Toyota Camry XLE Hybrid

Our long term test of the new 2012 Toyota Camry XLE Hybrid really gave us a detachment from reality. When you get behind the wheel of a car like this for a week, it’s easy to forget as you watch the average miles per gallon hover at 41.5, that other poor sods are driving similar cars and getting only 18 mpg.

The all new redesigned 2012 Toyota Camry at first glance looks only mildly retouched in styling, but continues the very formula that has made it a best seller. It is however all new inside and out with crisper lines, sharper corners and an all new interior that really raises the fashion quotient.

The Camry is still solid, predictable, and gives you a lot of car for the money however. In the case of the Hybrid model we tested, you get all of what has made the Camry the top selling car in its class for what seems like forever, plus the kind of gas mileage that people work hard for even in sub-compact cars.

Our Camry Hybrid XLE was a top of the line model with the premium interior package which brought the sticker price to a healthy $34,480. The more budget minded can buy an LE Hybrid model that starts at $25,900, still only a $3,400 price increase over the standard four-cylinder Camry LE.

The Premium package included a boat load of options like leather suede heated seats, push button start, blind spot monitor, a power tilt and slide moonroof and the top of the line JBL navigation sound system with Toyota’s new Entune connectivity functions. All of the above made living in the Camry for a week comfortable and good.

The interior had a very tasteful looking modern two-tone design with high quality trim and an easy to read instrument cluster. The seating was comfortable and able to easily adjust with power to the needs of both short and tall drivers in our office. A memory seat function would have been welcome however and for a $6,320 package price, the sound system still sounded pretty base level.

The good news for the 2012 Camry Hybrid came in the handling and efficiency department. While Camry has a rather vanilla aura we were surprised at how adept it was in our twisty mountain test loop of Apache Trail, located on the outskirts of Phoenix. It was even dare we say fun to drive.

While it has low rolling resistance rubber which usually means no grip, the chassis was competent and well tuned in spirited driving. The electric power steering was well weighted and balanced with the chassis and made the car feel as a united front against the world as opposed to a collection of unconnected systems.

The core of Camry’s powertrain is the latest generation of Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive. It combines a 2.5 liter Atkinson Cycle gasoline engine with two electric motors. Through a constantly variable transmission (CVT), they work in concert to provide an EPA estimated 43 mpg city and 39 mpg highway. In our week of testing we averaged 41.1 combined but saw 15 minute averages as high as 45-48 mpg around town.

Power delivery from the Camry was smooth and refined in most cases. The engine stops and starts constantly when switching back and forth from electric power to gas power. Only sitting at a dead stop is the engine starting up really all that perceptible. On the road you often don’t even notice.

The engine is a lot quieter at full throttle than a Toyota Prius which has a similar powertrain. This is due to a healthy amount of sound deadening as well as the fact that Camry’s engine is larger and does not have to work as hard. On the freeway the Camry Hybrid is actually one of the quietest cars we have tested in a while.

We came away impressed with the 2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid in the sense that it makes good sense. When you consider Toyota’s stellar reliability record in concert with the pure math of the extra gas mileage the $3,400 hybrid option delivers, it’s hard to look back at the standard gasoline model with goo goo eyes in today’s gas price environment.


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