The Toyota Camry has never been accused of being sporty, but the all-new 2012 Camry SE could change that.
Akio Toyoda, who is the president of Toyota, has brought new passion to the Japanese automaker and infused the brand with a competitive spirit. That spirit is showing up in a revamped lineup that includes a number of sporty new models like the Scion FR-S and the new LFA sports car. This new spirit even seems to be tricking down to the Camry which has not been known for its sportiness.
But the Camry SE is a testament to Akio Toyoda’s influence. The 2012 Toyota Camry is the seventh generation, and gets a new redesign for the 2012 model year. The Camry hasn’t changed in size much, but the sheet metal is all-new and the Camry is more aerodynamic. The 2012 Camry’s lines are sportier and more contemporary. And the SE is the sportiest of all the models.
The sporty Camry SE V-6 ($26,640) has a thoroughly tuned suspension, sport mesh body-colored front grille, halogen headlamps, rocker panels and rear spoiler, SofTex-trimmed sport seats, paddle shifters, and 18-inch alloy wheels on the V-6, 17-inch on the I4. Toyota even has four new colors that enhances this image, Clearwater Blue, Attitude Black, Cypress Pearl and Cosmic Gray Mica.
Even the interior of the 2012 is all-new in both design and materials. The Camry SE gets a special fabric with SofTex synthetic leather trim. A new leather dashboard is neat and stylish and the steering wheel is four-spoke leather. The instrument panel is well thought out and functional, storage spaces plentiful, and the fit of the front buckets is good with more bolstering on the SE.
Interior dimensions for the seventh-generation 2012 Camry are just slightly bigger than the previous generation model. There’s a bit more backseat legroom, with 38.9 inches on a flat rear floor decent for a midsize car.
The 2012 Camry features a newly designed chassis with increased rigidity, using ultra-high-strength steel, as well as 56 additional weld spots for added strength. It reflects Toyota’s ongoing research in impact energy management. The sport-tuned suspension in the Camry SE is more firm than the standard models and makes for a sporty planted feel through the corners. There is still a bit of body roll through tight corners, but the SE’s tighter steering works well in all circumstances. And the SE gets slightly bigger brakes for better stopping power.
The SE’s 3.5-liter V-6 produces 268 horsepower which is good for the four-door sedan, although a four-cylinder is available for better fuel-economy. EPA-estimates are 25/35 mpg City/Highway with the four-cylinder, 21/30 mpg with the V-6. The SE V-6 is mated to a six-speed automatic that comes with paddle shifters and normal and sport modes, which allows the driver to bring out the sport in the SE.