Toyota Camry Hybrid - loaded and loved

By RIZAL JOHAN | 1 July 2015

The latest generation Toyota Camry hybrid is loaded with refinement and technology.

It’s a sign of the times when the top-of-the-range 2.5 litre Toyota Camry for 2015 now comes exclusively with a hybrid powertrain, leaving only the 2.0L variants - G and E grades - with a new and improved combustion engine.

The aptly titled Camry Hybrid is now more powerful, thanks to the assistance of the two electric motors which pushes out 143PS and 270Nm of torque.

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It also boasts a sportier look with a minor facelift. And it’s slightly cheaper too than the previous generation Camry.

Yes, you read that right.

The new Camry Hybrid is cheaper by almost RM8,000 and is now priced at RM174,900 (on-the-road with insurance).

It also comes with an eight-year assurance on the hybrid battery and a three-year warranty or 100,000km travelled (whichever comes first).

Toyota has embraced a design philosophy described as “Keen Look Identity” and “Under Priority” for the new Camry.

What you will notice with the new design is the split front-fascia with chrome trims, a unified headlamp cluster treatment and a mesh type grille.

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You’ve got the newly designed LED headlamps with daytime running lights as well as LED rear combination lamps.

The rear bumper has also been reprofiled for a sportier look and the addition of 17-inch alloy wheels with two-tone spokes gives it a more dynamic and stylish appearance.

While the changes may be minor, it’s certainly a welcome edition compared to the rather conservative look previously.

For the owners of the previous model, starting up the new Camry Hybrid is never going to be the same again.

Hit the push start button and you are not going to hear the combustion engine starting up.

Instead, it’s the electric motor which is so quiet it’s like turning on your computer.

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Don’t be alarmed though, because the car is running and the combustion engine, which produces 160PS and 213Nm of torque of mated to the electronically controlled continuously variable transmission, will kick in after a while.

The cabin maintains its premium look and feel with an all-black theme, spacious head and legroom rear passengers, comfortable leather seats and the rather sumptuous glossy wood trim.

The instrument cluster is quite flashy with the two-dial Optitron meter with clear blue illumination.

The 4.2-inch multi-information display in between the dials provides a wealth of information like average and instantaneous fuel consumption, eco drive level, energy motor and front and rear parking sensors, among others.

The air-conditioning is the dual zone climate type with rear vents.

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The Camry Hybrid also has amenities expected of an executive sedan such as powered seats, a 7-inch touchscreen display with navigation, DVD player, tuner, MP3, USB, bluetooth, reverse camera and a JBL 10-speaker system.

What is new is the wireless Qi-charger located at the centre console, which is able to charge compatible handphones by simply placing them on the charging pad.

This upmarket feature is something you would find in a Lexus.

But that’s not the only Lexus-inspired feature you will find in the new Camry Hybrid.

In terms of noise, vibration and harshness (NVH), the Camry Hybrid is comparable to that of Toyota’s luxury brand.

The insulation in the cabin keeps any noise from the outside to a bare minimum while the suspension is comfortable yet firm enough to absorb any harshness from the road, resulting in a very quiet and composed environment in the car.

Coupled with the fact that the electric motor is already almost silent and even the noise from the combustion engine is barely audible, the Camry Hybrid offers a calm and serene ride.

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However, if you are in the mood for a little fun, the Camry Hybrid offers quite a bit of excitement behind the wheel.

I know I said earlier that the cabin is pretty well insulated and it is, but once you put the metal to the pedal, the satisfying rumble of the exhaust note does filter through without flooding it.

The Camry Hybrid has a lot of torque on tap so it just pulls you along swiftly and with ease.

It handles well too and the steering feel is quite solid at higher speeds which bestows a lot of confidence.

The only complaint here is the feedback or rather, the lack of it, from the steering wheel, which is a minor niggle compared with plenty of stuff the car has to offer.

The hybrid system makes this a fuel-efficient vehicle, which produces low emissions and yet has a lot of acceleration on tap to satisfy the heavy-footed.

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Even with all that power, I found myself driving conservatively because the Hybrid System Indicator, which replaces the tachometer, shows how efficient (or not) your driving is.

I enjoyed keeping the car in the eco band range and even then, the car never felt sluggish.

It’s a lot of fun driving this car, whether at moderate speed or fast and you can’t beat the quietness and comfort it offers.