but we don’t know what’s going to go on beneath the skin (just promises, right now) and the same applies to the new Mazda6; the current Chevrolet Malibu is just as boring and costs more at entry (and we don’t know how the new one is going to be priced).
Chrysler 200, Honda Accord, Nissan Altima, Suzuki Kizashi … boring, boring, boring, boring. To tell the truth, in order to get a more exciting sedan than Camry, you’re going to have to spend more (in most cases, a lot more) and for that kind of expenditure, you can get an exciting Camry just as easily.
About the best you’re going to get is a Subaru Legacy, because for the same price you can at least be bored with all four wheels powering you along.
All that out of the way, we should point out that our test Camry is an SE level, which in its case gets the leather and moonroof package that adds grippy Ultrasuede seat inserts, push-button start and a power moonroof (though it isn’t one of those full roof jobs). It also adds $2,440 to the trim premium ($3,250) to bring the price to over $29,000.
Still, you get a car whose fuel usage won’t break the bank, comfortable room for five, even on long trips and a trunk that will swallow up a couple weeks’ food and supplies.
I’ll be honest – I wish Toyota had gone a little more out there with the styling; but, I think it looks sufficiently modern and classic to appeal to a wide range of buyers, which is not necessarily the case with what are regarded as “more exciting” designs – more exciting usually also means more polarizing so you often sacrifice sales for appeal. Ask a company executive what he’d rather have and I’ll bet sales wins out every time.
There’s no drama to Camry – its 2.5-litre engine makes decent horsepower to get it moving and it doesn’t have to be coupled to a continuously variable automatic (Camry only comes with a six-speed automatic) to attain lofty fuel economy targets. You can get a V6, but that’s more cash going out. It’s quiet and sure-footed, and it returns a smooth ride no matter where you take it.
Frankly, I don’t see why you’d want to screw all that up with a design that maybe isn’t as aerodynamically efficient, or acceleration that makes a car quicker off the line, or firmer suspension that makes tires skip over ripply corner pavement, or heavily bolstered seats that keep a centre rear occupant tilted to one side.
Granted Camry may be about as engaging as a John Tortorella post-game press conference, but for the majority of buyers in this segment, it’s the best car money can buy.
Probably in any market segment, really.