Camry Hybrid improves on a good thing
ALOT of savvy consumers have already twigged to the completely redesigned Toyota Camry’s great value story, particularly the hybrid model.
With a new base price of just $26,990 it costs $4,320 less than the 2011 version. And it offers more power and even better fuel economy.
The Camry is the top-selling intermediate size sedan in Canada, and almost 40 per cent of them are hybrids. Toyota already leads the auto industry in hybrid availability, production and sales (over two million globally) and it’s astutely guiding this key market advantage to a new level of popularity.
At the core of every Toyota hybrid is its Synergy Drive system. Refinements to the 2012 Camry Hybrid include a slightly larger and more powerful 2.5-litre 4-cylinder gasoline engine. A more compact nickel-hydride battery (which comes with enhanced air cooling) and a repackaging of other components allow more cargo space in the trunk.
The new engine helps the hybrid system achieve 200 horsepower, which is a 13-horsepower increase on the 2011 edition. The drive system is also noticeably smoother in transitions between its power sources and, best of all, more fuel-efficient. Toyota claims a 39-per-cent improvement in city fuel consumption.
A new EV Drive mode, in addition to an Eco mode, allows the Camry Hybrid to be driven by the electric motor alone for up to 2.5 kilometres at lower speeds (below 40 kilometres per hour). It’s a very nice fuel-economy feature to have in slow-moving traffic, and it can also be used in situations where low-noise operation might be beneficial.
The new Camry Hybrid comes in two trim levels, LE and XLE. The main upgrades on the XLE include 17-inch alloy wheels (versus 16-inch steel on the LE), an eight-way power adjustable driver’s seat, leather steering wheel and shifter, Bluetooth handsfree phone connection and fog lights. These items also add weight, so there’s a slight increase in XLE fuel consumption.
My test Toyota Camry Hybrid was the higher XLE trim without any options. Its total price (including PDI) before taxes came to $30,690, which is lower than the starting price of most of its direct competitors.
Externally, the 2012 Camry has gone through a subtle redesign. Its front and rear have a slightly different look, which includes changes to the lighting. The roof support pillars are less bulky and allow better outward vision. The Camry Hybrid has some additional aero trim and comes with unique badges with blue accents to help identify it as the eco-friendly version.
Inside, the roomy and comfortable cabin offers new seat fabrics and an allnew dash, instrument cluster and centre stack. There’s more character here than before and it still has lots of handy storage places, including a generously sized glove box. A leather-look cap on the dashboard gives it an upscale appearance and the hybrid comes with a unique instrument cluster with ecodrive and fuel-consumption indicators.
The MI (multi-information) display can graphically show fuel consumption in real time, as well as powertrain energy flow. Rear-seat leg and head room are very good, and the split rear seatback also folds down to reveal a passthrough from the trunk. The smaller hybrid-battery pack, positioned behind the rear seatback, allows more trunk space than in the previous Camry Hybrid.
Built into the rear seatback is a new air vent that feeds into the hybrid battery pack. It’s important that this vent is not accidentally covered by something or someone sitting in the left rear seating position, as a lack of air can cause the battery to overheat.
The Camry’s airbag count is now 10 (up from seven) and it has already earned the top five-star overall rating under stricter new U.S. crash-test guidelines. A front passenger knee airbag and rear-seat side airbags are the new additions.
Smoother, quieter and more powerful, the improvements made to the hybrid powertrain will be recognized immediately by previous-generation Camry Hybrid owners. It’s so slick that I found myself checking the display graphic in order to see what was happening under the hood. Even the auto stop-start feature seemed to be more fluid in operation.
With outstanding fuel efficiency and top-notch safety features, the smoother and more powerful 2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid is already a winner.
Inside, the roomy and comfortable cabin offers new seat fabrics and an all-new dash, instrument cluster and centre stack. There’s more character here than before and it still has lots of handy storage places, including a generously sized glove box.