It’s rare to read anything about Toyota being at the forefront of innovation, but it is true when it comes to Hybrid technology. Best known for the Prius (the butt of eco jokes in the United States), we also have the Toyota Camry Hybrid. A combination of 2.5L petrol four and battery electricity give the physically big car some serious get up and go and with some frugal fuel consumption. A Wheel Thing spends a week with this Aussie built example of techno engineering.
Toyota quotes a maximum power output from the combined units of 151kW. The petrol engine delivers that on its own with 118kW from the battery engine. The system is linked to the brakes which generate energy to top off the battery when under deceleration or simply coasting along. On start up there’s a faint hum, the dash lights up and the car awaits your command.
It’s a somewhat baffling sensation to get under way with no other noise than that of the tyres on road, however Toyota allow the petrol engine to kick in, in my opinion, way too early, to supplement the ability of the electric energy.
Even a modest pedal sees the 2.5L four banger called to the front line, a case of overkill when a torquey electric motor can do the job. At freeway speeds, where the electric engine’s work load would be minimal, the petrol engine reigns supreme.
A figure of 5.2L of 91RON fuel consumed per 100 kilometres of travel in a combined scenario is quoted by Toyota, with highway at 4.9L and urban at 5.7L. These figures are pretty close to the mark, with an average of just over 6L per 100 with 590 kilometres covered.
Camry and its V6 engined sibling, Aurion, underwent a change of clothing recently, sharpening up the softer edges and performing a nip’n’tuck on the plastics front and rear. The mid section, exterior wise, looks largely unchanged since the Camry of the mid naughties. The overall appearance is an evolutionary refinement of that model, itself an overhaul of the previous iteration.
There’s globe fuelled driving lights at the bottom corners of the front bumper, a nicely integrated design for the headlights and chrome grille, a steel bonnet (alloy should, really, be the preference) whist just three subtle Hybrid badges adorn the sheetmetal; one on the boot and one each for the flanks at the front.
The sharpened tail lights are bisected by a chrome strip and both ends have a Toyota “T” with blue halo highlights around the T structure. It’s a nice touch and alludes to the electrical aspect of the Hybrid.
Stylish five spoke 17 inch alloys with 215/55 Bridgestone Turanza tyres complete the picture.
On The Inside.
Right then…for a technological boundary pusher, it’s a bit sad and boring internally. Plastic made to look like stitched leather for knee rests, hard plastic at that; a dash covering of almost the same quality and the same on the steering wheel. Woeful. There are, however, plenty of airbags for the safety conscious buyer.
The dash display is a speedometer, fuel gauge, an Eco gauge and an indicator gauge of litres per hundred. A small, centrally mounted, monochrome screen gives up a range of information such as the charging and engine usage whilst two small screens either side, in blue and white, provide trip info or gear selection/external temperature. It’s all very low key and not in keeping with the tech underneath.
The seats, although comfortable, look vinyl covered; the whole interior, bar the navitainment system, looks decidedly at odds with the rest of the car. A large touchscreen, framed by five buttons either side, features DAB (Digital Audio Broadcast) however the menu screen is messy and almost indecipherable. Another downside is, after engaging the map service for the first time, the screen defaults back to the map screen after a few seconds if you select, for example, the Radio screen. That’s a big no, as well.
Earlier on, I mentioned how the petrol engine seemed to be on more than off. Personally, I feel that the system is overly reliant on the petrol engine, however, given Camry’s demographic, it’s reasonable to presume some drivers would think something’s wrong if there is no engine noise at speed.
The ride quality is a touch soft, rebounding and wallowy, with the tyres, unusually, feeling as if they have a higher sidewall than the 55 profile says. There’s grip, yes, when pushed, but it feels somewhat as if it will lean over on the tyre. Steering is light, perhaps too light, lacking real communication through the tiller on the straight and puts forward a sense of lacking composure.
The brakes sometimes feel as if they grab too hard on a light push but they are in place and working hard when required; the display shows the regeneration energy being passed to the battery when they’re used.
Price for the Camry Hybrid range starts at $35490 + ORC’s. The car tested starts at $41490 and, frankly, just doesn’t feel like it. Sure, there’s the price of the technology but the interior quality and overall ride lacks impact for the dollar. There’s better, for cheaper. Service wise, the first five scheduled services – completed at nine-month/15,000km intervals – are capped at $130, costing owners no more than $650 for the first four years/75,000km.
So you’ll get the legendary Toyota quality, perhaps not a car that should be better than the sum of its important parts. Head to www.toyota.com.au/camry/specifications/hl-auto?WT.ac=VH_Camry_RangeSpecs_HLAuto_Specs
The Car: Toyota Camry Hybrid HL.
Engines: 2.5L four cylinder and battery powered electric engine.
Power: Combined maximum 151 kilowatts.
Fuel: Petrol, 91RON.
Fuel consumption – combined (L/100km) 5.2, Urban 5.7, extra urban 4.9.
Dimensions: Length x Width x Height in mm: 4815, 1825, 1470, Wheelbase (mm) 2775.
Tyres: 17 inch diameter, 215/55.
Airbags: front driver & passenger; knee (driver); curtain (front and rear), seats (front, driver & passenger).
Warranty: 36 months/100,000 km.