If you think you’re devoid of automotive choices, one visit to any Toyota showroom will quickly convince you otherwise. Whether looking for a truck, car or crossover, not only does Toyota have you covered – they have you, your teenage kids and your parents covered. In the sweet spot of this expansive lineup is, arguably, Toyota’s evergreen Camry. And when propelled by its well-considered hybrid powertrain, it’s forever green.
In the redesign for 2018, Toyota – as we’ve documented – attempted to slug it out of the ballpark, stirring up what has been an historically staid entry in the midsize sweepstakes into something it’s historically not: compelling. Sure, your dad’s Camry (your mom drove a Highlander, right?) was well built, reasonably efficient and, uh, adult, but you’d never confuse it with the neighbor’s 3 Series. And you won’t confuse this Camry with the neighbor’s 3 Series, either – unless the BMW spent a month in the studios of Pimp My Ride.
And yeah, I’m back to beating the drum for a more conservative approach to Toyota sheetmetal. The Camry’s overall profile and surface detail is pleasing, but what they do afterward – via an artificially aggressive front fascia, fake vents and assorted bits of illogically placed plastic – shouldn’t be attached to a long-abandoned Tercel (and no offense intended to Tercels or their owners). I look at unadorned Camrys from even five years ago and there is a timelessness to their cohesive design, while I don’t think the visual appeal of this newest Camry will outlast the first oil change interval. I know styling is entirely subjective, but the new Camry sheetmetal makes a great argument for a gently used ES 300 from the neighborhood’s Lexus store.
Inside, the interior design elements are more cohesive. Seats are appropriate to a midsize sedan, with front seats supportive and the rear wide enough to comfortably accommodate three. But with its lowered roofline, getting in or getting out is arguably more difficult for all but the most agile. You’re not, of course, climbing in to your kid’s 86, but neither are you simply stepping into the mom’s Highlander. I see this constricted access as a mistake for the Camry’s typical demographic. And even if that demo will begin to skew younger, it’s a Toyota; during their ownership they’re gonna get older.
Of course, the most salient aspect when discussing the Camry Hybrid is the hybrid. Toyota continues to give consumers a choice of powertrains. Most customers will opt for the base four and be satisfied with the decision. If you want more response – and spontaneity – go for Toyota’s well-respected V6, supplying Lexus-like refinement under a Toyota hood. The best of both worlds, however, is – we think – the Hybrid.
Toyota connects a detuned 2.5 liter four with 176 hp and but 163 lb-ft of torque to an electric motor with 118 horsepower and a don’t-hold-me-back 149 lb-ft of torque. The end result is response that is genuine and an EPA estimate that will make those of you still driving a Jetta diesel way jealous. The Camry’s combined figure is an estimated 46, which is close enough to the magic of ‘50’ to not be bothered by the difference.
If you haven’t looked, gas is approaching $4 per gallon on the coasts, while well above $3 everywhere else. To enjoy a vehicle with the Camry’s comfort and – on some subjective level – style with econobox efficiency and an under-$35K window sticker is a win for the owner and, given that efficiency, a win for society. Again, we wish the sheetmetal was a tad more restrained, but at the end of a 10-year ownership I’ll have gotten used to it – and so, we think, will you.