It wasn’t all that long ago that hybrids were new and different, which often brought on a polarizing effect. Early believers heard snickers - or worse - about them, and for a while there was an “us against them” feel about the whole segment.
That seems to be rapidly disappearing. Hybrids not only have gained a toehold in the market, they’re picking up traction in upscale models. But the successful early players continue to shine, including Toyota, whose Prius line acted as the advance foot soldier in the assault on market share.
Benefitting from those early forays into the technology is the Camry, an already hugely popular vehicle - in fact, second only to Ford’s F-150 in 2012 sales. The new Camry hybrid doesn’t change much after last year’s redesign, but it didn’t need to. Instead, Toyota added a few convenience features.
Let’s get down to the question I’m asked the most about hybrids: Does it have any power? In case you’ve never been behind the wheel of one of these cars, let me set the record straight by telling you that they have almost as much - if not more - oomph than standard gas-engine models. The Camry delivers strong acceleration with its Hybrid Synergy Drive System, built around a 4-cylinder engine.
The drive itself is smooth and comfortable, which shouldn’t surprise anyone who has tooled around in a Toyota. The switch from all-electric mode to gas is barely noticeable - which can’t be said for other hybrids. You’ll run on that all-electric mode at low speeds, which explains the outstanding fuel economy - an average of around 40mpg.
When they gave the Camry hybrid a makeover last year they polished its look a bit. The 2013 model is easy on the eyes, without the need to scream “hybrid” with Jetsonian lines.
Inside the cockpit you’ll find quality materials and a great engineering design. The seats are comfortable and visibility is excellent. Even the back seat has well-above-average room and comfort.
Standard features are aplenty, including folding heated exterior mirrors, chrome-tipped exhaust, dual-zone climate control, tilt/telescoping wheel, and Smart Key push-button start.
Two trim sizes are available, the LE and XLE - I drove the latter. Options on the tested car included the Convenience Package (which adds the much-coveted backup camera), the Leather Package (leather-trimmed ultrasuede seats and leather door trim), as well as the Premium Nav package. This last option upgrades the audio and bluetooth technology.
The tested 2013 Camry hybrid came with an MSRP of about $27,600; with options that number jumped to $35k. This is where the fuel savings may entice you; based on a comparison with similar new cars, your gas charges could be literally thousands of dollars less each year.
It’s a much more competitive hybrid market than it was a few years ago, with just about every player jumping into the game. Ford’s Fusion hybrid can boast some better fuel economy numbers - and is a great choice - but the Camry is right up there. It’s a proven family sedan, both practical and reliable, and Toyota’s hybrid track record is second to none.
Reviewed by Dom Testa
Test vehicle provided by manufacturer