Toyota offers many flavors of its refreshed 2015 Camry, but those who choose to lower their operating cost-per-mile, squeeze 500-plus miles out of each tank of fuel or run a very efficient and reliable sedan in their taxi fleets will only be interested in one: the Camry Hybrid.
The exterior of the 2015 Camry Hybrid is nearly indistinguishable from its gasoline-only counterparts, with the same all-new sheetmetal and bumpers. The Hybrid is offered in LE, SE and XLE trims, meaning customers are offered base, sport or luxury configurations, respectively.
While Toyota expended quite a bit of effort resculpting and improving the 2015 Camry Hybrid, one area it didn't touch was the powertrain – it is virtually identical to last year's model (just like the gas version). Under the hood is a 2.5-liter Atkinson cycle four-cylinder gasoline engine (156 horsepower and 156 pound-feet of torque) and an electric tractive motor (141 horsepower and 199 pound-feet of torque). Combined, and running through Toyota's unique Hybrid Synergy Drive electronic continuously variable transmission, the two produce 200 horsepower (Toyota does not list a combined torque figure, and we've asked for clarification). A 1.6 kilowatt-hour nickel-metal-hydride battery, packaged behind the rear seats, provides energy storage.
The test car featured here is the Camry Hybrid SE in Blue Crush Metallic, with the optional moonroof, wireless charging and Entune premium audio with navigation and app suite.
- Toyota offers several different driving modes for the Camry Hybrid. The standard mode is Drive, which incorporates hybrid/EV driving automatically. Those seeking to squeeze a bit more fuel out of each gallon will press the ECO button, which softens throttle response and reduces the use of the air conditioning compressor. Lastly, there is an EV mode, which runs the vehicle solely on electricity for up to 1.6 miles at speeds below 25 miles per hour – this modest ability to run electric-only helps the Camry Hybrid deliver its impressive urban efficiency. Not wanting to reduce the output of the air conditioning in tropical Hawaii on my test drive, I left the shifter in Drive nearly the whole time. I did press the EV button, just aft of the shifter, several times. Unfortunately, my emissions-free travel was short lived, as excessive speed fired the combustion engine to life after a few short runs.
- As expected, the Camry Hybrid sips fuel, earning an EPA rating of 43 miles per gallon in the city and 39 mpg highway in LE trim, and 40 mpg city/38 mpg highway in SE and XLE trims. It is interesting to note that the 100 additional pounds of mass and wider tires on the SE and XLE cost those trim levels efficiency in the city cycle, but their improved drag coefficient recovers the loss on the highway cycle. Over a hilly 35-mile road course, I averaged about 45 mpg – impressively beating the EPA's estimate.
- The Hybrid SE model has a curb weight of 3,585 pounds, or about 285 pounds more than its naturally aspirated four-cylinder gasoline equivalent. But, thanks to the near-instant torque from its electric motor, Toyota says it launches to 60 mph in just 7.6 seconds – I'd consider that conservative, as it feels a bit quicker. Acceleration like that puts it easily more than a half-second quicker than its four-cylinder sibling in the same sprint. More importantly, the hybrid's power delivery is more useable around town (e.g., pulling out in traffic) when its hybrid drive system is operating in its sweet spot.
- The gasoline-electric Camry's best attributes include its seamless hybrid system (its operation is nearly imperceptible to the driver), strong fuel economy, premium interior for the price and commendable trunk space. Its less appealing attributes include a buzzy four-cylinder during full throttle acceleration, balanced but lackluster handling, and rather numb steering. Reviewing that list, none of those negatives would dissuade me from recommending the vehicle to a hypermiler. However, those desiring a hybrid sedan that will have them seeking an occasional canyon to carve will need to look elsewhere.
- It is worth mentioning the excellent ergonomics found within the Camry Hybrid's cabin (and the other Camry models, too). The primary instrument cluster is simple to read, and the new 4.2-inch TFT screen nestled between the Optitron gauges features very useful graphics. Heavily used center console controls, such as audio volume, audio tune and climate control switchgear are oversized round dials (improved for 2015) that are well-spaced on the instrument cluster, making them simple to access without requiring a glance to find their position – plus, the physical knobs are easy to grasp in a moving vehicle. The less frequented auxiliary buttons are also large and very well marked, again easy to use without distraction.
- While the refreshed 2015 Toyota Camry Hybrid is an excellent stand-alone choice, it is far from the only game in town. The Ford Fusion Hybrid, Honda Accord Hybrid, Hyundai Sonata Hybrid, Kia Optima Hybrid, and Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid are all worthy contenders seeking the same buyer, and each approaches from a slightly different angle – the best in this very competitive segment is too subjective to call.
- 2.5L I4/105kW AC Motor
- 200 HP
- Base Price: