CNET spent an afternoon with the new Toyota Camry, trying out the four-cylinder, V-6, and hybrid models on an autocross course to assess handling.
For its 2012 model year, Toyota updated the Camry's exterior styling and redesigned the cabin, including new tech features. The car's structure was re-engineered for more rigidity and it got a new transmission. However, the engine choices remain largely unchanged.
Toyota designers took some of the bubbly look out of the Camry's body, replacing it with more angular styling. That change can be seen at the rear quarter, where the belt-line runs straight back along the top of the fender. The rear pillar also forms a geometrical piece, a sail plane making a broad triangle. Toyota also thinned the A pillars, making them less of an obstruction to the driver's view.
The Camry can be had with four-cylinder, V-6, or hybrid power trains. The gas-engine cars use a six-speed automatic transmission, while the hybrid sticks with the continuously variable planetary gearset Toyota uses on all of its hybrids. The four-cylinder model comes in L, LE, SE, or XLE trims, the hybrid in LE or XLE, and the V-6 only in the SE or XLE trims.
Toyota did an excellent job of upgrading the Camry's interior. There are nice pieces, such as double-stitched leather across the dashboard. Toyota kept the same exterior dimensions for the Camry, but managed to add a little more interior space. Unused interior spaces were also reduced.
The redesigned instrument cluster uses three analog gauges, with the speedometer front and center. On the right is an analog gauge for average fuel economy, an interesting choice, as most competitors use a digital display. Toyota shows its conservative nature by sticking with analog gauges on the cluster, rather than the LCDs now coming into vogue.
There are a number of options for the car's head unit. LE, SE, and XLE models get an LCD, what Toyota calls its Display Audio system. The car does not come with navigation standard, although a flash-based navigation system can be optioned in on certain models. Higher-end Camrys get a premium, hard-drive-based navigation system. Display Audio mainly provides a larger interface for browsing music libraries on MP3 players.
Toyota's new app system, Entune, can be optioned into select Camry models. This system uses an app on the driver's smartphone as a data conduit. Embedded in the car are apps such as Pandora Internet Radio, Bing search, and OpenTable restaurant reservations.