The 2016 Toyota Camry Hybrid Atara SL is the highest specification version of Camry's revised hybrid lineup. Its strongest point might be that it doesn’t really feel different to any other Camry – until you take a look at the average fuel consumption figure (5.9L/100km over our full week of testing). It’s the infrequent trips to the bowser that make you realise this new-fangled hybrid technology might not be the unappealing black magic you initially thought it was.
A revamp of the Camry Hybrid range foreshadowed the end of production we’ve touched on numerous times since it was first announced. 2017 might be the upcoming curtain call for the popular locally-built Camry, but Toyota has ensured it remains as appealing as it’s always been. It’s not perfect, and there’s some infotainment tech we’d like to see that isn’t there, but the Camry remains a solid performer in the expanding mid-size sedan segment.
Crucially, bolstered by the impressive fuel efficiency, the Camry’s strong points remain here in hybrid form. Space, both in the cabin and the boot is cavernous. The ride is insulated, capable and comfortable, especially for those of you covering longer distances regularly. The ownership proposal is solid too, with longevity a given, reasonable running costs and an expectation that there will be relatively few maintenance issues. Lastly, there’s the extensive service and dealer network, which suck so many into the Toyota ownership vortex.
So, we take on a Camry test with certain expectations and this variant will get no favours just because it’s hybrid either. We’ll be expecting it to be as solid as any other Camry we’ve tested recently.
Our test Camry Hybrid is the range-topping Atara SL and as such, pricing starts from $40,440 (plus on-roads) and there are no options added to that price. Even the premium paint you see here is standard at this price point – perhaps as it should be, really. Given the high-tech nature of the hybrid drivetrain, it's hard to argue with the sticker price.
I’ve always loved the sheer size of the Camry’s cabin, in a vehicle that still sneaks into the medium sedan segment. Up front, there is room for even the tallest driver and passenger, with plenty of fore and aft seat adjustment to help you get comfortable. Visibility is excellent, and the only minor negative in manoeuvring the Camry around town is the turning circle, which isn’t as tight as we’d like.
The boot space is enormous and it will easily stow two large suitcases, and two on-boarders into the bargain. The daily grind of lugging the kids’ sports gear would be no match for the Camry’s huge boot, so once again, its strength as a family taxi comes to the fore.
Where the Camry does struggle against the competition, is its infotainment system. Competitor systems, which feature sophisticated technology, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto and more intuitive controls, make the Camry feel a little old hat. The satellite navigation works well, as does the Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, but it just doesn’t feel as up to date as other segment leading systems.
Under the bonnet, you’ll find the centrepiece of the Camry Hybrid’s tech ensemble. As has been the case for some time now, Toyota has continued with a 2.5-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine, paired to a 105kW electric motor that is powered by a nickel metal hydride battery pack. Combined power output is rated at 151kW and 270Nm, which seems lower than what the Camry feels like it is generating in the real world. Ask the Camry to accelerate rapidly and the two engines work well to get it moving at speed. There’s no lethargy to the acceleration experience either, a signature of a good hybrid system.
If you’re trundling around town, as most of us do, there’s a quiet sophistication to the way the hybrid drivetrain gets to work. It’s probably the main reason Toyota prefers petrol engines to diesel for this application too, such is the overall refinement. The ADR claim for the combined cycle is a miserly 5.2L/100km and as mentioned above, we saw a return of just 5.9L/100km.
Two points deserve mention here. First, that real world figure is worthy of note given how far away most petrol engines are from the manufacturer's claim. Few get anywhere near the number that is generated under ‘ideal’ testing conditions. Secondly, we achieved our 5.9L/100km figure with absolutely zero attempt to drive efficiently. In fact, more often than not, I did the opposite. I actually had fun driving this Camry and as such, I gave it plenty of stick. Regardless, it remained genuinely efficient.
Keep in mind too, that the fuel usage we’re quoting is coming from a mid-size sedan. Which, if we’re being honest could quite easily slot into the large sedan segment. The Camry will carry five adults in comfort, has copious legroom in the second row, broad seats and a wide cabin, and is properly comfortable over longer distances. As I’ve said a few times in recent reviews, this Camry is another example of why you shouldn’t all be rushing out to buy SUVs for family duties.
The Camry has never been a razor sharp handling tool, and that’s not going to change with a hybrid drivetrain (read: extra weight) stuffed under the sheetmetal. What it doesn’t have in outright handling terms though, it more than makes up for in comfort. Overall, the Camry Hybrid is quiet, comfortable and well-mannered on-road.
Around town, speed humps, pot holes and rubbish surfaces do nothing to upset the cabin’s quiet confines. You’ll feel the worst of the urban network if the suspension needs to fully compress, but otherwise, you’ll feel very little. The steering, like the chassis, isn’t designed for feedback and precision, but the Camry isn’t the kind of sedan you’ll want to hustle along anyway.
Cabin insulation is a feature regardless of road speed, and you only hear the barest hint of wind noise at 110km/h on the freeway. The larger wheels and lower profile tyres fitted to our hybrid (compared to the entry level non-hybrid variants) transmit a little bit more road noise into the cabin, but it’s only noticeable on coarse-chip surfaces.
On the highway, the Camry Hybrid is the same effortless cruiser we’ve come to expect of all variants, and it’s no surprise it’s a company car and sales rep favourite. While not being a spirited performer, it really does lope along the freeway with ease, making long distance coverage genuinely easy. If you need to drive from Sydney to Melbourne for example, you’ll be comfortable doing it in a Camry. It’s this kind of long distance competence, that makes so many of us lament the loss of the larger, Aussie-built sedan, and that loss will be felt among those buyers who really do need this kind of vehicle.
Our 7.5 overall, where we’ve rated numerous Camry variants of late, is indicative of a solid all-rounder. The Camry Hybrid really doesn’t do anything badly, in fact, it reminds everyone who drives it, of the abilities of a properly-sized sedan. There’s huge storage, comfort and efficiency available here for those of you willing to step outside the SUV square.
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