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70,00,000. 73. 8000. All significant numbers for the Camry, and the Toyota Camry Hybrid. The first is the number of hybrid vehicles Toyota has sold globally since they got into planet saving mode. The second, the percentage of Toyota Camry Hybrid sold in India in relation to total Camry sales in 2014 and the third, the number of Camrys sold in India since 2002, ever since Toyota started offering this giant cushion on our shores.
These numbers are part of the reason we’re looking at this car – the facelifted and improved new Camry – and the numbers indicate how important this car is to Toyota. It is their flagship sedan and you can have this new Camry for Rs. 31.92 lakh if you want the Hybrid (which you really must have) or, Rs. 28.8 lakh for the regular petrol sipper. Interestingly, these prices are the result of an unusual shot in the arm that goes by the name of FAME. It’s the Indian governments’ Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Electric vehicles scheme and thanks to it, Toyota has received a relief of approximately Rs. 70,000 on the Toyota Camry Hybrid. Toyota says all of this relief will go to towards relieving the burden on the customer’s wallet. Domo arigato Toyota.
It has got keyless go so, with the remote fob in your pocket, thumb the starter button, and the Toyota Camry Hybrid comes alive with a Christmas tree lighting up on the dashboard. Clock the 4.2-inch touch-screen colour display on the center console and the car will tell you you’re in full battery mode so tap the accelerator and you glide away noiselessly. The Camry is a series parallel hybrid and that means that it can run purely in electric mode, or purely on the 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine, or use a combination of both to power the car and use the engine to charge the battery when the conditions are right.
Right now, with the battery fully charged, we’re running on pure electricity and gliding on the 270Nm of torque that the electric motor generates. We’re in Mumbai and in Mumbai’s traffic, the charge doesn’t last long, at which point, the engine joins the party with a barely perceptible shudder. Now, with the combined 202bhp from the electric motor and the engine, the Camry comes alive. It’s very responsive at low speeds, the torque fill from the electric motor compensating for the engine’s slightly weak bottom end. It feels peppy, like a whale that thinks it’s a terrier, and in the traffic we’re in, it feels really good. Its crisp responses to throttle inputs, the smooth engine and the comfortable ride are what make it feel so good.
The Camry has always been a soothing car to be in and this one is even better than before – the suspension guys at Toyota have tweaked the dampers for better low speed suppleness and the seats put the business class seats in a Boeing 777 to shame. In here, cosseted by the three-zone climate control and the air-con’s Nanoe ion generator (it moisturises your skin and hair!), the Camry feels serene. The redesigned dashboard, the large, easy to press switches and the materials used, all come together to make the cabin feel special. Well, maybe not as special as some of its German rivals, but trust me, the Camry isn’t very far behind.
We’re approaching the expressway now and at higher speeds, the Camry loses a bit of face. The stepless E-CVT transmission has plenty of rubber band effect and the drivetrain doesn’t feel as effortless as say, the diesel-engined, twin-clutch combos that rivals offer. There’s a fair bit of road noise as well and the cabin doesn’t feel as insulated from the elements as some of its European rivals. The way to drive the Camry then is to relax and let it build up speed because when you push it and keep asking for quick bursts of speed, it tends to lose some of its mild, quiet manners.
Also, the handling is not very engaging and it feels like Toyota has dialled the whole suspension and steering package towards soothing your pulse which is perfectly understandable – peace and calm have always been a Camry trait and it is what endears it to the people who buy it, which, brings us to the fact that in India, the people who buy it mostly prefer sitting in the rear.
When I finally give up the ’wheel and take the back seat, I instantly know why the Camry is what it is. The seats are simply superb and in this new one, they power recline by 8 degrees, so you can be even more comfortable. The legroom on offer is astonishing and the center armrest allows you to control the audio and climate control system.
So, in the end, what you get with this new Toyota Camry Hybrid is a very sharp looking suit that disguises a very soft, easy to drive and comfortable-to-travel-in kind of car. It may not be thrilling to drive and it may not be as tank-like as its German rivals but it is a superb car to be driven around in. It’s the kind of car that tells you to kick back, take it easy and let the chauffeur do all the hard work while your eco-conscience remains clean and green.