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2013 Toyota Camry

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B5 CHERYL AUTO ZONEby Cheryl Eldridge and wire reports

The Toyota Camry is definitely a brand in my family. My husband owns a Toyota Tundra and my aunt owns a Toyota Camry, which are all a bit older models; so when I got the chance to test drive the 2013 it was a pleasure.         Toyota has been known to be dependable, loyal and some people’s first car. Most Toyota Camrys are driven by educators, college students or the more frugal crowd pleasers. Well, I’m frugal, so one thing that I did like was, it’s definitely great on gas!

For 2013, the Toyota Camry receives rear cross-traffic alert functionality as part of the optional blind spot monitoring system which I loved. Great looking out engineers. Inside, all Camry models have the 6-inch central display screen as standard and slightly upgraded door panel trim.

The 2013 Toyota Camry is offered in L, LE, SE and XLE trim levels. The L features 16-inch steel wheels, air-conditioning, power windows and mirrors, cruise control, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, split-folding rear seats, a trip computer, Bluetooth, a 6-inch display and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player, HD radio, satellite radio, an auxiliary input and a USB/iPod interface.

The Camry LE adds automatic headlamps, power door locks with remote keyless entry, audio controls on the steering wheel and an outside temperature display.

The SE includes a sport-tuned suspension, 17-inch alloy wheels, foglamps, heated exterior mirrors, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, sport seats and unique interior and exterior styling treatments. SE V6 models get 18-inch wheels, keyless ignition/entry, a navigation system, voice recognition and the Entune smartphone and Web integration system.

The luxurious XLE reverts to the LE’s softer suspension settings and adds heated exterior mirrors, foglamps, a sunroof, dual-zone automatic climate control, an eight-way power driver seat and the Entune system. XLE V6 models add a rearview camera, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, leather upholstery, a power front passenger seat and heated front seats. Some of the extra features found on the higher trims can be added as options to the lower trim levels, though availability can vary depending on which region of the country you live in. A premium 10-speaker JBL audio system is optional for the SE and XLE. On the XLE V6, Toyota also offers a hard-drive-based navigation system with a larger central display.

Powertrains and Performance for every 2013 Toyota Camry features front-wheel drive, a six-speed automatic transmission and two engine choices. Base Camrys are powered by a 2.5-liter four-cylinder that produces 178 horsepower and 170 pound-feet of torque. In Edmunds performance testing, a Camry LE with this engine accelerated from zero to 60 mph in 8.4 seconds, about average for a four-cylinder midsize sedan. With EPA-estimated fuel economy of 25 mpg city/35 highway and 28 combined, the four-cylinder Camry is among the class leaders.

Optional is a 3.5-liter V6 that generates 268 hp and 248 lb-ft of torque, which helps the Camry V6 reach 60 mph in 6.6 seconds, average for upgrade engines in this class. Fuel economy is an impressive 21/31/25.

On the safety side, the 2013 Toyota Camry comes with a battery of standard safety features, including antilock brakes, stability control, front- and rear-seat side airbags, side curtain airbags and knee airbags for both driver and passenger. A blind-spot monitoring system with rear cross-traffic alert is also available.

In Edmunds braking tests, a Camry LE stopped from 60 mph in 129 feet, a bit longer than average for the segment. An SE V6, with stickier tires, performed the same test in 119 feet, which is better than average. In government crash testing, the Camry received a top five-star score for overall crash protection, with four stars for overall frontal protection and five stars for overall side protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the Camry the best possible rating of “Good” in the frontal-offset, side and roof strength tests. It scored a “Poor” (the worst rating) in that agency’s new, “small overlap” frontal impact crash test, but only a handful of cars have been subjected to it, and most have earned a similar score.

The interior of the 2013 Camry feels roomy and its thin front pillars provide good outward visibility. What the cabin design lacks in cohesiveness, it makes up for with generally good materials quality, especially the handsome stitching on the dash and door panels of upper trims. The spacious rear seat is complemented by a nicely reclined seatback angle that helps the Camry match the Honda Accord for the most comfortable backseat in the class.

The Camry’s upgraded audio system also includes Entune, a suite of smartphone-connected services that includes features like the Bing search engine, Pandora streaming radio, real-time traffic, sports and stock information, and the ability to reserve movie tickets or a table at a restaurant on the go. The touchscreen interface and accompanying steering wheel controls are usually pretty easy to use, but sometimes the virtual buttons’ unwillingness to respond is frustrating.

At 15.4 cubic feet, the Camry’s trunk capacity is about average, although the 60/40-split rear seat folds down to yield more cargo space when necessary.

My tester’s price was $29,780.

Until next week, drive safe, no texting and driving and buckle up, it’s the law.