Toyota Says Camry Is ‘Reinvented’ for 2012

“That’s the most excitement that we’ve ever had for the introduction of a new model,” Bob Carter, the Toyota division group vice president and general manager, said from a production lot at Paramount Studios in Hollywood, Calif. A troupe of dancers, skateboarders and contortionists had taken their leave just seconds earlier. Mr. Carter did not specify, however, whether the excitement was generated by, or for, the new model in question.

The 2012 Camry was introduced Tuesday by Mr. Carter in Hollywood via Webcast, and by various Toyota executives across the country in a coordinated debut. Dealers are expected to receive the refreshed sedan in October.

The Paramount razzle-dazzle may have seemed unsuited to the Camry, which has relied on humble attributes like quality and value to outsell every car in the United States for 13 of the last 14 years. (Toyota leased the honor in 2001 to the Honda Accord.) The new car does not need to reaffirm the Camry’s position in the midsize sedan firmament; the 2011 model was on track to be the highest-selling vehicle in the country for a 10th consecutive year, Mr. Carter said. However, the Camry is no longer the sine qua non of its segment.

To compete with manufacturers that went unnamed in Mr. Carter’s address, Toyota is adhering to a more-for-less mantra. Each trim level on the Camry will offer improved power, fuel efficiency and comfort, Mr. Carter said, at prices below those of their 2011 equivalents.

For 2012, the base LE starts at $22,500, the sportier SE at $23,000, the more luxurious XLE at $24,725, the Hybrid LE at $25,900 and the Hybrid XLE at $27,400. Destination charges are not included.

The base engine, a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder, produces 178 horsepower and is offered exclusively with a 6-speed automatic transmission. Though the E.P.A. has yet to certify the numbers, Toyota says that the engine and transmission combine for an average 25 m.p.g. in urban and 35 m.p.g. in highway driving. The hybrid produces 200 horsepower with the same engine and the brand’s Hybrid Synergy Drive system, and Toyota expects that model to return 40 m.p.g. around town. The SE, meanwhile, receives a 3.5-liter V-6 producing 268 horsepower. Fuel-economy estimates for the V-6 are 21 m.p.g. city, 30 m.p.g. highway.

Mr. Carter went out of his way to state that performance and efficiency ratings would be “as good or better than competitors’ V-6s or turbo 4-cylinder engines,” an apparent dig toward the Hyundai Sonata, whose 2.0T 4-cylinder engine has endeared that sedan to automotive journalists and shoppers looking for a more spirited drive for their midsize dollar.

To tease out the Camry’s claims to improved performance, Toyota announced that the 2012 model would be the official pace car at the Daytona 500 Nascar race next year. Denny Hamlin, who drives for Joe Gibbs Racing in the Sprint Cup series, piloted a Camry dressed in pace-car livery onto the Paramount Studios lot during Tuesday’s presentation. Another example was displayed at Citi Field in Flushing, Queens, home of the Mets baseball team.

Though Mr. Carter called the Camry’s body “100 percent new,” consumers may have difficulty perceiving the differences between the 2012 model and its predecessor, which was introduced in 2007. The head- and taillights now have sharp, darting creases that could be traced, if armed with a broad definition of brand genealogy, to the Lexus LF-A supercar. Otherwise, few changes are outwardly apparent in the Camry’s styling.

Entune, Toyota’s in-car telematics system, figures prominently in the Camry equipment list, as does a raft of safety features, including 10 standard air bags and the brand’s Star Safety System, a suite of functions comprising stability control, traction control and various braking-assist features.

The 2012 model will be expected to protect its predecessor’s market share against the Sonata as well as the Honda Accord and Nissan Altima. Outliers like the new Volkswagen Passat and Kia Optima, as well as entries from domestic brands like the redesigned 2012 Chevrolet Malibu and Ford Fusion, will also try to to chip away at, if not outright threaten, the Camry’s sales position.