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Roadshow Video Reviews
2012 Toyota Camry XLEBetter looks, better tech, better miles per gallon: profile of a best seller.
Well, for the 2012 model year Toyota took out a stick and beat the Camry with in an inch of it's life to make it a hipper car with some cooler technology including NTune. Let's drive the 2012 XLE V6 with the NTune head unit and check all the tech. Now, this being an XLE. We've got the high tone trim. You got the stitching and all these nice soft finishes. Let's just say the Camry looks a lot nicer when it's a nice one than it ever did before. Kind of a more grown up luxurious look. Not that kinda (doughy?) transportation appliance it long was. But let's get to the real action here. The head unit. We've got the ultimate head unit here which is what they call their advanced navigation system and one of the things you'll see is I can do a split screen and I've always liked Toyota and Lexus rendering the quality of the graphics. To me, this is one of the best screens in a car today. Beyond that, it's a standard Toyota navigation system that we've seen many times and the interface is good, very clear. One thing about it though, it's a touch screen of course. Sometimes I found it was very hard to get to get these touch buttons to react. Sometimes they're light. Sometimes I got to mash them with my thumb. I don't know if it's temperature related or a different mode of the system. But sometimes it could be a little bit of a pain. (Our?) media options are many on this car because we've got it as a high trim car with the top end head unit. We have a USB plus iPod down in here. There's also an auxiliary jack there for your basic fallback. AM/FM, HD radio with iTunes tagging. Sirius XM Satellite radio is standard as is A2DP Bluetooth streaming. The biggest innovation on this Camry is it the first car from Toyota to feature their new NTune system. It's under the Apps button that's been kinda grafted on to the old info button here and then you get this App selection on the screen. And that takes you in to 5 Apps that come down through a single App on your smartphone. I get Bing for search and the results are very simplified and they are really kind of oriented toward navigation, iHeart Radio, streaming clear channel radio stations, live stations around the country; Movietickets.com, look up movies and buy tickets live, Open Table for restaurant reservations and of course Pandora. It's pretty common in cars these days. Now see our separate video on the NTune system to really get some detail on this but I'll say in general, this is the best basket of Apps in a car so far. I like the fact that you installed just one App on your phone. It pull these down from the Cloud and the way they've optimized everything for the car looks and works well. Down size are too much is locked out when the car is driving and even then, too many of these Apps don't respond to voice command. So, they kinda go off in a wasteland unless the car is still. Toyota has got to figure out their game on that front. A couple of things to note on this car. It is trying to be very green though, of course it's not a hybrid or anything like that. And there's no auto start/stop technology but they do have something I've never seen before. That needle is an average MPG gauge. Not a readout digitally. But that needle actually moves around and hovers and monitors your historic MPG. It's an interesting way of showing it and right around it you've got those green segment bars. Those show your instantaneous economy as you're driving. And (finally?), the Eco Light tells you when you're driving as economically as the engine is capable of. One choice on the gearbox, a 6 speed automatic that has a Sport Gate. Now everybody has to these days. No paddles on the wheel though unless you get the SE model. Now, pretty garden variety stuff in this Camry. It's a carryover 3-1/2 liter V6. Good motor. Gets you 268 horsepower. 248 foot-pounds of torque while getting this roughly 3300 pound car up to 60 at around 6-1/2 seconds. Your mileage is 21/30 EPA rated. It's gonna (leave?) you around 24 then as in average. This car is also available as a 4 cylinder with more like a 178 horsepower as I recall and also the hybrid (carries?) over. We'll review that one separately. All Camrys are transversed front-wheel drive. There's no all-wheel drive going on here and no more manual transmission on any of the powertrains. Now, you know me. I care much less about how much power a car has than how available the power is that a car has and this is in the high camp for availability. Great responsiveness under the throttle. You step on it and the car goes faster. A lot of cars don't do that. This one is very responsive that way. The blind spot tech is well calibrated. It picks up cars up to about mid ship here all the way back through what I would consider a blind spot. So, it's well arranged in that respect. It doesn't get in the way of anything though. All it does is tell you with a solid yellow someone's there or with a blinking yellow if someone's there and you've turn signaled into that lane. And here's the great sort of unsung headline on this car. The handling is good. Not sporty good but responsive good. It goes along with that engine's right now power availability. Makes for a very cohesive package. This is a kind of car you will enjoy driving in almost all modes. It never feels laborious or like you're on a boat and you got to kinda lean the opposite way to keep it from capsizing. Okay, bottom line on the Camry. This car is gonna come in in this trim somewhere in the mid 30,000s and for what you're getting and the quality of materials, the improved handling, the little better MPG and the NTune technology. It's a good value. On the other hand, it still remains a very middle of the road car. Not totally polished on the tech. NTune needs another rev and nor is it become a car that has any real driver aspirations. But that isn't the idea and they'll sell these things all day long.