The hybrid version of one of the best selling sedans of all time isn’t a thrill ride. But the fuel economy is definitely thrilling.
Review and photos by Tom Sedens
Pricing: 2017 Toyota Camry
Base price (Hybrid SE trim): $31,930
A/C tax: $100
Price as tested: $33,720
We’ve become used to the Camry’s continuously updated styling, and while it’s the best-looking one yet and Toyota loves to sell the Camry as having “sporty styling”, the 2017 Camry isn’t that exciting to look at. My review sample’s Pre-Dawn Grey Mica paint doesn’t help it stand out either. The SE package gets a “Sport grille”, a rear spoiler and unique 17-inch rims shod with 215/55-sized tires – otherwise, it’s pretty much standard fare. Nothing exciting, nothing offensive.
I really liked the current Camry interior when it came out. It’s still a good thing, although the styling is not as fresh as it was a few years ago. Toyota’s material choices are OK – you’ll find nice stitched leather-like stuff on the dash and micro-suede on the door panels, and hard plastics elsewhere. The front “Sport” seats (exclusive to this SE trim, just like the aluminum scuff plates on the door sills) are heated and upholstered with a combination of leather and micro-suede. Unfortunately the seats aren’t as comfortable as I’d like – they feel a bit hard, and the bottom cushion seems too short for me.
The sound system and phone functions are handled by the 6.1″ touchscreen, which sits in the middle of the dash. Toyota’s user interface is mostly straight-forward and works pretty well. This is a relatively base vehicle, so there’s no navigation. Music sources include AM, FM, USB, CD, auxiliary input and Bluetooth streaming.
The climate control is dual-zone and automatic. This trim is a bit short on driver assistance technology. You get a back-up camera but the guidelines aren’t even dynamic, so it seems a bit behind the times.
The Camry boasts some spacious rear seats – passengers will find plenty of leg room and enough head room for most. The space itself is pretty plain – no charging ports, no conveniences other than a basically useless storage bin. Our three kids were happy with the room though, and there are two sets of LATCH anchors for child seats.
I liked the rubberized bin under the centre stack, which had 12V, USB and auxiliary plugs. Otherwise, you have some space underneath the armrest lid where you’ll find a carpeted bin with another 12V plug.
Hybrid sedans often make you pay the price when it comes to trunk space, as that’s typically where you’ll find part of the battery pack. The Camry’s is still quite reasonably sized at 370L and we found it very usable.
Under the Hood
Toyota combines a 2.5L 4-cylinder with an electric motor for a net 200 HP (as usual, no mention of torque figures with the hybrid specifications) powertrain which sends its power through a continuously-variable transmission (CVT). Of course a hybrid’s forte is its fuel economy – Toyota rates the Camry at 5.8 L/100 km in town and 6.3 L/100 km on the highway. Combine that with a surprisingly big 65L tank and you’re looking at some serious range on this car.
While the hybrid Camry is no rocket, this front-wheel drive sedan really holds its own off the line where it provides plenty of power. There was never a shortage of oomph around town or on the freeway. The engine definitely lets you know it’s there when you step on the gas, but otherwise it’s a very quiet ride.
You can choose from three drive modes – Normal, Eco (which dials responsiveness down and maximizes efficiency) and EV (with which you can try to drive in purely electric mode).
The SE trim’s “sport-tuned suspension” results in a ride that is fine, if not as plush as the normal Camry’s, and the handling is OK too. The regenerative brakes are squishy and then grabby, as you’d expect from nearly any hybrid vehicle. It’s something you get used to quickly and after a couple of drives, you’ll no longer be launching yourself through the windshield every time you come to a red light.
As mentioned, the Camry hybrid is quiet for the most part – nearly silent if you ease off the line under electric power – and visibility out of the car is very good.
What can I say? The Camry is simply a good car. It’s not the cheapest thing, particularly in hybrid form. But it is still reasonably priced and reasonably well equipped.
WAF (Wife Approval Factor) was so-so. She said there was nothing she didn’t like about the car, but there was nothing she loved about it either. That seems to be the Camry way.
There’s nothing super exciting here. The upcoming styling of the 2018 Camrys is a whole different kettle of fish, but until then, the Camry line-up is what one would expect. It’s good at everything, but won’t ever get your pulse going. I left the best part to the end – I ended up with an average of 6.3 L/100 km which is actually very exciting. You’re not buying a hybrid unless you care about fuel economy. To achieve that in a big sedan with no attempt to drive economically is pretty awesome. With that said, I’m not certain the hybrid is worth the admission price over the standard 4-cylinder Camry which is a very driveable and efficient vehicle already. I guess one would have to do the math to see if the hybrid would pay for itself over time.
Disclosure: Vehicle was provided by Toyota Canada.
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