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Review: Toyota Camry Hybrid

Driven August 2013

Review: Toyota Camry Hybrid

India is one of the new battlegrounds for luxury car makers. Nevertheless, we're still not the mature market that would appreciate alternative technologies like all-electric cars. It doesn’t help that there is no encouragement from our all-respectful authorities. Still, Toyota has been one of the companies that toyed with the idea of electric hybrids first in India with the launch of the Prius. Two years later, it is back, this time with a more viable option – the Camry Hybrid.

Toyota launched the updated Camry in India last year. Updated mainly in design, it signaled the end of the American lineage for the Indian Camry. Toyota got the Asia-Pacific model here as it was conceived with the intention of being more luxurious, which the Camry isn’t in the USA. While business has been generally slow, what has hampered a beeline for the flagship Toyota in India is that it doesn’t come equipped with a diesel unit. Efficiency is key for many buyers (even in the luxury segment), and generally finds more takers.

Interestingly, Toyota has found a way out of it and in the process also championed the cause of its technological belief in electric hybrids. Hybrids are a sizeable number of its global sales and the Camry Hyrbid is better equipped at acceptance from Indians over the pricey Prius.

So, under the hood is a 2.5-litre, 158bhp petrol unit that along with a 105kW (141bhp) electric motor powers this Camry’s front wheel via an electronically-controlled Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT). The hybrid system is similar to the one in the Prius. It is an intelligent unit that toggles between electric and petrol power according to the driver’s need. Coast at slow speed and it can be an all-electric affair. Floor the throttle and it will go like the petrol Camry and make less noise about it too. It’s a smooth transition between electric-petrol or vice-versa or both together at times. The only way to find what mode you are in, is to check the power dial that replaces the tachometer and gives you an indication of where the power is coming from.

There are no manual controls like paddle shifters, obviously. So when in Drive, the only control you get of slowing down in an emergency is to shift the stick to B, which is for engine braking. Normally, when you brake, the power is also used for recharging the battery. But in an emergency when you use B, it is used for engine braking thus giving better control.

Despite the 150kg increase in weight, dynamics are still sorted. The combined power of the petrol and electric motor means that the car feels quicker too. Also what’s improved is the interior – like the better-looking wood finish on the dash and ventilated seats in the front. To top off the luxurious theme, the rear seats even recline.

The numbers
Dimensions: 4825x1825x1480mm, wheelbase: 2775mm, ground clearance: 160mm, turning diameter: 11m, weight: 1625kg, fuel tank: 65 litres, engine (petrol/electric): 2494cc/max voltage: 650V, electronically-controlled CVT, 158bhp/141bhp, overall: 202bhp, 213Nm

The verdict
While the petrol Camry retails for roughly Rs 25 lakh, expect the Hybrid to touch at least around Rs 35 lakh. Part of the increase is also due to the fact that while the petrol Camry is a lower trim variant, the Hybrid is the top-of-the-line. At that price you will have the option of many luxury brands from Germany or Sweden, which may look much cooler and go much faster. But none of them currently boast of offering part time electric power. The Camry may not look as cool on the outside, but inside, its uniqueness does have that effect.



Girish Karkera

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