Toyota Camry Hybrid- A Segment Above Its Class

Toyota Camry Hybrid has righteously earned the title of being the perfect Executive Sedan and shows that you care for the environment too.

Lets clear the air by telling you that this car has a full fetched Hybrid system and it is the only such offering in the Indian market as of now. We do have micro hybrids but they have a mere auto start-stop system and do not use an electric power terrain. That directly eliminates all the competitors as of now, we have heard rumors about the Honda planning to get the Accord Hybrid to India Until then Camry is the ‘undisputed king’ in Hybrid league.   
Thematically speaking there is no direct competition to Toyota Camry Hybrid in the Indian market but at the same time it isn’t a very environment conscious market. The scenario that is created here isn’t any less compared to typical Bollywood flicks. Wondering How? The only way to find out is to stop wondering and READ ON………..  
Toyota has priced the Camry Hybrid around 30+Lakhs, this puts it right in between executive sedans and entry level luxury sedans. Just above the Accord, Superb and Sonata range and just below the 3-series, A3, A4, C-class etc. Trust me this is the only fact which make this choice a difficult one to land on. I don’t blame anyone but the history, afterall the luxury that these German brands are associated with is impeccable. All this is very much true unless you have spent time with the Toyota Camry Hybrid. Arghh had those legendary names not been there in this paragraph I would have pinned my last statement in Bold, Italics and ofcourse in “quotes.” Such is the grip of these automotive giants in our heads and hearts. This is not going to be an easy walkthrough as expected.
India witnessed its 1st gen Camry back in 2003 where it was huge wide bodied, long hooded aircraft sort of thing on Indian road. It gave an impression of movement even when it was still. It came in with the 2.4L petrol engine which was pretty fun. It was followed by the 2nd gen Camry which had a successful run but only as a cab. The coming in of the 3rd gen Camry looked promising and did win our hearts once again. Finally last year the 3rd gen Camry got an update which gave it an edge over all its competitors, Yes I am talking about the inclusion of the Hybrid system, the car also had a number of cosmetic updates to go along with it.
For Camry having a showdown with luxury cars was never a problem….. One second WHAT???? What did I just say!!!!! Well Camry does have a past which has very often been overlooked……there is only 1 luxury car brand which can give major labels a run for their money. Yes LEXUS is that non-German/European luxury brand name and the Camry has had close relations with the Lexus ES in the past and till date we can draw parallels between them. Well that explains why Camry was never an underdog but it was just underplaying itself. Phewww…..this should clear the all your predetermined notions about the Camry and get over the German mental block.

