Snapshot: We find out if the tech-laden Toyota Camry Hybrid is a viable alternative to established rivals
Since Toyota doesn’t offer a diesel engine in its premium luxury car, Camry, it’s done the next best thing possible, giving it a hybrid drivetrain instead. This is the second hybrid from Toyota in India after the Prius. But unlike the Prius, the Camry is a more mainstream car and should appeal to those customers who want a fuel efficient luxury car but don’t want to go in for a diesel. The car is powered by a conventional petrol engine that is supported by an electric motor. The batteries are housed neatly behind the back seat of the car but more on that later.
The Hybrid looks similar to the regular Camry but has got a redesigned bumper with a wider air intake. It also gets a blue Toyota badge which showcase the car’s green credentials. You get 17-inch alloy wheels which help give it a purposeful stance. The front-end of the car looks classy, with its huge chrome grille and large projector lamps dominating the face. The car looks similar to the posher Lexus(also owned by Toyota) brand of cars and Toyota seems to have done this on purpose to make the car look even more luxurious than it is. The rear end isn’t as stylish as the front, but manages to look neat and modern. Overall, the silhouette looks elegant.
Toyota Camry Hybrid Review
The rear seats on the Camry are a treat. You get buttons in the centre arm rest for rear climate control, stereo and even seatback angle, which can be adjusted. There is an electrically powered rear blind as well as side blinds which help maintain privacy for the rear occupants. Leg-and-headroom are in abundance too and the cabin is wide enough to accommodate three at the back.
Front passengers are comfortable too. A raft of adjustments are available for the driver seat and steering wheel, which means it’s easy to find a comfortable driving position. The two-zone climate control up front means that your passenger won’t fight with you over the temperature in the cabin as he can set his own. The touch-screen infotainment system plays the stereo and also doubles up as reverse camera screen and even gives you details like the charging progress of the batteries when they are drained. Quality of materials used is good and we loved the white optitron gauges.
Engine, transmission and performance
The car is powered by a 2.5-litre petrol motor with 158bhp which is assisted by an electric motor with 44bhp. So in total, you get 202bhp of power. The idea is simply this. The electric motor runs the car on battery power till 40kph and once past this speed the conventional engine delivers power. Power is transmitted to the wheels through a CVT-automatic gearbox.
Press the start/stop button and you are met with a quiet eeriness. The only clue that the power plant is active comes from the fact that the warning lamps on the instrument cluster go off. The car starts moving in electric mode and if you push the accelerator pedal all the way down, the petrol motor wakes up immediately. But even that is very quiet. Refinement is a major advantage that the Camry has over its established rivals. Toyota has taken a lot of the high-rev mechanical thrash out of its petrol-electric powerplant, and the car is doesn’t make much noise even when you push the engine up to its rev limiter. This is a car you will enjoy spending time in after that busy day of hectic board meetings. The only noise entering the cabin is that of the tyres and the suspension thumping when it negotiates the sharper crevices on the road.
There are three driving modes to choose from – EV, Eco and Normal. In EV mode, you drive on the electric motor alone, and you’re restricted to 40kph. This mode is ideal in bumper-to-bumper city traffic. In Eco mode, the petrol motor works in combination with the electric motor effortlessly. This mode works well at low speeds. Then there is normal mode which runs only on pure petrol power. Just push the accelerator pedal down and be ready to get pushed into the seats with an instant burst of power. Overall, the transition between modes is seamless. The performance from the 2.5-litre engine is very good making this a good long distance cruiser as well.
Ride, handling and safety
Toyota’s packaging prowess has kept the battery within the wheelbase and it retains a respectable centre of gravity. The suspension settings have been made stiffer to accommodate for the heavier battery pack at the rear. That means dynamically the Camry is adept. Infact, the stiff suspension and relatively communicative steering mean it’s very agile as well, especially considering its sheer size and weight. Take it to three digit speeds and it remains as composed as any European rival. Though Toyota hasn’t intended it to be a sporty handler there is some fun to be had for keen drivers.
The Camry comes loaded with kit. You get four airbags, Hill-start assist, which prevents the car from rolling backwards when starting on a steep incline. The Camry also gets Vehicle Stability Control, which applies brakes to single wheels when it thinks a particular wheel is slipping.
Toyota claims a fuel economy figure of 19.16kpl for the Camry hybrid, which is over 50 percent more than the regular Camry’s claimed figure of 12.98kpl making the hybrid a good choice for economy seekers.
If you are in the market for a fuel efficient luxury car but don’t want to buy a clattering diesel one, then the Camry Hybrid is perfect for you. Its quiet cabin, impressive road manners and posh looks make it a worthy alternative to established rivals. Not to mention the bragging rights it will give you at the club.
The Skoda Superb which retails at Rs 24.94 lakh(ex-showroom, Delhi) is the nearest rival to the Camry hybrid which retails at Rs 29.75 lakh(ex- showroom, Delhi). While the Skoda might trump the Toyota in overall cabin space and build quality it simply can’t match the Toyota’s calm and peaceful cabin.