Toyota rolled out the new 2012 Camry this week in Hollywood, and an episode of High School Musical broke out around the number one selling car in the world.
To herald the arrival of Toyota’s redesign flagship, the automaker rented out the backlot at Paramount Studios – the one time Milwaukee home of Laverne & Shirley and the streets of whatever parallel Earth the classic Star Trek visited in a given week.
The three new models rolled out into a city block-long, choreographed chaos of dancers, live music, giant banners, streamers and confetti. When the hoopla cleared, the most important news for consumers was that Toyota is lowering the car’s price on multiple models.
The standard 2012 Camry arrives in four variations: The basic L, the more equipped LE, the sportier SE and kitted out XLE. The Camry comes standard equipped with a 2.5 liter, four cylinder, 178 horsepower engine which pulls an average mileage of 28 MPG.
The SE and XLE can be upgraded to a 24-valve, 3.5 liter V6 and its 268 horsepower. Toyota matches the V6 with a six-speed automatic transmission with optional sequential shifting. The V6 SE is the model I had a chance to test drive from the Paramount lot up through Griffith Park to the Observatory. No one will mistake the V6 Camry for a high performance ride, but it provides a smooth and confident ride. I even left a bit of new rubber at the intersection of Western Avenue and Sunset Boulevard.
Otherwise, the new visual styling is not overly striking or wildly different from recent years’ – a conservative redesign for a vehicle marketed as a conservative, reliable car. Obviously, the most striking features come in the higher priced XE and XLE models – including 17-inch alloy wheels, sportier headlights, chrome exhaust ports, leather-wrapped steering wheel with paddle shifting and sport seats.
The V6 SE sells for $26,640, while the L carries a ticket price of $21, 955. The LE is reduced $200 to $22,500. The XLE V4 starts at $24,725, a markdown of $2,000 from last year’s similarly equipped model, while the XLE V6 remains at $29,845.
The new 2012 Camry Hybrid also arrived during the backlot production number, offering LE and XLE models. In the standard set-up, the 2.5 liter, four-cylinder, Synergy Drive engine now produces an average of 41 mpg in the mid-size sedan. Most surprisingly, in this age when hybrids are known as more expensive price point options, Toyota lowered the price on the LE $1,150 to $25,900. The XLE decreases $800 to $27,400.
Those price drops could prove to be important math to some would-be buyers as the initial buying price of hybrids can drive some shoppers away. Essentially, consumers need to calculate how long gas savings would need to pile up to justify buying the more expensive hybrid. In other words, “I’m paying more for a hybrid now than I’d spend on a standard car. But, I’ll save enough on gas to make make the deal worthwhile – eventually.”
If those shrewdly calculating buyers are already saving at least $800 when they buy, that’s a pile of future fill-ups closer to the break even point.
Finally, Toyota also used the Camry roll-out to show off its new in-car audio and app hub, Entune. Similar in design to Ford’s Sync and other in-dash services, Entune pairs with your smartphone via Bluetooth and uses touch or voice commands to put iHeartRadio, OpenTable, Bing, Pandora and other apps.