Gas-electric hybrid technology is commonplace these days, thanks largely to Toyota and its line of Prius
Toyota introduced the world’s first widely available production hybrid in 1997 and since then has sold more than five million hybrids around the world and more than 90,000 here in Canada.
has gone “all in” with hybrids, sales really started to take off industry-wide when manufacturers started putting the technology into their standard sedans. That’s because many consumers wanted to embrace hybrids, but didn’t want to sacrifice sporty styling.
For those in that camp, take a look at the 2015 Toyota Camry Hybrid.
You may snicker when I mention the Camry, but for 2015 it has been redesigned from bumper to bumper. The result is a bolder, sportier new look.
Toyota says its designers and engineers “re-imagined nearly every exterior surface of the car, while the new, upscale interior features premium soft touch materials throughout the spacious cabin.”
Underneath the new body, the chassis and body structure have been bolstered with more spot welds, resulting in enhanced rigidity for better ride quality. The suspension and steering systems have also been re-tuned to help provide more responsive handling.
Engineers focused on reducing unwanted wind and road noise to make the cabin even quieter. Window and door seals were improved to keep out unwanted noise and the carpet has 30 per cent more insulating material. Even the side mirrors were reworked to better control air flow and reduce turbulence and noise.
Overall, the new car is slightly longer by 45 mm and has a widened track by 100 mm.
The Camry Hybrid gives Toyota six hybrid models in its portfolio with a seventh in the form of the RAV4 Hybrid available soon. There are four hybrids in the Prius family along with the Highlander
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Putting the Hybrid Synergy Drive into this car is a no-brainer for Toyota, given the success the Camry sedan has had over the years. It’s a perennial leader in mid-size car sales here and south of the border because it offers what buyers want in a mid-size offering— roominess, reliability and fuel-efficiency.
The hybrid version of the Camry offers all of the above, and then improves on the level of fuel-efficiency, particularly when it comes to city driving.
The Camry Hybrid is available in three distinct models.
The LE is the base model, starting at $28,710. The sporty SE ($29,935) was first introduced in 2014 as a special edition, but because of its popularity it is now part of the permanent lineup for 2015.
Our XLE tester had a base price of $34,800, but with taxes and freight and PDI, came as tested at $36,552.
Standard on this model for 2015 are features such as LED daytime running lights, unique wheels, leather-clad heated front seats, leather shift knob, premium navigation system, moonroof, JBL audio system, blind spot monitor, rear cross traffic alert system, wireless charger and integrated garage door opener.
Fuel economy is what gives the Camry Hybrid a leg up over other vehicles in the mid-size pack.
It’s all because of Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive system on the Camry that includes a 2.5-litre DOHC 16-valve four-cylinder engine with a 105 kW electric drive motor, producing 200 net hp.
Power for the system is stored in a sealed nickel-metal hydride battery, stored behind the rear seat. This power is transferred to the front wheels with an electronically controlled continuously variable transmission (CVT).
Another advantage of the hybrid is lower emissions. In fact, Toyota says the Hybrid Synergy Drive produces nearly 70 per cent few smog-forming emissions than the typical new conventional vehicle.
For those who have never driven a hybrid, you’d be surprised how seamless everything operates.
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When you consider that the car is being propelled either through electric power alone, gas power alone or a combination of the two, it seems like a very complicated system.
And it is, but for the driver, it is all done automatically with onboard computers controlling the entire operation, even stopping the engine when the car is at rest and starting it again when the foot comes off the brake pedal.
Natural Resources Canada pegs the Camry Hybrid XLE fuel economy at 5.7/6.1/5.9L/100 km city/hwy/combined. Note that the city figure is better than the highway one, opposite to what you find with gasoline-only models.
In my test period, I averaged 6.3L/100 km, but it was mostly high-speed highway travel. Even then, that’s considerably better than the posted combined figures of 8.4 and 9.5 for the four-cylinder automatic and V6 automatic models respectively of the Camry.
The Camry Hybrid will hold five passengers; four comfortably and there is 370 litres of cargo space in the trunk. The pass-through is small, though, because the battery area takes up space in the rear.
On the road, the Camry Hybrid has decent acceleration for a four-door sedan. The handling and steering are improved thanks to the suspension and chassis upgrades.
In short, it does everything well and now has more exciting styling, which Toyota hopes will attract a younger buyer.
With a price in the mid-$30s, the Camry Hybrid XLE is not inexpensive.
But with the improvements for 2015, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a nice bump in sales for this hybrid model.
2015 Toyota Camry Hybrid XLE at a glance
five passenger, four-door sedan.
front-engine, front-wheel drive.
: 2.5-litre DOHC 16-valve four-cylinder engine with a 105 kW electric drive motor (200 net hp).
: 370 litres
: 5.7/6.1/5.9 L/100 km city/hwy/combined.
: $34,800, as tested $36,552.85.
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