All New Toyota Camry SE 2012 Review
More manufacturers are trying to eat Toyotas lunch with dramatic mid-sized options aimed at taking at least a small number of Camry buyers away. The organic Hyundai Sonata and Euro-styled Kia Optima are the two biggest challengers for now, with a broad range of four-cylinder power options, including hybrid electric or turbocharged.
1. SE models get 17 or 18-inch wheels, a stiffer suspension, custom bodywork with a rear spoiler, steering-wheel paddle shifters, silver trim and a leather-wrapped 3-spoke steering wheel with audio and Bluetooth controls.
2. SE options include a rear-view camera, heated seats, a power moonroof, as well as leather and faux-suede seats.
3. The SE trim is available with a 178 hp 4-cylinder with a class-leading 25/35 mpg or a 268 hp V6 with a 21/30 mpg rating.
4. 4-cylinder Camry SE models start from $23,000 with the V6 at $26,640.
In contrast, despite its near-identical size and similar styling, the 2012 Camry is in fact, all new. You wont find a single body panel that swaps over from older to newer, and if you park the two side-by-side, the differences are more apparent. But thats just fine with Toyota most of its customers actually value the driving appliance tag enthusiasts generally paint on it. They dont want to stick out. They dont want to be the loner. For them, the Camry will suit their needs just fine much better than the last generation, in fact.
SE: FOR THE RARE SPORT-MINDED CAMRY DRIVER
But to appeal to the paper-thin slice that puts a greater value on driving enjoyment, Toyota has regularly offered an SE package that generally packs a thimble-full of extra visual punch.
So, surprise, surprise: Toyotas efforts on the new Camry SE go far beyond the usual wing-n-sticker brigade. We shouldnt be so shocked. After all, this is the same company that went above and beyond with the SE version of the Sienna minivan, turning it into a genuinely enjoyable machine.
2012 Toyota Camry SE
The Camry SE follows the same recipe: the front strut suspension is stiffened and lowered slightly, while the rear gets a more thorough makeover, including a fractionally longer, solid stabilizer bar that replaces the more pliant tube design. Also, Toyota engineers removed some of the fluid-filled bushings with more-rigid pillow-ball designs for greater control. The result is hardly razor sharp and kidney-killing in its firmness, but compared to the regular isolation chamber Camry, the SE is a pleasant change.
4-CYLINDER A FUEL ECONOMY LEADER, V6 OUTSHINED BY TURBO RIVALS
Like the rest of the Camry line, the SE is available with either a 2.5-liter four-cylinder that produces 178 horsepower and 170 lb-ft of torque or an optional 3.5-liter V6 with 268 horses and a useful 248 lb-ft of torque. Both engines use the same six-speed automatic transmission that drives the front wheels alone. Mechanically, theyre identical other than the V6 getting wider 225/45/18 all-season tires on 18-inch wheels four-bangers get 215/55/17s on 17-inch wheels of the same design and dual chrome exhaust tips instead of one.
Upgrading to the V6 only adds 180 lbs to the 3,240-lb 2.5 SE, but the four-cylinder wins in fuel economy: 25/35 mpg (city/hwy) compared to 21/30. It is critically more efficient than the Hyundai/Kia twins, but is down on power though doesnt feel that way in daily driving. The V6 has no such victories, losing to the more potent and less thirsty turbo-fours.
The four-cylinder version is quick enough for most situations were guessing 0-60 mph in the eights and plays out more as a momentum machine. The steering doesnt have a lot of feel to it thanks to the new electric power steering system, but the car is tidy to drive, if still overly comfy compared to its rivals. Braking is actually pretty good, with no overly active ABS getting involved in normal situations.
The V6 offers more options to the driver since it has 90 more horses to play with and feels like a rocketship in comparison. The larger tires help the car respond quicker, although it does have that extra weight over the nose.
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