I think I need to get more used to driving hybrid cars. Hybrid cars are so unusually quiet that sometimes I can’t help but wonder if the engine is running or if the car is even started. As it usually happens, the starting up of the car is so silent that I mistakenly thought it was not started yet, so I turned it off via the POWER START/STOP button and restarted the car again.
After a week of test driving some performance cars, the peace and tranquility within the cabin of the new Toyota Camry Hybrid was a real soother. The Toyota Camry has always been one of the better family midsized sedans out there. As the name suggests, the Toyota Camry Hybrid is the regular Camry family midsized sedan but with a gasoline-electric hybrid powertrain instead.
The Camry Hybrid runs on any combination of the two power sources within its hybrid system that is made up of the 2.4-litre four-cylinder gasoline engine and the electric motor. Depending on the driving conditions, the system will alternate between both or use both at the same time. Power is delivered to its front wheels by a continuously variable transmission (CVT) because of its ability to maintain the gas engine in its most efficient powerband.
The 2.4-litre engine in the Camry Hybrid has been detuned from 167bhp in the conventional petrol-engined Camry to 150bhp. But with the 143bhp 270Nm electric motor, altogether the Camry Hybrid has a combined output of 190bhp, which then makes the Camry Hybrid the most powerful and also most efficient model in the current Camry range. But because it is a hybrid, the additional battery pack and electric motor means extra weight for the car.
Tipping the scales at 1,670 kilos, the Camry Hybrid weighs 130 kilos more than the Camry 2.4-litre petrol equivalent. This extra weight probably helps to explain the sedate demeanour of the car. The shift in the weight distribution of the Camry Hybrid makes the car more balanced and thus giving it less tendency to understeer. Zero to 100 kilometres per hour takes 9 seconds, 1.3 seconds faster than its 2.4-litre petrol equivalent.
When stationary at traffic light junctions, the petrol engine is switched off and the car will then be powered by the battery. The car will then be even quieter than usual. Moving off from rest, electric power is utilised until more push is needed, then the petrol engine will suddenly come to life with a rather abrupt jolt. These little measures – like switching off the engine when stationary – contribute to improved fuel economy, which is what the hybrid car is essentially all about. The stated fuel consumption figure for the Camry Hybrid is 16.4km per litre, which is very good for its size.
All the positive attributes of the Camry Hybrid remain: the smooth ride, comfortable cabin, luxurious interior, relaxed responses and advanced features. The big steering wheel has audio controls, temperature controls and radio station controls. The touch-screen entertainment system includes a reverse camera and a GPS that is useful and fairly easy to use but the screen is a tad small and it would be helpful if the road names were included in the voice directions. The flat carpeted floor with the spacious rear in the cabin, adaptive HID headlights, automatic headlights and wipers, cruise control, retractable rear sunshade and electronic front seats give the Camry Hybrid a very cosy and upmarket feel.
In the back, the boot offers 389 litres of storage space, a spare wheel and 60:40 split-fold rear seats which you can fold down if you need more space, although some of the space has been compromised by the battery pack. What’s different about the gear lever of the Camry Hybrid is the presence of a ‘B’ mode (‘B’ here refers to Braking). Basically this mode will activate a stronger braking sensation when the car is decelerating, essentially similar to selecting a lower gear for a standard automatic gearbox.
Aesthetically, the front of the Camry Hybrid has been revised some but it largely looks identical to its petrol equivalents. The headlights have blue tinting though, a trademark of Toyota’s hybrid vehicles. Transparent lenses have also been adopted for the rear lights. In terms of safety, the new Camry Hybrid has the advanced Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management (VDIM) system, often found in Lexus cars.
Instead of just putting together the individual functions of Anti-lock Braking System (ABS), Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD), Brake Assist (BA), Traction Control (TRC) and Vehicle Stability Control (VSC), the VDIM actually integrates all of these functions and enhances each driving skill with added safety. Other than the VDIM and the various electronic driving aids, other safety features include dual front, side and curtain airbags.
The Camry Hybrid is as good as it seems: big, comfortable, spacious and luxurious. The price tag of $173,488 with COE may seem a bit too much, with the 2.4-litre petrol equivalent at $154,488. Then again, you should be buying it because it is a hybrid that comes with the benefits of a Camry, and not the other way around.
Toyota Camry Hybrid
Engine: 2,362cc 16V in-line 4
Gearbox: Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT)
Max Power: 150bhp at 6,000rpm
Max Torque: 187Nm at 4,400rpm
Electric motor: Max Power 143bhp, Max Torque 270Nm
Total system output: 190bhp
Top Speed: 210km/h
0-100 km/h: 9.0 secs