Western Suburbs Weekly - - Drive Way - Pe­ter Barn­well

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.

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