By Ted Orme
Auto writers sometimes trip over their enthusiasm. A lot of us are puzzled how the humdrum Toyota Camry can be the most popular car in America for all but one of the past 15 years. With a redesign for 2012 and no tsunami to impede production, the Camry will surely keep that title this year.
How has this sedate sedan captured the hearts and loyalty of so many of our fellow citizens and the score of so-called enthusiasts? Not hard to figure really. It’s the great gap in expectations between performance oriented drivers and “educated consumers.” You know, those smart shoppers who want comfort, value and a Consumer Reports reliability survey shot full of superior red dots.
I don’t love or hate Camry. Call me mellow. So I welcomed the recent opportunity to drive two redesigned, seventh-generation 2012 models back to back and see for myself their observable appeal to the masses. The Camry XLE and Hybrid models looked a lot alike, of course, with better defined and upgraded styling inside and out. They rode a lot alike on nearly identical suspensions and both are powered by 2.5 liter four cylinder engines – plus, the electric system in the Hybrid. But they had distinctly different personalities and wide gaps in fuel economy and price.