2016 Toyota Camry Hybrid
Prius Big Brother
By Ron Amadon
DAMASCUS, MD. – With today’s low gas prices, perhaps you are not keeping track of fuel economy figures as you did a year or two ago.
However, Triple A reported that the national average price of a gallon of petrol jumped six cents in the past week, the largest one week increase since the beginning of the year. Granted, the average price is still a low $1.81, but the experts predict the average is going to continue to rise as the spring driving season swings into high gear.
Or maybe you are like the frugal New England Yankees I grew up with who would love the idea of driving by a gas station as the numbers on the instrument panel told them they were enjoying 41 miles per gallon. (You still don’t feel any compassion for the big oil companies do you?)
A big 4-1 was the combined fuel economy average I registered in a week’s worth of suburban stop and go and interstate miles in the Camry Hybrid. All in a comfortable, responsive and attractively priced sedan that had me thinking that this might be an alternative to the smaller Prius in the Toyota lineup.
The Camry is nearly 15 inches longer than the Prius, and rides on a nine inch longer wheelbase with three additional inches in width. That translates to added comfort inside especially for that soul that sits in the middle of the rear seat. So carrying five people is doable here.
You would also be driving the top selling car in this country with very little indication to passersby that you opted for the economy model. What you would lose is the 56 mpg EPA combined mpg for the Camry Hybrid’s little brother.
But still, 41 mpg in a larger sedan is nothing to scoff at and you would be a surprised at the Camry’s performance. It’s “Hybrid Synergy Drive” combined output from the 2.5-liter Atkinson cycle four and a small high-torque motor comes to 200 horsepower. The power system varies between gas engine and electric motor, or combines both as need.
A 7.6 second zero-to-60 acceleration time is, come on now, not what you expected from type of car. The CVT was one of the better that I have driven.
On the center console you will find buttons for Eco mode that optimizes throttle response and air conditioning output to help prioritize economy. There is also an EV mode to operate solely on the electric motor for up to 1.6 miles at speeds below 25 miles per hour.
I seldom engaged either, opting for the normal operating mode and still came out with the mpg numbers above.
To the left of the speedometer on the TFT screen was the “Hybrid System Indicator” that gives you an instant read out on how economically you are operating. Since it instantly zips into the “bad boy” sector whenever one steps on the accelerator, it would be fair to question its value in every day driving.
The 8-way power driver’s seat with power lumbar made it easy to find that “just right” operating position. No more than very minor adjustments were necessary during a long day’s drive.
Even though it was the base LE model in the three model Camry Hybrid lineup, the test car was hardly bare bones. While a navi system was lacking, fit and finish, along with interior materials were all outstanding for the asking price.
There was a six speaker audio system, leather wrapped steering wheel with sound system controls, backup camera, Tire Pressure Monitoring System, and dual zone climate control.
Three option packages brought carpet and trunk mats, (the trunk was huge by the way,) a first aid kit, body side molding, and a security system.
With delivery that brought the asking price to a more than reasonable $28,497. In fact, I consider that a heck of a bargain in today’s market.
And here’s another plus. You will NOT have to spend days with a 500 page manual figuring out how the voice commands work, or what the 56 buttons here and there do. For many, that is as welcome as the first spring day where the temperature is in the mid 70’s and you are taking a comp day.