The Toyota Camry Hybrid – D-Segment Shapeshifter

Published on September 3rd, 2015

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What comes to mind when you think of the Camry? – Yeap, me too. “Uncle Car!”. It’s been associated with what a typical Uncle drives for generations now that if you’re in your mid 30s looking for a decent family car, you’re probably going to stay as far away as you can from one.

Regardless if I tell you how epic the new Camry Hybrid really is; you’ve probably already made up your mind on it. So here I am, thinking hard how to write to change what you think of it because this new generation… is surprisingly a surprising piece of kit.

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The D-segment in Malaysia is undoubtedly one of the most competitive class in the market, as almost every manufacturer you can think of out there has one on offer. If I do the count right, the number is about 9. Oh yes! Honda, Ford, Mazda, Kia, Hyundai, Volkswagen, Peugeot, Nissan… and of course Toyota. They’re all in the game.

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So what’s new with the Camry? – Firstly, and it’s the most obvious one, it is now offered with a Hybrid system. For RM 174,900.00, you’ll get the top-of-the-range executive car offering from Toyota. That’s a total premium of RM25k over the 2.0-litre non-hybrid E variant.

The combined power output of two electric motors matched with a 2.5-litre petrol engine get’s you 200bhp and 270nm of almost instantaneous torque at the disposal of your right foot. So it’s no surprise that it does the 0-100km/h sprint in just circa 7 seconds. Hot hatch kind of performance!

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  • 2.5-litre 4-cylinder with two electric motors
  • 200bhp and 270nm
  • 0-100km/h – 7.5 seconds (as tested)
  • Top Speed – 232 km/h (as tested)
  • RM 174,900.00

 

The squarish looks would fool anyone into thinking that it would handle like a boat. In fact, previous generations did but this is where you’d stand corrected. After 2 days of trotting along calmly, like any typical Camry + Hybrid driver would – I got curious to know the extent of understeer this car was going to put a driver into.

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I strapped myself in, and picked out a piece of twisty road down near where I live. Kicked the throttle and threw it into the first left bend at about 40km/h or so more than what a normal driver would, expecting understeer. But to my surprise, the back rotated beautifully. By the end of the twisties, I was convinced that the new Camry Hybrid has turned into one interesting weapon.

True to it’s purpose – if this car was put in a situation of distress whilst carrying a VVVVVIP in the back, it would definitely get you out of the sticky situation without a sweat. Although the steering remains numb like a plastic bag, it does the job well enough. You can’t expect the world, because the Camry wasn’t developed to challenge the laws of physics.So although it handles well, no one is going to buy a Camry for the Touge. But I guess it keeps our hearts calm to know that it can as and when you need it to.

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UMW Toyota was kind enough to lend us both the Hybrid and the 2.0G models for our review, so we spent some time comparing notes between the two in terms of looks, driving and the fit & finish.

How to differentiate them you ask? – Simple! The hybrid sports a blue halo’ed, Toyota badge front and back with multiple Hybrid badges around the car. No you can’t tell it apart easily, but you’ll find that the different, supposedly ‘sportier’ wheels and slightly tinted rear lights does give the Hybrid a more distinctive look.

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What we agreed upon was that the Hybrid (… oddly enough) seems to be the sportier one between the two. Not just in terms of looks and stance, but also drivability. No, we never pray for that rare moment a ‘greener to the environment’ car would be the more fun to drive, but it’s a surprise that it fell upon the least expected vehicle.

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As far as the new facelift goes – there are multiple updates on the outside. The car is not a completely reworked iteration, but minor bits and bobs to keep it fresh through it’s mid-life cycle. Eagle-eyed individuals will notice the new frontal fascia, sporting a sportier bumper and headlights with LED fitted.

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For the extra dough, you do get quite a bit more kit with the Hybrid. Although no one has dropped the memo to Toyota that wood steering is out of trend these days, the car seems to feel rather luxurious inside. The fit and finish seems to mimic the quality found on Lexus, with of course, cheaper plastics but you have to remember that you’re paying a lot less for this over the Lexus equivalent.

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The centre infotainment system works like a charm, and to my surprise… it was faster than the one on the new Lexus NX we tested earlier. Modern creature necessities like navigation, bluetooth connectivity, reverse camera; all fitted in one package. New to most Toyota & Lexus models now are the wireless charging port for Android phones, which will likely be a feature we are going to see in plenty of cars in the near future. Too bad Im an iOS user, so I am not able to report of how efficient it was, but only to complain that iOS doesn’t have that facility! Lame…

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The Camry’s capacious interior means you can do plenty of things. Not in a dirty way, but if you must. Marketed as an Family/Executive car, I feel that it is both rewarding regardless of whether you are up front on the driver’s seat, or chauffeured driven in the back.

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My positively biased writing thus far may have left not only you, but myself confused too. It’s a Camry for gods sake! I was left enticed with many things on what is supposedly to be a rather mundane car. The car is an excellent shape shifter, being a comfortable, frugally admirable car in one moment; yet an interestingly fast, cruise ship that handles sublimely well in another.

But I will not leave this without a complaint. And there is only one! We are now in 2015, and we’ve seen beautifully designed vehicles from the more mass produced end of the scale. So I wonder why Toyota has the Camry still looking like the XV30 model from 2001?

Words – Qhalis Najmi

Photos – Haz Najims

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