HYBRID A GAME-CHANGER
FORMERLY SCEPTICAL REVIEWER SAYS IT’S REAL DEAL
I NEVER thought I would say it, but the new Camry Hybrid is a really, really good thing and I can totally understand why cabbies and others are switching from gas-powered Falcons and Commodores to Camry Hybrids.
Their day-to-day running costs would be halved.
And with the arrival of a new model Camry Hybrid, all that ratcheted up a few notches with even better fuel economy (we saw 5.2-litres/100km, giving a potential range up around 1200km), much better engine performance that is nigh on the same as an Aurion 3.5-litre V6, quite a sporty dynamic feel to the ride and handling, and a definite Lexus look to its flanks.
They start at $30,490, right in there with the main (conventionally powered) competition.
Toyota has been refining its hybrid power trains for decades and the result, as seen in the latest Camry Hybrid, forces you to think…. why not?
I admit to ‘dissing' hybrids in the past, but I reckon it was justified because they were ordinary and didn't offer that much better fuel economy.
That's changed with this new model, which has a definite, engaging sporty edge to its performance, ride and handling and then rewards you further with incredible fuel efficiency (on 91 RON).
You can't argue with that and then there's the engine performance to take on board. In short, it gets up and goes unexpectedly well that comes as quite a shock after previous efforts.
There's still a CVT auto behind the engine driving the front wheels, but you'd never know it.
Plant the right foot and away she goes.
On top of this is the fact that Toyota localises Camry with specific suspension, noise abatement, steering dust sealing and even transmission calibration. This translates into a solid-feeling car with a planted feel on the road.
It's a bit eerie when you ‘start' the Camry Hybrid and nothing happens until you put your foot on the accelerator and still, no noise. It's in EV mode and continues thus for some time.
Electric energy is harvested from various means in the car and stored in a nickel metal hydride battery for use as needed. The battery is old tech, but it works, and Toyota has had very few issues with it in the decade(s) since the first hybrid Toyota came on to the market.
The engine is basically a 2.5litre petrol four-cylinder with an electric boost/assist motor attached and a battery. Total output is a healthy 151kW with no torque figure quoted, but seat-ofthe-pants feel is about 300350Nm.
There are three hybrids in the new Camry models, with prices starting at $30,490 for the Altise.
Toyota crammed in plenty of kit for this, the last locally-made Camry, with a reverse camera, keyless ignition, dual-zone climate control, rear-park sensors, ToyotaLink connectivity, mobility apps and plenty of other stuff as standard equipment.
The Atara SL drive car was handsomely equipped almost to Lexus level. In fact, we don't see why you'd buy the ES300h Lexus for more money than the top-ofthe-range Camry Hybrid. It even looks better with its bold styling and wide mouth grille.
Rear seat room is massive, offering more legroom than much larger cars. It has a big boot too.
Safety rates five stars, with the range-topping models gaining extensive driver assist equipment including pre-collision safety system, cross-traffic alert, blind spot warnings and other goodies.
Verdict: This car came as a big surprise. It would be on the short list if I was going to buy a medium size car.
The Camry Hybrid is one of the top models in its class.