The Camry Hybrid in a revamped avatar

Jun 21, 2015, 08:27 IST | Amit Chhangani

In its mildly facelifted 2015 avatar, the Camry Hybrid plays Captain Planet with a just a hint of Tony Stark’s flamboyance

Is this thing going to stop the icebergs from melting? Certainly not, though it shows us a glimpse of the kind of cars which really will, and the variety we’ll be driving, maybe five years down the line. And while doing its wee bit to save the mineral fuel, it’s also a bragging permit for the head honchos dressed in their power suits to show the world how they translate their CSR vision into their personal lives. Reliable as the sun, boasting a dashing appearance and comfortable on the inside in its newest guise— the Camry Hybrid makes a strong case for itself in its 2015 avatar. It’s not without reason that close to 75 per cent Camry models sold in India are this Hybrid variant. We took it out for a spin, and came back won over.

Camry Hybrid

Design and appearance
For the facelift, the Camry preserves its massive proportions. The cosmetic changes made on the exterior, however, have lifted the visual appeal of the car substantially. While the previous version looked somewhat overdone and a little too riddled with chrome elements, the detailing on the new version makes it look much smarter and dashing, especially in the dark brown colour of our our test car. The chrome elements created a delightful contrast.

The instrument cluster gets a new central screen displaying a multitude of controllable functions
The instrument cluster gets a new central screen displaying a multitude of controllable functions

As one would assume, the most amount of change has been witnessed up front. The front bumper has been exhaustively reshaped and now features a massive central air dam. The trapezoidal air dam has its top three sides lined with fine chrome, and the lower side done up in a more prominent chrome strip with split ends flanked by the fog lamp units.

The dashboard remains same as the outgoing version, with only the AC controls having been refreshed
The dashboard remains same as the outgoing version, with only the AC controls having been refreshed

The place on the bumper where the previous car had its somewhat shoddy looking chrome surrounded fog lamps now features vertical turn blinkers in black housing, which look quite smart. The bumpers themselves are quite huge on the new version and now have aggressive, wing-like extensions towards the lower-outer ends. The headlamp assembly has been given its due refresh too, which, along with a full LED system, also gets Corolla Altis-ish DRL units. Twin-layered chrome slats atop the radiator grille feature the big Toyota emblem, with a shade of blue to denote its hybrid powertrain, finish things off up front.

Back seats are extremely comfortable and power recline-able for an angle of eight degrees
Back seats are extremely comfortable and power recline-able for an angle of eight degrees

On the sides, the new Camry’s shape remains true to its forebear except for the new design of the wheels which look beautiful both at a standstill and in motion. At the rear, the new Camry has been freed from its chrome laden loudness. The new model has the shiny material in much less volume and in the correct places. The all-LED tail-light units have been slightly redesigned, while reflectors have been repositioned in the bumper, making the rear look more
elegant and less busy when compared to its predecessor.

Performance and dynamics
The new Camry Hybrid carries on with its predecessor’s power train. Petrol power is supplied by a 2,494cc, four-cylinder DOHC VVT-i engine with 160PS of power at 5700 rpm and 213Nm of torque at 4,500 rpm, same as the previous version. Handling the electric power, and substantiating the hybrid badge is a permanent magnet synchronous motor, featuring a nickel metal hydride battery that makes 143PS and 270Nm of twist. In conjunction, the two power sources, in full swing make for 205 PS of peak power. Transmission duties are taken care of by an electronically controlled continuously variable transmission (E-CVT), which may not be the quickest or the most efficient in the business, but is pretty smooth and sorted enough for everyday driving.

The three dimensional treatment of the bumper and the grille works really well
The three dimensional treatment of the bumper and the grille works really well

Pedal to the metal, the FWD (front-wheel drive) layout, inundated by an instant gush of torque makes a wee bit of unwelcome torque steer evident, though it’s too mild a sensation to bother about. The Camry Hybrid can draw power from the engine, batteries or both depending on the engine speed, battery charge and throttle input. A screen on the instrument panel duly displays the happenings under the bonnet.

While starting off from a standstill, the Camry Hybrid starts rolling silently on electric-only power, letting petrol power cut in as you breach the 20km/h mark. The car also features an EV mode, which can allow the car to be driven solely on electric power for two kilometres. Then there’s the ECO mode which powers down the air-con to further cut downn fuel consumption.

For a normal driver, though, the Camry packs a solid punch in its silken glove. Given the beans it gathers pace very quickly. CVTs are inherently a little sluggish and it’s evident when you go pedal to the metal. The ground speed isn’t quite in conjunction with the audible engine revs — making evident the rubberband effect ever so present in such transmission systems. That applies, however, only to an overly enthusiastic driving style. For all practical intents and purposes, the CVT (continuously variable transmission)auto does its job well enough.

