It's easy to imagine the writers at Car and Driver magazine groaning before driving the Toyota Camry. After all, the Camry is the type of car that just doesn't get enthusiasts excited.
Who does get excited by a Camry, though? Millions of ordinary drivers.
Despite long being derided in the press as a soulless, boring sedan, lots of people have bought and fallen in love with the Camry. These buyers don't care about how quickly it can drive through the slalom or how fast it can zoom from zero to 60, nor should they.
They care about how well it fits into their lives, and it continues to do so remarkably well.
Like slipping into a comfy pair of slippers, driving a Camry has a way of making you feel at home. It feels exactly like a good, solid car should, with controls in all the right places and a no-fuss, get-the-job-done attitude that it's mastered through decades of subtle
It's following the path of some of history's greatest vehicles. The Porsche 911 — while it's the polar opposite of a Camry in most respects — does the exact same thing, preferring a slow, methodical march toward its definition of perfection.
Most cars are re-introduced with annual shouts of "new, new, new!"
They try to reinvent themselves with each passing generation.
This one, though, doesn't need to scream because so many people already know and love what it is.
The Camry's changes for 2012 fall into that same pattern. Toyota calls it "all-new," as automakers tend to do when they introduce new generations of their cars, but it's really only taking a perfect car and making it a bit more perfect.
It makes more power and gets better gas mileage, especially in the 40-mpg Camry Hybrid I drove this week. Its body has been massaged, its ride softened, and its technology upgraded to better integrate with today's smartphones.
Perhaps its biggest change, and the one least in character for the Camry, is its classy looking cabin. Toyota's designers have always seemed to prefer function to style, making interiors that worked like a dream but looked as dull as off-brand kitchen appliances.
The new Camry, though, seems to have uncorked Toyota's design talent like previous versions never did. The cabin has a rich, warm look with textures and colors that play well together. It's not just functional,
Aside from that, it's simply a better version of the predictable, reliable car it's always been.
It's still a Camry.
It's just the best Camry to date.
Derek Price is an automotive columnist for CNHI News Service. Contact him at carcolumn at gmail.com.