Exteriors, Interiors & Features
After hearing so much, finally it was time to get the Toyota Camry Hybrid for an in-depth review. The car looks fresh with a rejuvenated front, sharper shoulder lines that too without looking bulky. The new headlamps cluster with two individual projector headlamp setup along with a high beam halogen lamp plus the caved-in fog lamps plus had the better of me, not to forget the daytime running LED’s. At that point my curiosity level was at peak, this is by far the best looking setup of lights in any car on Indian roads. I had to wait few hours before I could test the luminosity of this brilliant setup and it was DIWALI in summers. That very moment I had it in my head that nothing comes close to this. Coming back to the exteriors the new front bumper looks more in sync with the grill. The turn indicators are awkwardly shaped and placed on the front bumpers and are prone to be kissed by fellow motor vehicles, not a smart move for Indian road conditions. The Toyota logo on the front grill gets a blue highlight in the outer ring. The rear end looks quite familiar but it has more grace than before with new tail lamps and trimmed rear bumper. Stepping into the cabin was even more exhilarating, the cabin is plush with a very light shade of beige. Even the pillars and sunshades have soft velvet feel to it, that’s just one of the wow factors in the cabin. Its full sized sedan and it won’t disappoint you in that aspect. The car is more than just spacious with the space inside. The dash and switches are good quality, the dash also incorporates the touch screen media system, which also illustrates the use of hybrid system. The cabin gets a three zone climate control, two for the front and one for the rear. All can be adjusted differently at the time. There is a button on the climate control the function of which I took some time to figure out…. It read out “nanoe” to my surprise that would send out ions to moisturize my skin while the aircon is on. I was simply blown away. The use dark wooden theme in the interiors has been optimized to keep it elegant without going overboard. Well that should be noted down by the Germans. The seats are as good as your lazyboy and literally spoil you with the comfort. If you prefer to drive it yourself the front seat and the steering wheel are electronically adjustable to give everyone their perfect driving position. The steering wheel has handy audio controls, infotainment control and cruise control for your comfort. If you still want more the front cooled seats will ensure that you don’t get a moment to complain. If you have female company in the front seats then the sunshades equipped with lights controlled by the the vanity mirrors shutter will win you a lot of appreciation. However if you prefer travelling in the rear seats, it’s even interesting there with the rear seats having an ability to incline with just a push of a button. For additional comfort you will find grab handles attached to the back of front seats and the front passenger seat can be pushed forward/back, inclined forward/back and even its headrest can be turned in for you to have better view of the road ahead. To avoid the sun or to maintain some privacy the car is equipped with shades on rear windows which are manually operated and an electronically controlled shade on the rear windshield operable using the button on the front dash or the rear armrest. The car has host of features like keyless entry, push button start/stop, parking brake near the dead pedal, electronically foldable OVRM, automatic Day/Night rearview mirror, traction control, memory seat and steering, reverse camera and parking sensors (front and rear) and hydraulic hood. Overall the car looks elegant and feels premium.
Power terrain and Gearbox
Powering the car is the Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive system which is an amalgamation of the 2.5-litre, 160ps petrol engine and a 143ps electric motor churning out a combined force of 202ps. Don’t just addup figures this car has ample power to disappear into dust with. The petrol unit is the same as in the regular Camry but produces less power here. For the Hybrid system, there is an electric motor which charges a battery from regenerative braking and from the petrol engine. All this happens in a very smooth motion and when the battery has ample charge it is ready to send the power to the wheels. It sounds a lot complex but turn on the hybrid information to be displayed on the multimedia screen and it will depict the entire function in details. The infotainment system also provides a lot of useful information for the drive. The car can be driven in the Normal mode or on the Eco mode or the EV mode. For EV mode the battery should have approximately one-third charge. In this mode the car operates only using the battery and this mode gets disabled under hard acceleration and when speed exceeds 50kmph. Under Eco mode the system uses an efficient combination of engine and battery power to reduce fuel consumption and carbon footprint. Only on offer here is the 6 speed CVT gearbox which works seamlessly. There isn’t any Sports mode but what we do have is the “B” mode where the brake response gets better as in this slot there is no regenerative braking. Its presence won’t add excitement in your drive so it’s better not to slot into “B” mode unless you are driving in the hills.
Handling & braking 
The Toyota Camry Hybrid has an electronically assisted power steering which is considerably light for general city use and remains light at permissible high speeds too. Well it isn’t one of the cars to go drag racing in so as long as you drive it gently it is good to go. If you are well used to it then this car can be driven fast too, that 202ps of power is there to back you up. However we recommend to avoid doing so. The brakes do feel dead at times due to the regeneration of power going on but it does the job incredibly well. The car lacks that feel of driving for sure, but is way too high on comfort.
Ed’s Take - He rated the car 7/10
He just loved the way the car looked and was quite astonished with low NVH and vibration levels of the car. Behind the wheel he enjoyed the refinement and the comfort levels of the car. He also mentioned that “the car was smooth to his driving taste but the car at times felt as if it was not just gliding but hovering over the tarmac,” which was a major low point for highway driving. To sum it up the car was high on comfort and low on driving pleasure. With the environment becoming a major concern, he did appreciate the hybrid technology in the car and did present his views that all executives and business personnel’s should come forward and contribute to the environment by choosing the Camry Hybrid as their daily vehicle.
Whats My Take? - Rated 8/10
I was quite impressed with the looks of the car from the very first glance and then everything that followed just kept on adding onto that experience. The headlamp setup is by far the best stock setup you get on any car in India and that just widens your smile as you much more miles at night. The sound system keeps you well entertained. The cruise control makes the job easier on highways. The comfort levels are at par with any German car in the market, even cars a segment above this can’t match the comfort levels of the Camry Hybrid. The hybrid system does give a sense of giving back something to the environment and returns better fuel efficiency figures. The 65 L fuel tank is good enough to cross 900kms with constant help from the Hybrid system. I drove the Camry Hybrid 300+ kms in a day, that too in a city traffic of Delhi and I stepped out as fresh as I stepped in. That just blew me away. Travelling in rear seats is quite satisfying though I missed the ventilated seats in the rear. On the down side, driving this car does not induce any driving pleasure nor does it spike your adrenaline levels. That is a big disappointment for me behind the wheel but the uber comfort levels and environment friendly label pretty much seals the deal for me. At the price tag of 30 lakhs it is one heck of a deal.
Words & Photography: Atul Bandhu