First Drive

Toyota Camry Hybrid review, test drive

We test drive the new Toyota Camry Hybrid and provide our first impressions of the new luxury saloon.

DETAILS
6
photos

Toyota is all set to launch its second hybrid car in India, the all new Camry Hybrid. Unlike the Prius however, this one has a lot to offer Indian car buyers. An ideal combination between a hybrid and a spacious entry luxury saloon, the new Toyota Camry Hybrid brings customers the best of both worlds.

But what exactly is the Camry hybrid? On the outside, the Camry Hybrid comes with a few exterior changes to distinguish it from the regular Camry. It gets a completely different bumper with a wider air dam and restyled fog lamps with chrome inserts. Lower profile Yokohama dB-series tyres wrapped around larger, 17-inch wheels and there are proliferations of blue badges to help identify it as a hybrid.

The real change, however, is under the skin. Toyota’s 2AR FXE DOHC VVT-I 2.5-litre petrol unit is there (albeit slightly tweaked to accomodate the electric motor), just as on the standard Camry, but assisting it here is Toyota’s electric drive unit that is all but  identical to the one found under the hood of the Prius. The electric motor however, is slightly more powerful. The total output for the hybrid system is 202bhp – 158bhp from the petrol engine and 44bhp from the electric motor. The hybrid system’s battery is nickel metal hydride and not lithium-ion, while the battery’s capacity stands at 6.5amp/hr. The battery pack itself sits behind the back seat.

There are changes to the cabin too, as Toyota smartly has focused on providing plenty of features to rear seat occupants. You get three-zone climate control (driver, front passenger, and rear passengers), cooled front seats, cruise control, and powered rear seats that recline by up to eight degrees. The rear armrest houses the controls for the recline functions and climate control for the rear. There’s a sunblind for the rear windscreen that is powered as well. And you get manual side blinds too.

A nifty feature that Toyota has incorporated is the ability to flip the front passenger seat’s headrest forward to give rear passengers a better view of the road ahead. As with the regular Camry, there’s also a button on the side of the electrically adjustable front passenger seat, allowing you to push it forward from the rear seat.

So what’s it like to drive? Well, 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. Throttle responses are smooth in this mode and it’s best for driving in traffic.

Then there’s Eco mode. Here, the electric motor works well with the petrol engine and there’s enough power and torque on offer to make driving effortless, especially at the bottom end. The new hybrid system integrates smoothly and feels evolved, improved and more refined. This is especially true when transitioning between various modes. The performance is quite nippy, but the moment you accelerate harder, the car takes a bit of time to get going. This is due to the e-CVT (electronic continuously variable transmission) unit it is mated to, which takes a bit of time to catch up and waits for the revs to build up. That said, the rubber-band effect usually associated with this kind of gearbox isn’t as pronounced as with other CVTs.

The third mode, Normal, essentially deactivates Eco mode. The car is a lot more fun to drive in this mode as performance improves dramatically. Toyota’s petrol motor has always been torquey and quick to get off the mark. Here, with the electric motor assisting it, it’s even better. Hit the gas pedal, or in this case a combination of throttle butterfly and an electric switch, and you are instantly greeted with a lot of enthusiasm. You get an instant shove in the back, that keeps getting stronger for a few seconds and the Camry moves forward with plenty of energy and enthusiasm. Remember,  we are talking about a car that is being pushed  forward by a combined drive power of 200 plus bhp. In fact, the Camry gathers pace so fast, you can easily touch 180kph without  the motor breaking into a  sweat.

Also impressive is the ride quality on the Camry Hybrid, and that’s despite the extra weight it is carrying. It is comfortable and pliant, soaking up road undulations reasonably well and because the heavy batteries sit behind the rear passenger seat, there isn’t too much bobbing or pitching either. The impact of deeper bumps is felt though and the suspension does thud over larger obstacles.

Unlike the Prius, this car also enjoys being driven in a spirited manner. The steering is impressively direct and the Camry Hybrid holds on gamely in corners, even as you pile on the power. Brake feel isn’t the best, though. Under hard braking, you can sense the regenerative brakes working away and the brakes feel a bit spongy. But the brake feel has been improved over the years in hybrid Toyotas, and in the Camry, it’s definitely a step up over the Prius.

