Camry Hybrid offers power, fuel economy, space
2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid LE
Base price: $26,990
Price as tested: $28,690.20
Engine: 2.5 litre, four-cylinder, DOHC, 16-valve, variable valve timing with intelligence (VVT-i), electronic throttle control system with intelligence (ETCS-i), Hybrid Synergy Drive, Atkinson Cycle, EV mode, ECO mode
Horsepower/Torque: 156hp, 156 lb-ft (200 hp when combined with electric motor)
0-100km/hr: 8.1 seconds
Suspension: (front) Macpherson gas struts, coil springs, stabilizer bar; (rear) independent, dual link, coil springs, stabilizer bar
Drivetrain: FWD, vehicle stability control, traction control
Transmission: Continuously Variable Transmission
Brakes: power assisted, front ventilated disc brakes, solid rear disc brakes, electronically controlled brake system, anti-lock brake system, brake assist, electronic brake force distribution, integrated regenerative braking system
Steering: electric power steering, rack & pinion
Tires/wheels: P205 / 65R16, all season tires, temporary spare tire, steel wheels
|Rated fuel consumption: 4.5-litres/ 100km city-highway combined (realized 5.8)|
Toyota Canada reported a 30 per cent year-over-year sales gain in July which included a new monthly record for Toyota trucks, the Lexus GS, Scion, and its Prius models.
Toyota’s hybrid family made a big contribution to the segments in which they were offered (8.4 per cent of Toyota sales with 1,183 units sold), and accounted for 45.9 per cent of sales in the intermediate car segment.
“Canadians are embracing new models like the Prius c, the Prius v and the next-generation Camry Hybrid — vehicles that deliver high fuel efficiency and low emissions,” said Tony Wearing, senior managing director, Toyota Canada Inc.
The topic of today’s review, the Toyota Camry Hybrid saw a 609.4 per cent increase in sales (227 units sold). That sales increase probably had much to do with the refreshed 2012 model.
Key changes for the new Camry Hybrid included a whopping 39 per cent improvement in fuel efficiency; best-in-class performance from its new 2.5L Atkinson Cycle engine; and increased cargo space thanks in part to a battery-pack size change.
Soft touches inside
As usual, we’ll jump inside first...
The Camry’s cabin was nicely finished and I liked the look of the soft-touch plastics on the upper dash with its white cloth stitching. Those soft touches extended to the door and centre console armrests, to the upper door trim, and to the knee pads on either side of the console.
That soft area on the console added to driver comfort as did the Camry's plush and supportive fabric seats. There was no adjustable lumbar support, but the support was there and I would have no concerns on long trips. I liked the three-tone colour of the front seats which had manual fore/aft, height, and seatback recline (no height adjust for the passenger). The front seatbacks reclined all the way back onto the rear seat cushion.
Both front doors had storage cubbies and room for tall bottles, while entry into the Camry was made easier by keyless entry, where I could leave the keyfob in my pocket.
Exclusive to the Camry Hybrid was its ‘Metallic-tech Grain’ trim; it combined with the black dashboard, brushed-aluminum highlights, and the ivory seat fabrics on part of the cushion and seatbacks.
Also unique to the hybrid was its three-gauge instrument cluster with an analog fuel economy gauge, plus a power-flow display which graphically showed the vehicle's energy flow, cruising range, and real-time fuel economy. Three small LCD displays positioned in each of the gauges showed all sorts of vehicle info., like outside temperature, odometer, average speed, Eco drive level, fuel economy, and more.
The stack area offered large, easy-to-use buttons and dials for audio and HVAC. In fact, I really liked the simple functionality, especially for the climate control. Like most days throughout this awesome summer, it was hot and muggy through my test period and I appreciated how quickly the Camry's AC cooled down the cabin.
A large cubby at the bottom of the stack had a push-push lid and inside there were inputs for media devices, including an iPod, and there was also a 12-volt power source. The wide console area housed the gated shifter, two cupholders, and a good-sized open tray. The big armrest bin was, well, big (for a midsize sedan; a hybrid no less).
Tall and wide folks would have no complaints seated up front.
Those same big folks would find the same room and comfort in the rear where there was loads of leg and head room. The middle seat was even half comfortable and would suffice for a slim human in the 5-11 range. There was lots of knee room for me back there seated behind a pushed-back driver's seat and my feat also had plenty of room to wiggle under the front seat.
