The new Toyota Camry Hybrid is not… subtle. This is somewhat surprising, given that the Japanese automotive giant tends to stay on the ‘safe’ side of things when it comes to design, but there you go. Call it the influence of Lexus if you wish – modern Lexus’ have front ends that I wager can be spotted from space – but the fact is that the 2019 Camry Hybrid is a far more arresting sight on the road than its predecessor, principally because of its gigantic, ribbed front fender, which sits below a reasonably slim grille. Clearly the idea was to give the car ‘sporting’ and ‘aggressive’ intentions, to which end the exterior has prominent creases and edges, a sloping roof, an integrated boot spoiler, slick LED lights, 18-inch wheels and the like. Does it work? Yes, in the way that a little excess sometimes does.
The cabin is what the Camry is all about in India, where its buyers rarely rest their posteriors in the front passenger seat, let alone the driver’s throne. To that end, the rear seats are a triumph. The overall beige theme goes a long way towards making the interior feel spacious and airy, and you can stretch your arms and legs out properly, as well as recline the back rests. A cool addition is a touch-operated control panel between the rear seats, on which are controls for the rear A/C, the backrest recline and the rear windscreen’s sunshade. Curiously, the rear seats are not cooled – only the front passengers get to, well, chill. Up front, there’s a Y-shaped element on the dashboard, which merges nicely into the rest of the cabin. A large touchscreen sits in the middle of the dashboard, which is a little non-intuitive to use; you don’t get Android Auto or Apple CarPlay either, instead having to rely on a slightly hit-and-miss smartphone mirroring system.
Overall, though, this is a very well put together cabin, with plenty of features – 9 airbags, a 9-speaker audio system, a head-up display on the windscreen, cruise control, tyre-pressure monitoring and a three-zone climate control system are among the whizbangs. If you’re driving, there are a couple of excellent touches – the bonnet has been lowered (with the wipers tucked out of sight), aiding visibility, and the wing mirrors are mounted directly on the doors, to help cut out blind spots.
On the go, the new Camry feels immediately sprightlier than the older model, because its engine is more powerful by 18 hp and 8 Nm. Since it’s a hybrid, there’s also a 245 volt nickel-hydride battery, with a new motor generator, putting out 120 hp and 202 Nm – working together, the IC and hybrid systems have a combined power output of 218 hp. The car is whisperquiet at start up and low speeds, and even when you step on the gas and get to a cruising speed, the cabin is superbly insulated against outside noise. Whenever an overtake is needed, a dab on the accelerator is all it takes to get the Camry to surge forward, with the electric motor providing a little kick in the pants of the IC unit. The transmission is an e-CVT unit which is smooth and quite seamless – it’s only under aggressive acceleration that the ‘rubber band’ effect of a CVT comes into play in a minor way (this is when the transmission keeps the revs at their maximum level, even as the engine builds up speed). The Camry has well-finished paddleshifters, in case you want to switch to ‘manual’ gearshifting mode.
Significant changes to the car’s structure have taken place – a lowered ride height, a longer wheelbase, an independent rear suspension and the motor’s battery being shifted to under the rear seat. All this has resulted in a much-improved driving experience, with better ride quality and stability, less body roll around corners, more overall grip on the road and really good braking ability. Get the car up to high tripledigit speeds and you’ll feel it ‘waft’ a little bit over undulating surfaces, but this isn’t a deal-breaker by any means. The new steering wheel is chunkier to grip and offers better feedback than the older unit, too.
At an introductory, allIndia, ex-showroom price of Rs 36.95 lakh (which is less than the older car), the Camry isn’t a cheap automobile, but given that it’s eco-friendly, highly fuel efficient (you can easily expect 14 to 16 kpl), supremely comfortable and loaded with features, it’s an easy car to recommend – and you’ll quickly get used to that front fender.
ON THE INSIDE
Powered rear seats, 3-zone climate control, 9 airbags, 9-speaker audio system, cruise control, HUD
Rs. 36.95 Lakh Ex-Showroom
2487cc 4-CYL Petrol
WHAT WE DON’T
Performance – 4.5/5
Design – 4/5
Handling – 4/5
Interior – 4.5/5