That said, the long wheelbase and ground clearance (identical to the normal Camry at 160mm) could be an issue on bigger bumps if the car is full, since the suspension setup is on the soft side.

In terms of efficiency, Toyota claims that the Camry Hybrid’s ARAI-certified rating is somewhere in the region of 19kpl, which is quite impressive for a car of this size. We expect real-world efficiency to be in the region of 12-13kpl.

So, does the new Camry Hybrid deserve a closer look? Absolutely. While hybrids haven’t done well in India so far, this new Toyota has the potential to change all that. The Toyota Camry Hybrid costs Rs 29.75 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi), and is a luxurious hybrid saloon that’s comfortable, well equipped, and really nice to drive. The new Camry Hybrid could actually be the start of something big.

Fact File

Price Range (in lakhs)*

Ex-showroom price (Delhi) Rs 27.5 - 28 lakh (est)

Engine

Fuel Gasoline/electric
Power 158bhp/178 bhp
Torque 22kgm/28kgm

Transmission

Gearbox e-CVT

Dimensions

Length 4825mm
Width 1825mm
Height 1480mm
Wheel base 2775mm
Ground clearance 160mm

Chassis & Body

Tyres 215/55 R17 (Tubeless)

Suspension

Front MacPherson Strut with stabilise bar
Rear Dual link with stabiliser bar

Brakes

Front Ventilated discs
Rear Solid discs
comments powered by Disqus

notSet

We’ve exclusively driven the third-gen Maruti Swift, compared the Dzire with all its compact sedan rivals, and tested the all-new Volvo XC60. That and lots more in the July 2017 issue!
What's in this issue?

Trending Now
Find a car review

Latest Car Reviews

2016 Tata Tiago long term review, third report

2016 Tata Tiago long term review, third report

1 day 3 hours ago
First impressions are said to matter the most. If so, then the Tiago and I...
2016 Fiat Abarth Punto long term review, first report

2016 Fiat Abarth Punto long term review, first report

6 days ago
In this first stint with our new hot hatch resident, sheer driving pleasure...
2017 Tata Tiago AMT review, test drive

2017 Tata Tiago AMT review, test drive

Jun 20, 2017
Tata has introduced a five-speed AMT in the top-spec Tiago and that has made...
2017 Skoda Octavia facelift review, test drive

2017 Skoda Octavia facelift review, test drive

Jun 20, 2017
The Octavia gets some styling tweaks and more features but mechanicals...
2017 Audi A3 Cabriolet review, test drive

2017 Audi A3 Cabriolet review, test drive

Jun 19, 2017
Updated convertible not only gets all the cosmetic and tech upgrades of the...
Latest News
How will GST impact your car buying decision?
Vehicles expected to get cheaper across the board, except for hybrids;...
44 minutes ago   1 picture
Aston Martin RapidE confirmed for production
Aston Martin's first fully electric car is set to enter production in 2019...
3 hours ago   3 pictures
GM India dealers protest against insufficient compensation
Dealers are unhappy with GM's offer to compensate five...
16 hours ago   2 pictures
SAIC Motor confirms India entry
Chinese carmaker plans to enter India with MG brand; first model will roll...
20 hours ago   2 pictures
Bajaj Pulsar NS160 launched at Rs 82,400
The new Pulsar NS160 takes on the Suzuki Gixxer, Yamaha FZ and the Honda...
20 hours ago   2 pictures

Autocar Magazine

Issue: 215 | Autocar India: July 2017

We’ve exclusively driven the third-gen Maruti Swift, compared the Dzire with all its compact sedan rivals, and tested the all-new Volvo XC60. That and lots more in the July 2017 issue!
Autocar Magazine
Latest Poll
Should the FCA group launch the Fiat Argo in India?


or View results
Yes, Fiat needs an infusion of new cars
  78%
 
No, they should instead discontinue the brand and focus on Jeep
  22%
TOTAL VOTES: 998

Vote now
View previous Polls »