The Camry Hybrid strays from the look of your average ToyotaS
eldom does growing up occur this dignified, especially in the car world. I, for one, would hate to be on the receiving end of being in charge of designing the evolution of a machine, but thankfully, Toyota’s men and women didn’t seem to flinch in this case. Going by how the Camry Hybrid’s turned out, in fact, it seems like they welcomed the task with open arms.
So here we are, then. The Camry Hybrid. There are plenty of reasons you see it here on this page. For a start, like I implied, this is one very handsome luxury sedan. Gone are the images of a bulky, lethargic, people-mover; this legitimately feels like a car that’s well and truly up to the task of taking on competition from the lovely Skoda Superb.
Sharp cuts and creases adorn the sleek front of the car, while the silhouette makes it look and feel like a car that’s a lot bigger than it actually is, which is no bad thing. This is, of course, the fourth generation of the Camry to exist in India, and I’ve never been fond of the vehicle, truth be told. Until now.
Well-proportioned and sleek, regardless of which angle you look at it from
A lot of that has to do with the way Toyota has done up the car. The LED headlamps with DRLs are a nice touch, as are the 18-inch alloys that, contrary to what you might think considering its size, help the car ride beautifully. I also quite like the integrated spoiler at the back, which is a testament to how well Toyota’s designed it because it’s a strict no-no otherwise for me on cars of this calibre.
The bigger surprise for me, though, is the way the insides have been crafted. Again, I’ve never really been a fan of the way Toyota designs its cabins. I always seem to walk out of them thinking, ’clever in places, and yet it still feels a touch dated’. This, though, I can see it ageing well. I can see the care with which Toyota’s detailed it. The unmissable ‘Y’-shaped centre console is an interesting respite from the usual designs seen on its other cars, and the overall quality, be it the soft-touch plastics or the leather bits all feel and look really good. Toyota’s even equipped the Camry with a 9-speaker JBL sound system that, while it isn’t the most sophisticated in the business, does the job more than adequately.
The Camry's dash layout is a welcome respite from Toyota's other cars
It’s in the seating department that Toyota rams home the point that this should be your next car, though. The front seats are wide enough for most, extremely comfortable, and they’re cooled to boot! There’s a massive amount of space on offer, and rear seat occupants will be kicking themselves (in a manner of speaking) with the amount of legroom and headroom on offer. Were it not for the low-slung nature of a sedan, I’d have been tempted to think that this was an SUV. Speaking of the rear seats, while you’re there, you can even plop down the centre armrest and fiddle with the sunshades, the audio, the rear air-conditioner, and even the backrest recline angle via touch-operated controls!
There’s plenty more tech that Toyota’s filtered into the cabin like nine airbags, a head-up display, cruise control, three-zone climate control, a tyre pressure monitor and more than enough charging options on the go for all your gadgets.
Y-shaped centre console a neat touch
And since we’re on the matter of tech, say hello to a new 2.5-litre petrol engine, helped along by a very nice hybrid system. The petrol engine itself makes 178hp and 221Nm, while the 245V nickel-hydride battery pack for the hybrid system motor generator that’s a step up from the previous hybrid has an output of 120hp and 202Nm. Combined, you’re looking at 218hp — none too shabby. For those asking, the fuel efficiency has also gone up to 23.27kpl, which is quite incredible for a car like this.
The biggest upside of having a hybrid system is the fact that when you start the car, there’s very little to actually let you know that the car is, in fact, on. No noise, zero vibrations, and while this is 2021 and this sort of thing shouldn’t be a surprise anymore, I can’t help but feel a pang of excitement that this sort of thing is even possible in the first place. As long as there’s enough charge, and as long as you don’t floor the accelerator, the Camry Hybrid will stay in EV mode, and cruise along with absolutely no noise. When you do eventually crack down with your right foot, the petrol motor fires up and takes over, but in the calmest, most mild way possible. Thereafter, you have a considerable amount of power at your disposal, but it’s not at the cost of cabin insulation, I must add.
18-inch wheels look right at home on the Camry, and even ride well
The way that Toyota’s set this engine up is for you to potter around in the most relaxed and comfortable manner possible, and this means that you’re going to be the most relaxed when you’re out about town at cruising speeds. As I mentioned earlier, the 18-inch wheels do a fantastic job of supplementing this kind of driving, giving you a very non-intrusive journey.
Where the Camry somewhat bogs down, expectedly, is when you try to wind it up. Don’t get me wrong, though. Find a spot in traffic that you need to surge into, or if you need to execute a quick overtake, and the Camry will be more than happy to go along thanks to the instant torque provided by the combination of the petrol and electric motor. But try and sustain those speeds, and it will feel like it’s running out of breath fairly quick.
Clean and uncluttered rear really distinguishes the Camry
This has a lot to do with the e-CVT transmission the engine’s paired to. Great for low-speed city use, but it feels confused out on the highway when you’re really trying to get a move on. Typical to CVTs, the rubber-band effect is ever prevalent, and if you think using the paddles behind the wheel will help, well, it won’t. Best to leave it to itself.
During my last day with the Camry, I decided to up the ante a touch by loading the car with five people and a fair amount of luggage, just to see if the ride suffered. In all honesty, it did, but only when I was going over fairly large speed breakers. Since it’s a fairly long sedan with an equally long wheelbase, it did bottom out at a few places. Even then, I do have to commend it for holding up rather well at higher speeds. There was no floaty feeling over expansion joints. It just felt rock solid for the most part.
Striking design up front for the Camry. Don't miss the enveloped fog lights!
Parting ways with it, then, was admittedly a little tough. It just makes so much sense, the Camry Hybrid. It’s good looking, feature rich, rides phenomenally and is ultra-efficient thanks to the hybrid system. Sure, it might boast a bit of a premium over some of its competitors, but you more than get your money’s worth in the end. Good on you, Toyota!
EOM EOM EOM
Toyota Camry Hybrid
Power: 218 hp (combined)
Torque: 221 Nm (ICE), 202Nm (Electric motor)
LxWxH (in mm): 4885x1840x1455
Price: Rs 48.83 lakh (on-road, Mumbai)