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When sports championships are won, often times the talk quickly turns to thoughts of a dynasty. Does a particular team have the proper ingredients to keep its success going for the long haul?

In the automobile world, dynasties are discussed as well. Unlike sports teams, they are a little easier to maintain simply because we’re talking about machines, not human beings.

While we’re on the topic of dynasties, who has a more long-lasting one than the Toyota Camry? It’s clearly the most popular family sedan in America and has been the top-selling midsize sedan in 13 of the last 14 years.

Not only is the Camry a huge seller, it sticks around a long time as well. The folks at Toyota are constantly promoting the fact that 90 percent of the Camrys sold in the last 15 years are still on the road. So durability is at the core of this Japanese-produced vehicle as well.

With that said, there are some fine midsize sedans out there, which doesn’t make the Camry a no-brainer selection. The competition includes the Kia Optima, Ford Fusion, Honda Accord, Volkswagen Passat, Nissan Maxima, and Hyundai Sonata.

Give the Toyota people credit; they aren’t living in the past, because the 2012 Camry arrives with a redesign. There’s nothing risky about the seventh generation of Toyota’s major cash cow. Considering the success of the Camry, why would there be?

The new Camry looks a lot like previous models – there’s no change in the length, width or height. But gone is the three-bar grille that now gives the Camry a sharper look. The interior is minus its former wraparound dashboard, while the center control panel was raised and comes with artificial leather, and no more hard plastic.

The redesign also made powertrain enhancements and suspension improvements that provide a little better handling. The gas mileage has been increased slightly and there’s about a $2,000 reduction in the price of the XLE model, the top-of-the-line Camry sedan that now sells for $24,725.

Although the changes aren’t putting the Camry on anyone’s “cool car” list, Toyota did add optional equipment that many techie people will find enticing. The Etune smartphone is a web-based, voice recognition system that allows the driver to have Pandora streaming radio, real-time traffic, plus sports and stock information. The Etune system also allows one to do things like make a restaurant reservation or reserve movie tickets.

The front-wheel Camry sedan is offered in four trims – L, LE, SE and XLE (there’s still a hybrid option as well). One can opt for the more conservative 2.5-liter, four-cylinder that produces 178 horsepower or upgrade to the fairly powerful 3.5-liter, V6 that generates 268 horsepower. Both powertrains come with standard with a six-speed automatic transmission.

The suspension improvements make the new Camry even better. And that’s saying something, considering the Camry has always possessed a quiet, precision-like driving capability and delivered a comfortable ride. The braking is improved as well.

Even with the improvements, there is no “wow” moment with the Toyota Camry. Want real thrills? Buy a more upscale, expensive car. At its essence, the Camry might not be exciting, but it is sensible. It continues to be a dependable, well-made sedan that is good on gas, comes at a reasonable price, has great resale value, and offers comfort, some pep, and reliable handling.

2012 Toyota Camry

  • Performance: 2.5-liter, four-cylinder, 178 horsepower; 3.5-liter, V6, 268 horsepower
  • Mileage estimate: 25-35 mpg
  • Price: $21,955 to $24,725
  • Warranty: 3 years/36,000 miles; drivetrain 5 years/60,000 miles

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