The first season of NBC's Fashion Star has ended...
For a trillion years now, Toyota's Camry has been the standard by which all other mid-size sedans are judged. Rivals have designed vehicles pointedly designed to best the reputable ride. No luck so far, as Camry continues to sell the most in its segment.
This, its seventh generation, is all new for 2012, but remains all Camry. I love its versatility. I mean, it's an ideal family hauler, but doesn't scream clan, if you know what I mean. I felt perfectly at home in it stag, tooling the roads of Durham, N.C., during a recent visit. It's just a dependable, inoffensively designed vehicle which, like your favorite belt, can be dressed up or down. It's appropriate for every occasion.
For the sticker - mine was $24,725 - Camry has power enough, even when merging. The 2.5-liter four-cylinder DOHC engine, married to a six-speed transmission, if not exactly exhilarating, simply gets out of the way. Meaning, it's not at all annoying, not noticeably underpowered. Sometimes, that's all one can ask. The front-wheel sedan produces 178 decent-size horses. The SE and XLE trims are also available with a 268-horsepowered, 3.5-liter V6. Fuel economy is an attractive 25 city, 35 highway.
Helped by standard stability and traction control, and anti-lock brakes with brake assist, I roamed Durham's varied topography with alacrity, and aplomb. There was no topside ol' Camry couldn't handle. Toyota tighted the chassis for 2012, and it showed. Admission: I've been known to, ah, encourage some testers. Out loud. As in: "C'mon, Bessie ... you can make it!" No such coaching here, and none needed. Steering and handling were fine.
Camry's interior strikes that medium of utility and, well ... middle-class respectability. It has the sort of mien that, once again, suits both work and family. For instance, there are myriad cupholders and in-door bottle holders, but also nice-quality fabrics and surfaces. Again, versatility. Five can fit comfortably, with good head and legroom. All the controls are within reach and easy to use.
My version came with $2,200 worth of options, including display audio with navigation; touch screen; high-def radio; USB port with iPod connectivity and control; hands-free phone, advanced voice recognition; and an interface called Entune, which includes Bing and Pandora. I also got push-button start, backup camera, and auto-dimming rearview mirror with compass.
Standard are six speakers, eight-way adjustable power seats, power tilt/slide moonroof, 60/40 split fold-down rear seat, tilt/telescopic steering wheel, rear-seat reading lamps, and a couple of 12-volt power outlets. Oh, and there are 10 airbags.
Outside, this is a perfectly fine-looking car, and I mean that in a good, non-bland way. It, again, fits in anywhere. It has a new nose and spiffy new headlight design, plus an integrated chrome grille and new taillights.
Ah, Camry, you reliable, safe, quality thing you. In such a topsy-turvy world, nice to know some things are constant.