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It has been a while since I did an article titled Clean Up Your Act. It was an article on how a petrol-electric hybrid, like the Toyota Camry Hybrid, could help you become a more efficient motorist, from an energy/ resource management perspective of course. As a result, reducing your overall eco footprint over a period of time. During the development of that content I realised that there is another fabulous side to a petrol-electric hybrid powertrain that gets absolutely overwhelmed in environmental debates and political ones about whether it is a “second rate technology” by politicians who have little knowledge or inclination to learn about such powertrains. I realised that one of the greatest unsold USPs of a petrol-electric hybrid powertrain was its ability to deliver unmatched levels of refinement and sophistication. In spite of my affinity for European saloons like the Volkswagen Passat and the Skoda Superb, this is something I have to concede. Thus, adding to an extraordinary level of luxuriousness to motoring in what is otherwise an ordinary saloon car. And that, brings me to the subject of today’s review. The all new Toyota Camry Hybrid, which will now set the benchmark that the Honda Accord will have to beat.
“There is only the slightest of whines from the electric motor and the whoosh of wind parting to make way for the aero optimised shape of the Toyota Camry Hybrid.”
It’s an innocuous statement really, but one that describes the entire ethos of the Toyota Camry Hybrid. Can power be subtle? To understand how these two seemingly opposed attributes are brought together, one must understand the very engineering behind that has gone into the Toyota Camry Hybrid. Under that muscular and sculpted bonnet is actually a very conventional 2.5-litre four cylinder free breathing petrol engine with twin cam and four valves per cylinder and variable valve timing. That engine puts out 176bhp and 220Nm of torque. But that’s not the only thing powering this rather stately and imposing looking saloon. There’s a permanent magnet synchronous motor in there as well with an output of 118bhp and 202Nm. Which, in some strange engineering jiggery pokery sort of way, results in combined output of 208bhp. And just like that, the Toyota Camry Hybrid becomes a petrolhead’s delight and an eco-mentalist’s dream in equal measure. Or at least that’s what you would want to believe anyway. But we all know there is a planet between the world of engineering literature and real world experience.
Despite a corral of more than 200 horses and over 400Nm of torque with nearly half available from zero revs (remember, there’s an e-motor in there), the Toyota Camry Hybrid’s claim of a 0-100kmph in 10.4 seconds is respectable. Not the stuff of fireworks. Nothing will push you back into those plush as hell leather seats with cooling when you floor the throttle. Even in Sport mode that results in a racier throttle map and a more direct feeling steering, there’s also Eco and Normal and of course plain EV for a rather limited battery only use, the acceleration is anything but brutal, all the output being channeled via an electronically controlled CVT that offers a sequential function as well. In all fairness, the Toyota Camry Hybrid is more about subtlety than outright power, which is also about being loud and making a lot of noise.
“You’ll want it for the thrill of luxury. That’s the forte of the Toyota Camry Hybrid.”
At least not for the limited but incredibly relaxing duration when the Toyota Camry Hybrid is running in full EV mode. There is only the slightest of whines from the electric motor and the whoosh of wind parting to make way for the aero optimised shape of the Toyota Camry Hybrid. In fact, when Toyota was developing this new generation of the hybrid saloon, the company’s engineers enhanced the silhouette to help the Toyota Camry Hybrid cut through the air with greater efficiency than ever before using aero stabilising fins, full underfloor cover and extensions and aero fins on the trailing edge of the rear bumper. The latter prevents separation of the air flow towards the tail end of this stately sedan. The result? Not just better vehicle control but also increased fuel efficiency from all the slipperiness. The Toyota Camry Hybrid in fact has a claimed fuel economy of 23.27kmpl, which is quite a bit more than the 19.16kmpl that was claimed for its predecessor.
But back to that silence in the cabin, the level of refinement that you get in the Toyota Camry Hybrid is indeed something to be experienced. The hybrid drivetrain is not only incredibly silent in EV mode but also when the conventional petrol engine switches itself on, either to recharge the battery or to power the car, or both. It is astonishingly smooth and you will have to either strain your ears to hear it or gape at that fancy graphic on the 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system to reassure yourself that the internal combustion motor is indeed ticking over. Normally, we would have resorted to a glance at the rev counter for this sort of thing, but in the Camry Hybrid there isn’t one. What you get instead is a dial that lets you know if you are in Eco or Pwr (power) mode, which aren’t the same as your drive modes.
On the go, there’s an air of plushness that you’d expect from vehicles at least a rung (if not more) higher up the automotive value chain. You don’t just sit in the comfort of leather wrapped luxury. You sink into it in the Toyota Camry Hybrid. For instance, when you sit in the rear seat with its recline function and fiddle around with the touchpad integrated into the central armrest it isn’t difficult to imagine the Toyota Camry Hybrid as something more premium than a Toyota. The ride quality on those independent MacPherson struts up front and double wishbone multi link rear suspension with stabiliser bar is super supple and you practically glide over road imperfections. It’s exactly the kind of soft setup that the Toyota Camry Hybrid’s intended customer will find endearing.
For us, unfortunately, it’s all a bit too soft. Going round a corner at speed the Toyota Camry Hybrid leans heavily on its struts. And things only become more pronounced when the corner tightens. Even on the straights there is this slightly unsettling mild wallow. You see the trouble with a soft suspension, especially one that is overtly soft like in the case of the Toyota Camry Hybrid, is that it requires very little force for the shock absorbers to react. As a result, the same plush ride that you get at slow speeds over all sorts of road surfaces, becomes wallowy as speeds rise with the suspension constantly reacting to everything under the wheels. No matter how small the imperfection. So you won’t really have fun hustling the Toyota Camry Hybrid around a set of twisties. Sure, it’ll hold its line around the turn and changes direction quickly enough with the electrically power assisted rack and pinion steering doing a fine job of keeping things accurate and returning adequate feedback to the driver. But you won’t drive the Toyota Camry Hybrid for the Thrill of Driving. You’ll want it for the thrill of luxury. That’s the forte of the Toyota Camry Hybrid and it does offer an astounding level of luxury for its class. And of course it’s price of Rs 36.95 lakh, ex-showroom.
|Price (ex-showroom)||Rs 36.95 lakh|
|Engine Type||2487cc, 4-cylinder, naturally aspirated with twin cam and variable valve timing|
|Maximum Power||176bhp @ 5700rpm|
|Maximum Torque||220Nm @ 3600-5200rpm|
|Electric Motor||Permanent magnet synchronous motor|
|Battery||Lithium-ion Nickel Metal Hydride|