The Camry Hybrid isn’t a driver’s car by a long shot. It’s meant to cosset the backbenchers in utmost comfort and that’s quite evident in the way it rides and handles. The steering is extremely light and doesn’t weigh up sufficiently even as the car gathers momentum. Ride quality is splendid though and the Camry Hybrid will take all the adversities thrown at it by the famous Indian road conditions in its stride without a whimper. The cabin is extremely well insulated from the environs too, and that backseat has to be one of the very best we have sampled — not just for the Camry’s own class, but for segments a few notches above as well. There is some body roll to be experienced, though it’s well within the acceptable limits and a fair trade-off for the exemplary ride quality.

Cabin and features
The Camry has always boasted a spacious, comfortable and pleasing cabin, and things are no different in this version either. The beautiful and sturdy cabin is draped in a hue of beige with a mix of faux wood, chrome, black plastic and satin silver inserts. Most things inside the cabin have been carried over from the previous version, though a few changes have been made to make the new Camry’s innards look and feel up to date.

To start with, the AC control panel is new and features a more modern unit. Out go the knobs and the black on gray display to make way for more modern controls and a white on black readout. The faux wood trim has also been replaced. The three-pod instrument cluster gets replaced by a twin pod unit and now gets a colour screen sitting in the middle. The display allows the driver to control a whole variety of settings through the steering mounted controls. It also displays the energy monitor and all other vehicle parameters.

At the back, the plush seats get a motorised recline function for up to 8 degrees. The front passenger seat can be moved fore and after electrically by the rear passenger with help of front seat mounted controls. There is also a massive central armrest with good amount of space under the lid and controls for AC, infotainment system, rear blinds and seat recline function. Front seats get a ventilation system too, making the Camry Hybrid a car with one of most comfortable cabins across segments.

The Camry Hybrid isn’t a car for the value seeker. At near R32 lakh ex-showroom it’s an expensive car. Having said that, it has one of the most lavish and comfortable cabins you’d find across brands and segments. We can name luxury sedans retailing for double the price which probably won’t offer, in effect, the kind of comfort this car does. Those seats, the ride quality, the space and the reclining function together make the Camry Hybrid a chauffeur driven car par excellence. And then there is the Hybrid badge to put you up on a high moral pedestal.

Looking at the price of the car in isolation, the Camry does sound steep. Experience this thing at the backseat, though, and you’d be smitten. Then there’s the unmatched reliability and peace of mind, which comes with any Toyota, especially the Camry. We’d suggest you don’t miss out on taking a test drive. The Camry Hybrid will make you think very, very hard before you choose something else — especially once you’ve enjoyed those fabulous back seats.

The instrument cluster gets a new central screen displaying a multitude of controllable functions

Technical specs

Engine: 2494cc 4 cylinder petrol
Engine power: 160PS @ 5700 rpm
Engine TORQUE: 213Nm @ 4500 rpm
Battery type: Nickel metal hydride Motor voltage : 650V
Motor power : 143PS
Motor torque : 270Nm
Total maximum power : 205PS
Transmission: E-CVT

Hybrid/electric cars in India

BMW i8
THE BMW i8 is the definitive hybrid sports car of its generation. The plug-in hybrid boasts a proper super car stance with swan-wing doors, a shark-nose grille, and thrilling performance. It’s powered by a turbocharged three-cylinder engine, which works in tandem with two electric motors to deliver a combined power output of near 360 bhp. That number may not be very high, but the instant torque from the electric motors makes the i8 accelerate faster than the M3 super sedan. Delivering supercar performance with everyday car efficiency, the i8 hammers home the point that Hybrid tech is relevant even in the hi-performance, aspiration segment. 
Price:  Rs 2.3 crore

Mahindra E2O

THE E2O started its journey as the Reva, or the G-Wiz for the UK. Mahindra took over the REVA Electric Car Company a couple of years ago and rolled out the E2O – a more practical, spacious and rangy model. An all-electric two-door, four-seater hatchback, the E2O might look diminutive from the outside, but Mahindra has packed it with great features such as smartphone-controlled touch screen infotainment system, GPS navigation system, keyless entry, start/stop button, and regenerative braking. The E2O has a top speed of 81km/h and can go 120 km on one full charge, which takes about five hours on a standard 220V 15 A socket.
Price:  Rs 6–7.2 lakh

Toyota Prius
THE hybrid that started it all, the Prius, upon its launch was an instant hit with the who’s who of Hollywood. Since then, the Prius has sold millions of units and has become the most successful, the most definitive hybrid car on the planet. The Prius gets a 1.8-litre, 16-valve four-cylinder petrol engine mated to a 60kW electric motor. Toyota claims a power output of 136 bhp with 142Nm of torque. The driver can choose between Power, Eco and EV (Electric Vehicle) modes depending on the mood and the need. Refined over the years, the Prius is one of the most capable and reliable hybrid cars out there.
price: Rs 38–40 lakh

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