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2014 Toyota Camry Hybrid Road Test Review

  • May 05, 2014
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The Indian market has an appetite so big that it makes room for all cars. Big, small, off-roaders and even the most expensive of Supercars. The only category of cars that has not been able to grab some share is the Hybrid segment. There could be various reasons for it - lack of knowledge, lack of infrastructure, not enough promotion, high price point and so on. However, there’s one Hybrid that has managed to make a mark, not a big one but a decent size one. It fights all perceptions, like, when you say luxury cars are fuel guzzlers-It sneers. Or when you think that luxury cars are either petrol or diesel-It smirks. And when it hears that luxury cars are very heavy on the pocket-it just bursts out laughing! The one laughing is the Toyota Camry, India’s only luxury Hybrid sedan.



 

How does it look?

The Toyota Camry has never been a very flashy car. Toyota has always maintained a simple and elegant look for the Camry since it’s launch and the Hybrid version follows the same design thought. This version of the Camry Hybrid was launched in 2013 and wears a more mature look than it's predecessor. The front end design of this luxury hybrid is classy with a chunk of chrome in the grille and a shiny Toyota logo in the centre. The bumper is new and different than the petrol Camry and so is the fog lamp casing which is again chromed. The headlamps get a black tone and projector lights.



 

The side profile of the Camry is my favourite bit. It’s clean and no fancy lines to accentuate any design detail. With a total length of 4,825 mm and a wheelbase of 2,775 mm, the Camry screams luxury and comfort. The Hybrid gets the same set of alloys as its petrol cousin but the wheel size is 17 inches. Also, the B pillar is blackened and the windows get a chrome outline.



The rear of the car looks more modern and stylish than the front. There’s a wide strip of chrome above the number plate with the blue tinge Toyota logo. The rear lamps are neatly integrated in to the body and the bumper is fitted with reflectors. The Camry stands 1,480 mm tall and 1,825 mm wide.



How does Hybrid work?

Hybrid technology. This is like an enemy for the enthusiasts. We all love the environment and do express our concerns about global warming and how we should plant more trees (I’m part of the latter group) but when it comes to cars, we just forget our concerns. After all! As many say, how fast can an electric car go?

With the change of the millennium, Toyota also changed the idea of electric cars and introduced its hybrid technology. It was first introduced in the Prius (highest selling Toyota) and in the Camry in 2006 in the US. What Toyota managed to do was strike a balance between fuel efficiency and high speeds. It silenced the enthusiasts and served the economy conscious class too. The hybrid technology of Toyota is a combination of an electric motor and a petrol engine. The best part is that this combination works seamlessly.

The car starts on an electric motor, in this case a 650 Volt motor churning out 105 KW or 143 PS. The electric motor takes full charge of the car till you hit a speed of 40 km/hour, provided you are easy on the gas pedal and the battery has enough juice. Once the needle crosses this mark, the 2.5 litre petrol motor quietly kicks in and the car runs only on gasoline. This switch is so smooth that you will have to see the Energy Meter to actually realize that the petrol motor is doing duty. When the speed drops to less than 40 km/hour again the electric motor takes charge, depending on battery levels. It’s fascinating to see the whole process of what’s powering the wheels in the energy meter on the front screen in the dash and the driver display.



The Camry Hybrid claims an efficiency of 19.18 km/litre and in real world we managed about 13 Km/litre but while scrolling through the meter of the press vehicle, someone had managed 17 km/litre. It could be that the car was driven on purely electric mode to get to that figure but it truly is phenomenal to see a fuel economy figure that high for a luxury saloon. In case you want better efficiency you have two modes to choose from which are Electric and ECO mode.



In the electric mode, the car runs solely on the electric motor. The restrictions are that you cannot go beyond the speed limit of 40 km/hour in this mode. Then there’s the ECO mode, which is the mode you must drive on if you want to balance both the electric and petrol motors. In this mode, the electric motor interferes with the 2.5 litre petrol engine but they work as a team to optimize fuel efficiency. The petrol engine in the Camry Hybrid churns out 160 PS of power and the combination puts out a total of 205 PS – this is the maximum power output of the combined system. The 2.5 litre motor of the Camry Hybrid has been de-tuned and has an overall less power output than it's petrol cousin. However, it still has enough energy in it to manage a good and peppy drive. The car responds well to throttle and nowhere do you feel the motor running out of breath for a max 1,625 kg kerb weight luxury saloon.



