June 18, 2013
Written by Steven Macoy
Thursday, 09 February 2012 12:13
For quite a few years, the Toyota Camry and Ford Taurus were the Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali of the automotive world, slugging it out every year for dominance. The choices in the midsize-sedan segment are a lot more complicated now, Yet, the Camry remains the champion, having finished its 10th consecutive year as the top-selling car in the United States.
What keeps the Camry on top, in a country where consumer tastes can veer in unexpected directions with bewildering speed? Chalk it up to Toyota’s longstanding reputation for quality, and fast-paced lifestyles that steer consumers toward tried-and-true alternatives.
The Camry has been conservatively redesigned for 2012, with a more aggressive look and improved interior. Knowing many drivers want crisp handling, they’ve stiffened the suspension in the SE version.
That was one of the first thing we noticed after taking our test car, a 2012 Camry SE, onto a bumpy stretch of Interstate 84 in western Connecticut. Our past reviews of Camry models have barely mentioned handling. The SE, with 18-inch wheels, and a sport-tuned suspension and steering system, is noticeably more agile than its predecessors. It also rides more stiffly, gently but firmly informing the driver of every small imperfection in the road.
Otherwise, the Kentucky-built Camry is everything a Camry must be: roomy, well-appointed, fuel-efficient, safe and reliable. (It’s an Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Top Safety Pick.) Our Camry was priced at $31,251 with options; the range is about $22,000 for the base L model to $24,725 for the XLE.
The Camry and other Toyota models, including the Prius V wagon we drove a few weeks ago, have something new for the electronically inclined. Entune, unveiled last year, supplements the conventional navigation and audio systems with applications downloaded from the car owner’s smartphone. Among the features are Bing, a search engine; the music services iHeart and Pandora; and access to data on weather, stocks and sports scores. Entune also can identify nearby gasoline stations and restaurants, and it can be used to purchase movie tickets. It’s an impressive package, marked by a remarkably responsive voice-command system. Entune blocks some services when the car is in motion to reduce driver distraction.
The introduction of Entune marks another round in the decades-long contest between Toyota and Ford, which instituted its Sync infotainment system five years ago. Now the Camry doesn’t enter the ring at a disadvantage among drivers who want, or need, to be fully connected to the outside world every moment of the day.
Entune (www.Toyota.com/Entune) was a $650 option in our Camry and standard equipment in the Prius V Three model.
So goes the war on wasted time in America — the conviction that we must be in touch and doing something even while performing so mundane a chore as driving. How far we’ve come from the time, not so long ago, when the driver’s infotainment choices were limited to an (optional) AM radio.
Correction: The fuel-economy estimates for the Toyota Prius V (44 mpg city, 40 highway) and Toyota Prius hatchback (51 mpg city, 48 highway) were reversed in the Jan. 26 article on the Prius V.
Engine: 3.5-liter V-6, 268 horsepower, 248 ft.-lb. torque
Transmission: six-speed electronic automatic with paddle shifters
Weight: 3,420 lb.
Suspension: Four-wheel independent, McPherson strut front and rear
Wheels: 18x7.5-inch alloy
Tires: P225/45R18 all-season
Seating capacity: 5
Luggage capacity: 15.4 cu. ft.
Fuel capacity: 17 gallons
Fuel economy: 21 mpg city, 30 mpg highway
Fuel type: Regular
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