After the 2011′s disappointing interiors, stitching on the steering wheel and dash in place of the prevous model’s molded dash have been added to the 2012 models. Two-toned details in the XLE was particularly inviting, and soft fabric paneling in the doors add to comfort.
The launch event in New York was our first opportunity to drive the XLE model. Immediately we noticed the rack-and-pinion electric-power assisted steering hugged and maintained control through the the turns with no under- or over-steer.
Engine noise barely registers, the interior remaining quiet enough for comfortable conversation. Acceleration was quick with no lurching into a higher speed.
Rear-view mirrors are adjusted with a toggle control on the driver’s armrest, and the power driver’s seat is on all models except the L.
Available in the “Convenience Package” with the four-cylinder SE and XLE is a back-up camera activated automatically on the screen to the right of the steering wheel when put into Reverse. (It comes standard with the V6.)
The shift knob is designed to toggle laterally as well as forward and back between Neutral, Reverse and Drive. Brakes responded smoothly, and while you could definitely feel bumps going over ill-maintained NYC streets, they weren’t teeth-rattling, nor did they grab the steering; it’s a safe choice for the average driver.
Among the standard safety features are 10 airbags (driver and passenger front and knee airbags, seat-mounted side, front and rear seat side curtain, and rear-seat mounted side airbags), Anti-lock Brake System, Whiplash-Injury-Lessening front seats, and the usual child protector rear locks and locking retractors on seatbelts.
The Entune™ system is available as a factory option for SE and XLE models only. Smartphones connect to the Entune™ system via Bluetooth and can be operated via either touch screen or voice recognition. A series of mobile apps such as Bing, OpenTable, and Pandora are offered for in-car connectivity, and handy data services include real-time traffic, current weather conditions, and smart fuel guide outlining nearby gas stations listing their price per gallon. Entune is offered with three years of complimentary access (excluding Pandora; charged will apply after the three year period.)