Is it slow?

The Toyota Camry Hybrid takes 9.1 seconds to touch the 100 km/hour mark. That’s not too bad for a Hybrid. When you start the car, it does take some time to respond and that’s purely because it’s running on the electric motor. The Hybrid seems enough enthusiastic about being driven around. In fact the car manages 150 km/hour plus speed on an open stretch of highway easily without much fuss.The petrol motor on the car is fast and peppy and takes on the road with much confidence. The car also feels very grounded and stable even while taking corners or turns at high speeds. The gear shifts are also smooth and the steering response is good and instils confidence at whatever speeds the car maybe at.



How to start the car?

The only reason we choose to include this bit in our review is because the car is very different than other automatics in the market.You sit inside and see an automatic gear shift and think...press brake pedal and it will be happy to listen but no! The Camry Hybrid does not work like this. You press the start button, apply the brakes and shift the gear to drive mode (till here is sorted) but then you have to release the brake and accelerate a little to pump the electric motor that the car by default starts in. It’s a tricky little hybrid.



How comfortable is it?

The Camry Hybrid is one of the most comfortable cars in its segment. The obvious comparison is with the Superb but we want to point out that it’s the Hybrid. It comes with the same suspension set up as its petrol cousin, McPherson Struts with stabilizer bars up front and Dual link with stabilizer bars at the rear. Camry Hybrid is stable and a very comfortable car to be chauffeured around in, which is what it’s mostly used for. You don’t feel a bump or pothole when sitting on the back seat. In fact, the ride quality is so good that it feels like it’s carpeting each obstruction on its way. There’s little body roll and overall ride quality is one of the finest in its segment.



Is it feature packed?

Priced at Rs 29.75 lakh, ex-showroom Delhi; the Toyota Camry Hybrid has all the features that you would want. The dials and start/stop switch has blue tone to them which is soothing to the eye. It comes with 3-zone climate control for the driver, passenger and the rear passengers. It’s got cruise control, front cooled seats, steering controls, energy monitor, USB, AUX-in, CD, Bluetooth and radio compatible music system. The front seats of the Camry Hybrid are comfortable with good lumbar and thigh support. Both the front seats offer electric adjustment with 2 memory settings and are ventilated as well. The front passenger seat comes with settings on the side so that it can be adjusted by passengers sitting in the car, which is a very convenient thing to think off. Apart from this, Toyota Camry Hybrid has a lot of cubby holes and storage. The front screen also shows the rear view from the parking cameras.



The space on the rear seat is super impressive. There’s enough room for 3 to sit comfortably. The rear seats are a little low on the thigh support but the lumbar support is good and the seats are reclinable to 8 degrees. However, the rear seats could be more comfortable over long journeys if they reclined further back. The There’s an arm rest for the rear seat passengers which has controls for seat, air conditioning and music system with 2 cup holders. There’s a rear light for the passengers as well and finally, the electric rear blind and manual side blinds complete the package.

As for the safety aspect, the Toyota Camry Hybrid comes with 4 airbags. Along with this there’s Anti-Lock Braking System (ABS) with Electronic Brake Distribution (EBD), Hill-Assist, Traction Control and Vehicle Stability Control.



Verdict

The Toyota Camry Hybrid is priced at Rs 29.75 lakh, ex-showroom Delhi and it sure does have a certain brand and ego boost to it. After all, buying an expensive Hybrid is surely a status symbol. Apart from this, the Camry Hybrid is comfortable, drives well and comes loaded with features. With this car, Toyota has changed the definition and mind set of luxury cars as it’s not just a good car to own but it’s also fuel efficient. It’s a more practical purchase than the say the likes of the BMW X1 and Mercedes B Class (diesel versions are almost at the same price) because it offers more comfort and space and is better looking. It’s also a more value for money purchase than the Mercedes A-Class (again the same price band). Overall, the Toyota Camry Hybrid is definitely a car that is an intelligent buy at this price.

Photography by Kanupriya Bhatnagar

 
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