No matter what else you say about the Toyota Camry, there's this: It is the bestselling midsize car in the United States. Maybe that's why Toyota only tweaked the design of the 2012 model, which we drove in December. (The most notable change for 2013 is the slightly higher base price.) Why mess with success?
Appearance: The Camry's most visible change is its grille, where the whole design is more upscale-looking and integrated with the headlights. The rest of the body is more angular, yet the overall effect is still conservative, especially in the slablike sides of the car. Lyra is no fan of the new taillights, which have a sliver of lens that extends into the trunk lid and which she thinks look unfinished.
Performance: Our tester had the optional 3.5-liter V-6 paired with a 6-speed automatic. The engine makes 268 horsepower; Peter was pleasantly surprised with its acceleration. There's a Toyota commercial now in which a woman says the Camry feels "grounded to the ground." We guess she means the Camry feels and drives like a bigger car; it does. That's because the Camry is aimed squarely at the consumer — and there are lots of them — who wants a comfortable ride and no surprises. In that, it delivers.
Safety: If you've heard that the IIHS recently gave the Camry a "poor" rating for one of its tests, bear in mind that the car earned "Top Safety Pick" ratings in other categories. The latest test measured how well people are protected when the front corner of a car hits another vehicle or object.
Interior: This is where the new Camry shines, with quiet comfort. The fit and finish are good, with nice details such as stitching on the dash. The cabin has ample head- and legroom — both front and rear — for a midsize sedan, even for adults. There is 15.4 cubic feet of cargo space, and the rear seats fold down (but not completely flat) for longer items. We both liked that there are seat back release levers in the trunk. Our complaints were few: The center touchscreen doesn't have a hood, so sometimes the glare makes it difficult to read; the storage bin and its outlets are behind the shifter, so they're difficult to reach. The Entune infotainment system is like a personal concierge that connects to your smartphone app and provides services such as dinner reservations, Pandora and sports scores. It reads incoming texts and automatically sends a reply that you'll text back later. There's no monthly fee to use this feature, but it does use your phone's data service.
Our 3 favorites
Powerplant: Toyota's V-6 is a healthy performer.
Comfort: No surprise that Camry is the top seller.
Practicality: The touchscreen has large and easy-to-use buttons.
Bright and classy: Ivory interior with gray and wood-grain trim.
Silence: Quiet cabin.
Controls: Steering wheel controls are ergonomic and easy to use.
The bottom line: The Camry is comfortable, roomy, comes loaded with safety features and has a good starting price. It's easy to see why it's so popular as a daily driver. Looking for edgy design or sportiness? This isn't your car.