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Review of: 2015 Toyota Camry Hybrid 4dr Sdn XLE

7.5

2015 Toyota Camry Hybrid: Looks conventional, drives green

By Jil McIntosh

Dec. 18, 2014

At the risk of generalization, it seems there are two types of hybrid buyers out there: those who like their vehicles to stand out as hybrids, and those who want the technology with a little less flash. At Toyota, there’s the Prius for the former, while the latter can look to the Camry Hybrid.

It’s considerably updated for 2015, along with its gas-only Camry sibling, including new exterior and interior styling, and tweaks to the ride and handling. The driveline remains the same, with a tried-and-true 2.5-litre four-cylinder mated to an electric motor and nickel-metal hydride (Ni-MH) hybrid battery.

It’s available in three trim levels, starting with the LE at $28,410, and the SE at $29,635. My tester was the top-line XLE, which comes all-in and with no available options, for $34,500.

Pros & Cons

  • + Driveability
  • + Interior design
  • + Styling
  • - Drive mode selector
  • - Steering feel
  • - Folding seats difficult to adjust
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  • Walkaround

    The Camry Hybrid’s styling is essentially the conventional Camry with the appropriate badges. That means it has the new Lexus-inspired grille (which looks quite good on it), deeply-set daytime running lights that are LED on the top-line trim, and 17-inch wheels that it shares with the conventional XLE models.

    While the conventional four-cylinder XLE runs projector-beam halogen headlamps, the V6-powered XLE comes with LED headlights. I would have expected these to be on the Hybrid’s feature list as well, but they’re not. No doubt it’s part of the reason why the Hybrid is priced a tick below its V6-powered XLE sibling, but they do save energy, an important consideration on a gas-electric model.

    8.0Very good
  • Interior

    The Camry has always felt roomy and airy, and this latest version is no exception. All of the hybrid trim lines include dual-zone automatic climate control, eight-way power driver’s seat, and pushbutton start, while the XLE adds heated leather seats, four-way power passenger’s chair, auto-dimming rearview mirror with compass, and a garage door opener.

    There’s little evidence of the hybrid battery in the rear seat, save for the cooling vents alongside the seat backs, but it does chew up some of the trunk space. Even so, it’s still a grocery-friendly 370 litres (the conventional Camry’s is 430 litres), and includes a neat cargo net that folds down into a zippered case when it’s not in use.

    8.0Very good
  • Tech

    The Hybrid LE and SE models come with a 6.1-inch infotainment touch screen, but the XLE ups that to a seven-inch screen and adds navigation, JBL sound, text-to-speech capability, and satellite radio.

    Also included on the XLE, but unavailable on the other hybrid trim lines, is a blind spot monitor and cross-traffic alert. These work really well, especially the cross-traffic, which warns well in advance with chimes and flashing lights.

    The XLE also includes a Qi wireless charging system as standard equipment. I didn’t have a chance to try it, but a colleague reports that it doesn’t work with all phones, and requires that you buy an accessory for it before it’ll charge an iPhone.

    7.5Good
  • Driving

    The Camry Hybrid uses a 2.5-litre four-cylinder that makes 156 horsepower on its own, and combines with the electric motor to produce a maximum of 200 horses. Torque ratings are 156 lbs.-ft. for the gas motor, and 199 for the electric motor. All of it works through a continuously variable transmission (CVT) that includes a “brake” setting for more aggressive regenerative braking (which recharges the battery) if desired.

    Toyota’s hybrid system is among the best for seamless switches between gas and electricity. There’s an “Eco” mode that will give you even better fuel economy, but it also dials back the power and the climate control’s output. Alongside that button is one for “EV” (electric vehicle), which keeps the car on electric-only providing your speed is low and your foot is light. I’ve never understood the point of it, because the system goes onto battery anyway under those conditions, and it doesn’t take much speed or throttle before you get the message that you’re beyond the EV mode’s parameters and it reverts to regular operation.

    I drove the Hybrid back-to-back with the conventional Camry, and while both have been retuned for much better handling, the Hybrid’s ride is a bit harsher and noisier, and the steering feel is more artificial.

    Official fuel figures are 5.7 L/100 km in the city and 6.1 on the highway (hybrid figures are usually the reverse of conventional numbers, since they’re on their battery more in city driving), but I couldn’t get anywhere close to that, averaging 8.6 in combined cold-weather driving. By comparison, I got 10.7 L/100 km in the conventional V6 Camry.

    7.5Good
  • Value

    Hybrids cost more than their comparable conventional cousins, and the Camry is no exception: the base conventional LE is $23,850, while the base LE Hybrid is $28,410. Likewise, my XLE rang in at $34,500, which is $3,710 more than the regular four-cylinder Camry XLE. Move up to the Camry V6 XLE, and it’s only be $50 more than its four-cylinder hybrid XLE sibling. Gasoline-electrics are still more about saving the planet than saving your wallet.

    6.5Okay
  • Conclusion

    The Toyota Prius and Honda Insight, the initial hybrids, stood out from the pack because they didn’t look like anything else on the road. Today, several manufacturers are turning out hybrids that look just like their conventional cousins, and for the most part, only what’s under the hood feels any different. That’s the case with the Camry Hybrid, which looks good, operates seamlessly, and offers the same luxury-touch features in its higher trim level as the regular Camry. If you want the gas-electric experience without the gas-electric look, take this one out for a test.

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