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The redesigned 2012 Camry hasn't changed its size, as the wheelbase, length, track and height are the same within fractions of an inch. But the sheetmetal is 100 percent new, and a new roofline makes it slightly more slippery, at 0.27 Cd vs. the previous 0.28. It's quite attractive for a vanilla car, with clean sides and nice edges, with no lumpy cladding or gratuitous chrome. Hold up pics of the 2011 and 2012 side-by-side, and clearly see the styling evolution from yesterday to today.
In fact there's almost no chrome, which makes the new Camry look svelte. Indeed it has lost weight, 150 pounds (220 pounds for the Hybrid). It might all be under the skin, but no matter, it's all good. What Toyota calls aero-corner design enhances this image. Hips and shoulders tucked in.
The Camry LE uses wheelcovers over 16-inch steel wheels, the Camry XLE uses 17-inch alloy wheels, and the Camry SE uses 17- or 18-inchers. All three styles successfully avoid cookie cutting, with the LE's 20-spoke titanium-tinted wheelcovers ironically being the most ambitious and eye-catching, if not the classiest.
The new roofline angles the windshield more steeply. There's a nice character line under the windows slanting slightly up to the rear deck, where there's a small spoiler lip on the SE. Windows outlined in chrome, but no more, except for a thin strip at the rocker level on the LE and XLE. Body-colored door handles on all models.
The face of the Camry SE is tweaked, for the better, with body color over the black mesh grille, and more aggressive air intakes in the valance under the bumper. Headlamps are the same, angled, narrow and sleek, with a neat little notch in the line at the bottom.
Interior dimensions for the seventh-generation 2012 Camry are within fractions of an inch of the sixth-generation (2007-11) models. There's a bit more backseat legroom, with 38.9 inches on a flat rear floor decent for a midsize car. Some interior parts have been thinned to create more eye, knee and elbow room: A-pillars, control panels on the doors, front seatbacks, center console.
Interior materials are different depending on the model, with the Camry L, LE and XLE using a nice standard fabric, and the Camry SE fabric with SofTex synthetic leather trim. Real leather is available on the Camry XLE I4 and standard on the XLE V6, with leather-trimmed ultrasuede available on the SE and XLE Hybrid.
The fit of the front buckets is good on the Camry LE and XLE, with more bolstering on the SE. The Camry Hybrid has its own material, more like the SE. Trims are different too: LE is silver, XLE wood, SE silver grain, and Hybrid a metallic tech grain.
Steering wheels too, with LE a four-spoke urethane, XLE four-spoke leather, and SE four-spoke leather. They all work well enough, no inconveniences noted in driving all four models.
The Camry LE feels quiet, solid and firm; but the XLE with optional leather and a grander display screen feels markedly uptown.
It's hard to make a dashboard not boring, because after all it is a board, but the Camry succeeds. The standard leather is overlapped in an arc with neat stitching, for a saddle-like effect; new passengers will compliment it and maybe run their hands over the seam. The little window for the clock up at the top looks like a hood scoop.
We found the driver's position comfortable, with thoughtful padding for the driver's right leg against the center console, and high armrests. Decent door pocket, great cubby forward in the center console, big glovebox with light door.
The instrument panel is all new for 2012. The four Camry models have four different faces, and those on the LE, XLE and SE are in 3D. We wonder what the stripper Camry L model without the 3D face looks like. Instruments are the same, only difference is in the rings around the gauges, chrome or satin.
The Hybrid's panel is the same only prettier. In Toyota-speak it has optitron meters with white illumination, blue metallic printing, and white lighting pointer. Three gauges, with clear dials and numbers that glow up at you in crystal clear white. We like it. Another plus: relocation of the battery packs increase the trunk space in the Camry Hybrid to 13.1 cubic feet (from the previous 10.6).
Trunk space on all Camry models except the Hybrid is a roomy 15.4 cubic feet.
The manually operated climate control has big dials and easy buttons on the Camry LE. The automatic climate control on Camry XLE uses a 6.1-inch LCD touch-screen also used for radio tuning, and navigation. The screen grows to 7 inches with upgrade systems.
In pursuit of fuel mileage, the torque converter ratio was changed to lower the revs at freeway speeds, making the car quieter inside; at 70 mph you can't hear the motor. But you can hear the tire noise, new tires with less rolling resistance, louder on the pavement.
There's the optional JBL Green Edge sound system, which uses up to 58 percent less power and is 27 percent lighter; and Entune, which does Bing searches and allegedly enables you to buy movie tickets while you're driving into the city on a crowded freeway in a hurry at night, and stuff like that. Safely and simply they say, and we say don't believe it. It can all be bundled with navigation and satellite radio and voice recognition, and controlled on the 7-inch touch screen. Have fun, good luck, and don't crash.