TOYOTA CAMRY HYBRID SE

TOYOTA CAMRY HYBRID SE

By Tom Crosby

The Toyota Camry has dominated the highly competitive U.S. mid-size sedan market for almost two decades, beating out its main competition – the Honda Accord.

For 2015, Toyota has raised the stakes against its fellow Japanese competitor with a complete makeover of the seventh-generation Camry, just three years after the last overhaul in 2012.

Gas powered models include the base LE, sporty SE and luxury XSE. They also all have hybrid gas/electric versions. We test-drove the SE Hybrid – looking frugal and green with 40-mpg consumption and more than a 600-mile range on one fill-up.

Its base cost is slightly more than $4,000 higher than the gas-only SE but for a driver traveling 20,000 miles a year, that translates to 15-16 fewer service station fill-ups for the hybrid.

The new Camry has already won a slew of awards for safety, redesign, value and predicted reliability. Toyota notes over 90% of all Camry’s sold the last 10 years are still on the road today. Both insurance industry and government crash tests gave the 2015 Camry top marks.

The exterior redesign includes all new bodywork, except for the roof, and our front fascia included a large, black-mesh air intake above a chrome strip with the Toyota logo and black chrome surround headlights.

Toyota says it changed or reengineered 2,000 parts and one result is a quieter car. Side sculpting along with a slightly rising beltline provides on-road eye-candy that replaces Camry’s’ past vanilla look. Windows are frost-free.

Inside, refined elegance shows in easily reachable controls, soft door panels and color photos of recording artists as their music is playing on the 7-inch dashboard screen with the $1,300 Entune Premium Audio package with navigation. Entune is Toyota’s often touted Multi-media interface that allows numerous owner configurations, although it failed to connect several times before our linking with Bluetooth.

Seating is more comfortable and feels more spacious in all positions, thanks to an additional 1.8 inches in length, and dashboard white piping is a tasteful touch. Behind the wheel, a refined suspension provides a comfortable ride with handling feeling precise and solid.

Acceleration is very satisfying for a hybrid and drivers can choose ECO mode to maximize mileage. Trunk space is adequate and contains a spare tire. Rear seat fold down splits 40-60 with the passenger seat (the 60% side) also folding down.

LIKES: Mpg, looks, interior comfort, handling, ride, quiet
DISLIKES: Bluetooth hookup
BOTTOM LINE: Going green is now more stylish and more comfortable

FACT FILE: TOYOTA CAMRY HYBRID SE

  • Base price w/destination fee $28,820 ($32,987 as tested)
  • Curb weight 3,565 lbs.
  • Wheelbase 109.3 inches
  • Length 190.9 inches
  • Width 71.7 inches
  • Engine specs 2.5-liter, 4-cylinder, DOHC AC magnet synchronous motor
  • Horsepower 200 hp combined gas/electric
  • Torque 156 lb.-ft. @ 5,700 rpm (gas), 196 lb.-ft. @ 0-1,500 rpm (electric)
  • Transmission Continuous variable transmission
  • EPA Rating 40 mpg city and 38 mpg highway
  • Range 17-gallon tank, unleaded fuel
  • Performance 0-60 in just over 7 seconds