IMPRESSIONS: 2012 Toyota Camry SE
There's nothing wrong with this new Camry, not really, but I was expecting something more powerful, more elegant and more ... memorable. Something cool.
The SE is supposed to be the car that snags Toyota buyers who are younger than 60. The car "with attitude," as NASCAR driver Denny Hamlin called it today.
But when I took a grey lady test Camry SE onto the streets of Detroit, Dearborn, Melvindale and Taylor, Mich., today, nobody looked at the car. NOBODY. Nobody stared. Nobody asked me anything, even though my windows were down at traffic lights.
There was no head-turning quotient. NOTHING. It was like I was the ugly girl on my first day of school. People looked at the car, but didn't SEE the car. Maybe if I had taken the red sedan they used earlier that day to introduce the car, maybe then someone would have at least given the car a passing glance.
That is not to say the 2012 Camry SE really is ugly. It looks OK. But it's no knockout. It's Plain Jane. As vanilla as they come.
The new Camry has virtues, but beauty isn't among them, not really. It's conservative and understated, at best. Nobody is going to rob a bank or even a 7-Eleven to get the money to buy this car.
To me it was a Fred Flintstone car: Underpowered. On the freeway it didn't roar. It moseyed. That is not to say it is defective. There are going to be people who want to be invisible. But if you pretend to be NASCAR-worthy, you need more oomph than what I drove today.
The trunk space is impressive. A Teamsters enforcer would love it. But most of our lives are more sedate than that.
If you're a businessman who usually takes a lot of luggage on trips or a woman who needs a lot of trunk space for your big family's groceries, this might be an excellent vehicle for you. I like how the spare tire is underneath the change-the-tire tools. (As if somebody with a Camry is changing his or her own tire. C'mon!)
There are some nice things. The steering wheel felt comfortable in my hands, the seats were cushy, the back seat was a nice size and the side mirrors were easy to adjust.
The new Entune system was daunting, but maybe that's because I'm 52 and I'm not a techno freak. But there are bigger concerns.
The SE's acceleration was imprecise today. I couldn't trust the car to thread the needle at expressway speeds. Maybe if I had driven the car for more than a few hours, that comfort zone could be developed. But my first impression is that this Camry does not deliver what I have seen in Camrys from former years. I loved the 2011 Camry.
But the preproduction 2012's brakes were not as responsive as I would have liked. I bunny-hopped at a red traffic light and when slowing down on the freeway instead of stopping immediately.
The instrument panel was confusing. I had trouble at first figuring out how to turn off the radio. I had a passenger figure out how to make the air conditioning work, after the temperature rose past 84.
Don't get me wrong. The Camry is a very nice little car for someone who does not want to be noticed. And at $23,000, MSRP, the 4-cylinder is $965 cheaper than a 2011 model that I like a lot more. If you do get your own 2012 model sometime after it is available in October, prefer the V6 and pay the $26,640 or you will be very disappointed with the lack of power.
You can reach TN's Hawke Fracassa at [email protected] or on Twitter @HawkeFracassa.
Image source: TN's Patrick Rall