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Toyota Camry: Mr. Dependable

Yahoo Autos

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The Toyota Camry is like that friend you had in high school who perhaps wasn’t the coolest kid in class but was always there for you, dependable in a way that maybe you couldn’t appreciate then but do now. Allow me the hyperbole; few automotive nameplates have managed to rack up such loyalty points over the decades, and Camry has done it the old-fashioned way. It is what it says it is.

There’s not much new to the Camry recipe for 2013, after the venerable sedan - which was introduced in 1982 and three decades later reigns as the best-selling passenger car in the U.S. - underwent a significant facelift for 2012. Toyota typically goes in for five-year model freshening cycles, which means what you see today is what you get until around 2017.

Not that things will get totally shaken up then. Toyota knows what it’s got. As brand spokesman Moe Durand told me recently apropos the latest iteration of Camry, “The feeling we have about (it) is simply ‘don’t mess this up.’ People sometimes call it vanilla, but there sure are a lot of people who like vanilla.”

Here’s what you get with vanilla: affordability ($22,055 to $30,155), dependability (lofty scores on J.D. Power and Associates’ Predicted Reliability chart) and pizzazz-ability (smartphones are welcome in the Entune-enabled cabin). To be fair, 2012 did bring an admirable sheetmetal resculpting that sharpened up the car’s lines, and an interior revamp that improved the look and feel of things. Camry may not yet be Lexus posh or quiet, but its is now an unmistakable if downmarket relative of the ES350, with which it shares a platform.

The newest Camry also improved on its predecessor by going on a diet, losing 200 lbs and in turn nailing a slippery .28 coefficent of drag, both of which helped notch EPA fuel ratings of 25/35 mpg city/highway with its 2.5-liter (178-hp) four-cylinder. Other options include a 3.5-liter (268-hp) six-cylinder that returns 21/30 mpg and a Hybrid Synergy Drive version that ramps those figures up to 43/39 city/highway.

Perhaps the only aspect of today’s Camry that’s vaguely out-of-character is the existence of its deliciously road-ripping evil twin on the circuits of NASCAR. Entering a wildly retooled Camry in America’s premier racing contest may sound like introducing the Fiat 500 into European sports car championships, but there’s undoubtedly marketing genius behind the move, especially considering Camry is made in the USA. In fact, Cars.com revealed last summer that Camry is the most American-made car in the country, besting Ford’s F-150 with the most U.S.-sourced parts, production and sales.

Speaking of Camry and sports, Durand said another funny thing about Toyota’s darling. “Camry is a post player,” he said, lapsing into basketball lingo. “It’s not going to be taking 15-footers.” Nothing wrong with two points from the foul line. Every time.

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