The Toyota Camry has been a particularly recognizable brand of entry-level luxury across the world and one of Toyota’s largest selling cars. The wheelbase covers a sizeable chunk of real estate and everything inside it was shiny, reliable and worthy of a much bigger price tag. Translation – the Americans loved it. You’d think those reasons alone would make it a hot seller in India but people weren’t all that keen on the Camry until Toyota slapped a blue oval onto it and gave us the Toyota Camry Hybrid.
The one you see here is the recently face-lifted one. It’s mechanically identical to the previous one save for a few odd tweaks here and there and it’s still, stupendously comfortable. To begin with, Toyota have decided to give the 2015 Camry a much more prominent jawline. While all the Camrys of the past had a domesticated air about them, the new one is fairly flamboyant. Both the front and rear bumpers are a little more pronounced. There’s plenty of chrome up-front, covering the grille and outlining a much bigger air dam and the headlights are reshaped to look much sharper, giving the car a bit of a scowl.
Like the pre-facelift Camry, this too has a 2.5 litre petrol motor detuned to produce 160 bhp, working in tandem with a 245V electric motor to give a combined power output of 202 bhp. The power is sent to the front wheels via an electronically controlled CVT gearbox, making the Camry a reasonably powerful car to drive. But all of this can be surmised by taking a look at the spec sheet. What cannot however, is just how incredibly refined a car this Hybrid is.
Press the start button and there’s barely a whisper of a petrol motor coming to life. With the electric motor immediately aiding acceleration at lower revs, the Camry Hybrid takes off with remarkable urgency. Its acceleration was previously hampered by a rather sluggish CVT gearbox which had a pronounced rubber-band effect. It’s astonishing how that particular issue has been completely ironed out, even in Eco mode where the revs are much lower. So you benefit from the efficiency of a CVT without any of the side-effects. What’s also equally astonishing is that despite being quite wide in its proportions, the Camry Hybrid possesses a certain levity when being driven – perhaps because of the smooth, low-end acceleration.
The Hybrid system still works in the same manner, using the vehicle’s kinetic energy to recharge the battery via regenerative braking and while the vehicle decelerates. You’re even informed of how much current is flowing into the battery with a digital bar that sits in the middle of the speed and rev gauges. When reimbursed with enough charge, the Camry is capable of running purely on electric power (for a good 4-5 km) at the touch of the ‘E.V mode’ button under the central console.
If you’re more concerned about how the Camry feels like to be driven in, it’s always been big on interior space. Really big. Toyota has even thrown electronically reclining seats at the back, with temperature, multimedia and seat controls neatly housed in the armrest. Electronically controlled blinds for the rear windscreen and the windows. The car is phenomenally insulated and quiet on the inside. Its aided by Yokohama’s decibel tyres which along with the electric motor make it a very tranquil environment.
Arriving a little over 2 years from when the pre-facelift Camry made its way to the market, the locally assembled, updated Camry is more financially appealing. Partly due to the shrinkage in petrol-diesel prices, and partly because the government’s FAME incentive gets you a Rs 70,000 rebate on its Rs 31.92 lakh (ex-Delhi) price tag. As far as luxury sedans go, the Camry has all the right ingredients – it’s a wonderful car to be driven in and with the exception of a very light and uncommunicative steering, it’s tremendous fun to drive – but there are plenty of big engined and big boned cars that’ll give you all of that. What they won’t give you is a fuel efficiency figure of 12-13 kpl (19.5 kpl according to ARAI) and a seasons pass to the tree-hugging club (if you’re into that sort of thing). Hybrids are here to stay. And the Camry is the first step in proving how that’s such a bad thing after all.