Toyota’s Camry was the best-selling car in the United States last year, topping the No. 2 Honda Accord by roughly 40,000 units.
In fact, Camry has been one of the top-selling cars for years, and for several, Toyota was happy to let it idle along. But a couple years ago Toyota decided that styling mattered and revamped Camry’s exterior helping it become one of the better styled family sedans.
Now along comes the hybrid version, which means it has a gas engine and hybrid electric system that work in conjunction to create excellent fuel economy. Add to that the Camry’s expected comfort, longevity and its newfound styling, which includes a large Audi-style grille, and, to be honest, there’s not much to fault.
The 2015 Camry remains a pleasant drive, and in my eye, much more stylish than an Accord. Toyota’s hybrid system is the best in the biz for functionality and consistently good gas mileage. I got 36.5 mpg in about a 50/50 split of city and highway. EPA rates this at 40 mpg city and 38 mpg highway. Regular unleaded is all the 2.5-liter I4 requires. There’s also an Eco mode controlled by a button on the console if you want to improve your mileage. But it does sap your power considerably.
Under normal conditions regenerative braking supplies the hybrid’s batteries to give it good torque from a start, where the electric helps the most. The shift from electric to gas power is seamless and engine noise is minimal even under heavy acceleration. Naturally when it’s running on electric power, such as in reverse, or when you first fire the car up and start to accelerate, there is NO engine noise. You do hear a bit of electric whine as you brake.
I felt the bright blue test car had better acceleration and overall power than in a gas-powered model, better than most family cars of this size. Ride, due to the 109.3-inch wheelbase and well-tuned suspension is extremely pleasant and well controlled.
Pricing remains another plus, with the LE Hybrid model starting at $27,615, including delivery, while the tested SE Hybrid lists at $28,820 including delivery and the top-end XLE Hybrid starts at $30,805. Each adds a few more goodies, so compare to make sure you get the features you want.
The test car added about $3,500 in options, the highest cost being a $1,350 Entune Premium Audio/Navigation system. This includes 7-inch screen, CD player, MP3 hookup, 6 speakers, iPod connectivity, voice recognition, HD radio and hands-free phone capability, plus Bluetooth and SiriusXM radio. I love the screen, but the rest is your call.
Other bonus items include a power moonroof for $915, wireless charging for $75, illuminated door sills (nice at night) for $299, remote start at $499 and four-season mats for $325. Total here was $32,233, just a bit more than the average cost of a new car these days.
Even without the extras you get a nice looking interior that’s well laid out and easy to use. Gauges are well arranged and the buttons around the radio/nav screen are big and simple to see and understand. The radio worked flawlessly, even though it’s a touchscreen and there is dual climate controls with large knobs for ease of use.
Camry’s steering wheel is a manual tilt/telescope model with radio, phone and trip computer controls on the hub.
Seats are well contoured and comfortable front and back with good head and legroom for four or even five adults. This car had a black textured dash and gray door inserts along with pewter trim, plus flat black console and stack face. Seats were gray textured cloth with leather edging and black sides that really accented the seats for a sharp, youthful look.
Other standards on the SE Hybrid include a backup camera, push-button start and automatic lights. Sadly the lights are not very sensitive, so did not come on while driving on a couple of half-dark rainy June days. While quality seemed high throughout the car, the sun visors felt flimsy, but did have an extender in each.
Certain a family of four could get four suitcases in the trunk, but be aware that as with all hybrids, the Camry’s trunk shrinks a bit compared with the gas-powered model, due to battery storage. This one is 13.1 cubic feet down from about 15 in the standard power Camry. The rear seats also do not split and fold down.
Speaking of the gas-powered Camry, the base LE model starts at $23,795, including delivery. It features Toyota’s standard 2.5-liter I4 that creates 178 horsepower and 170 ft.-lbs. of torque. The hybrids get 200 horses with a torque rating of 156. There are six trim levels for the gas-powered Camry and three for the hybrids. Top of the line for power and price is the XSE with a 268-horse 3.5-liter V6. Its gas mileage is rated 25 mpg city and 31 highway, while the standard I4-equipped models are rated 25 mpg city and 35 mpg highway.
The premium for owning a hybrid continues to shrink, and the performance level of the Camry and its system is as good as I’ve driven. With its bolder looks and now the smooth and quiet hybrid system, my money is on Camry remaining the No. 1 seller!
FAST Stats: 2015 Toyota Camry Hybrid SE
Misses: Flimsy feeling visors, seats aren’t heated and trunk slightly smaller than gas-powered Camry.
Made in: Georgetown, Ky.
Engine: 2.5-liter, VVT-I I4 w/hybrid synergy drive, 200 hp
Weight: 3,565 lbs.
Wheelbase: 109.3 in.
Length: 190.9 in.
Cargo: 13.1 cu.ft.
MPG: 40/38 (EPA)
MPG: 36.5 (tested)
Base Price: $27,995
Dealer’s Price: $28,820 (includes delivery)
Entune Premium Audio w/Nav (Entune App, 7-inch touchscreen, CD player, MP3, 6 speakers, iPod connectivity, voice recognition, hands-free phone capability, HD radio, Bluetooth, SiriusXM), $1,350
Wireless charging, $75
Illuminated door sills, $299
Remote start, $499
Four-season mats, $325
Test vehicle: $32,233
Sources: Toyota, www.kbb.com
Photos: Mark Savage