Entry and exit to the rear were easy tasks and folks older than myself would probably feel the same. I appreciated the room for two drinks in each rear door along with the two cupholders in the fold-down armrest.
Olivia’s booster seat fit very well and she had no problem at all buckling herself in, even with the armrest down and full of kid drinks. The young-uns also appreciated the pouches on the seatbacks for their books and there was an open cubby on the back of the centre console for more small stuff (Davide had his Nintendo 3Ds stored there).
Assist handles (above all four doors) were there to aid the exit process. Parents will also like the easy-to-access lower tether anchors for infant seats, the three top tether strap anchors on the rear dash, and the fact that forward- or rear-facing infant seats would fit just fine.
New-found cargo room
The Camry Hybrid added more trunk space for 2012 (now at 13.1 cu.ft.) thanks to a trunk-mounted battery pack that was reduced in size along with the DC-DC converter that was moved from the trunk area to beneath the hood.
Its trunk would fit two full-size bags of golf clubs and a couple of kit bags (do golfers use kit bags?). It measured roughly 30 inches long and 51 inches wide. My tester included a handy cargo net.
I liked that the right portion of the Camry's rear seatback could fold forward with the tug of a lever in the trunk. With that seatback down a pass-through about 16 inches wide and seven inches high appeared.
Something about 90 inches long could fit in from the trunk and through that pass-through up to the front passenger seatback which was fully upright with the cushion portion forward to the max. You could slide in several 2X4X8s on a slight angle up through the front seats.
Like the rest of the Camry lineup, the hybrid version sat atop a new platform for 2012, but its length, width, height, and wheelbase remained the same.
Exterior changes included all-new sheet metal and a new chrome grille that reached upward toward a refreshed headlamp design. At the bottom of the grille was a wide air inlet winged by trapezoidal chrome fog light niches.
At the back, chrome taillight accents were cast-off and replaced by a curvier design that draped into the rear side panels and spread to the trunk.
What distinguished its exterior from the regular Camry, which I reviewed here recently, were the hybrid badges on the front panels and trunk lid, while the front and rear Toyota badges sported blue backgrounds rather than black (similar to the Prius).
My tester’s beautiful Cypress Pearl would be my choice of colour.
Power and fuel efficiency
The Camry Hybrid felt more like it had a V6 under the hood rather than an in-line four.
Its new 2.5-litre Atkinson Cycle gave the Camry more horsepower and more foot-pounds of torque, which combined for some surprisingly lively acceleration.
Throttle response was great as the Hybrid gave all its power in an instant, which was darn good for off-the-line dashes or quick highway passes.
The 2.5 four-cylinder worked with a 105-kw electric motor and a revised 245-volt battery pack which consisted of 34 nickel-metal hydride modules each with 1.2-volt cells. Combined power output was 200 hp.
The transition from gas engine to electric motor and back again was absolutely seamless, and its improved regenerative braking system was something I noticed right away as it was comparable even to the non-hybrid Camry.
Thanks to several new enhancements for 2012, the Camry's interior was hushed as very little outside noise entered on drives in the city or on the highway, while its suspension softened the asphalt nasties.
The Camry Hybrid drive system also offered both EV- and ECO-mode options.
In stealth, err, EV mode, the electric motor, powered by the hybrid battery, was used to drive the vehicle. This mode enabled me to sneak, for example, around my parking lot or garage at work while the Camry didn't make any noise nor release any gas emissions.
EV mode would shut off when the vehicle approached 40 km/hr, but you could drive distances of a few hundred metres up to two km in the right conditions. EV mode would shut off if the hybrid battery got too low or if you pressed the accelerator firmly.
In Eco mode, vehicle driving force and operation of the AC system was controlled to improve fuel efficiency (it managed the heating and cooling operations and fan speed of the AC system).
There was a ‘B’-shift option for the Camry Hybrid’s transmission which allowed for engine braking; it took the place of the conventional automatic transmission's ‘L’ setting and could be used for, say, downhill braking situations.
The big news for the new Camry Hybrid was fuel economy. Its estimated fuel economy rating was 4.5-litres/ 100km city, 4.9 highway, and 4.7 combined (we realized 5.8 after an extended 14-day test; I still had more than half a tank of fuel left before I had to top it off and return).
On the whole, for those on the hunt for a mid-size sedan with proven reliability, superior fuel efficiency, ample cargo space, an affordable price, and more than enough power for everyday drives, then a trip to your local Toyota dealership for a test run in the new Camry Hybrid should not be ignored.