2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid XLE Road Test Review

Trevor Hofmann - CAP staff
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Published on May 31, 2012

Published on May 31, 2012

Published on May 31, 2012

Published on May 31, 2012

Published on May 31, 2012

Published on May 31, 2012

Published on May 31, 2012

A sportier suspension setup would be advantageous in the corners, but the Camry Hybrid's ride is sublime. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Published on May 31, 2012

With plenty of power on tap, the Camry Hybrid loves the open road. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Published on May 31, 2012

The 2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid is a good looking car, made better with XLE trim 17-inch rims. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Published on May 31, 2012

Published on May 31, 2012

Published on May 31, 2012

Published on May 31, 2012

A unique grille and blue highlighted Toyota logo separate the Camry Hybrid from conventionally powered Camrys. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Published on May 31, 2012

Published on May 31, 2012

Published on May 31, 2012

Published on May 31, 2012

Published on May 31, 2012

Published on May 31, 2012

Published on May 31, 2012

Fabulous taillight design shows the Camry can't be called boring anymore. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Published on May 31, 2012

Published on May 31, 2012

Published on May 31, 2012

Published on May 31, 2012

Published on May 31, 2012

Published on May 31, 2012

Attractive interior is also the best quality Camry cabin yet. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Published on May 31, 2012

Published on May 31, 2012

Published on May 31, 2012

Published on May 31, 2012

Published on May 31, 2012

Published on May 31, 2012

Published on May 31, 2012

Published on May 31, 2012

Published on May 31, 2012

Published on May 31, 2012

Published on May 31, 2012

Published on May 31, 2012

Published on May 31, 2012

Published on May 31, 2012

Published on May 31, 2012

Published on May 31, 2012

Published on May 31, 2012

Published on May 31, 2012

Published on May 31, 2012

Published on May 31, 2012

Published on May 31, 2012

Published on May 31, 2012

Stylish supportive seats are a Camry trademark. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Published on May 31, 2012

Published on May 31, 2012

Published on May 31, 2012

Published on May 31, 2012

No shortage of rear seat room. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Published on May 31, 2012

Published on May 31, 2012

Published on May 31, 2012

Published on May 31, 2012

Published on May 31, 2012

Published on May 31, 2012

Published on May 31, 2012

Published on May 31, 2012

Published on May 31, 2012

Published on May 31, 2012

Published on May 31, 2012

Published on May 31, 2012

Published on May 31, 2012

Published on May 31, 2012

Wrapping my hands around the meaty leather-wrapped steering wheel, settling into the nicely bolstered, supportive, grippy sport cloth seats, I mash the throttle! A sharp chirp from the tires precedes surprising acceleration, as foreground speedily blurs into background and my driver's license quickly moves into dangerous territory. I wisely back off, but the new 2012 Camry Hybrid has plenty of juice left. Quick? Oh yah, but Toyota got it all wrong.

That's right. The folks in Georgetown should have given the new Hybrid the same sport-tuned chassis and 18-inch rims as the edgier Camry SE, and while they were at it, that pseudo sport sedan's fancy bodywork and suitably spicy interior upgrades. Just the same, I'm falling for this stealth four-door's classy chrome exterior trim and more traditional woodgrain and bright metal interior accents, not to mention its silky smooth ride.

There's a lot to love about the 2012 Camry Hybrid. Number one, it's a good-looking car. Between its stylized blue Toyota badges is a unique grille that, along with additional aero aides, lowers its coefficient of drag to a slippery 0.27. That's why it's eerily silent at highway speeds. Well, that and a lot of sound deadening material and a solidly built, ultra-tight body structure.

That body gets all of the upgrades its more traditionally powered siblings do, like revised headlights to go along with its new grille shape, and some of the prettiest taillights in the industry. In profile the new Camry is much the same as the old one, but that allows it full-size interior space and a sizeable trunk measuring 436 litres (15.4 cubic feet) in non-hybrid form or an abbreviated 370 litres (13.1 cubic feet) as per my tester. There's a tiny hole to stick longer items through when its right-side rear seatback is folded forward. It's only a bit larger than an armrest pass-thru, but the fact they managed to finagle any sort of stowage for longer cargo through a rear bulkhead that previously housed the battery shows how far hybrid engineering has come, so instead of complaining about the hole being small I think a celebration of sorts is due.

The 2012 Camry Hybrid's fuel economy rating deserves celebrating, too. Estimates have city mileage at 4.5 L/100km in the Hybrid LE and 4.7 for the Hybrid XLE, and these aren't far from reality. Its 4.9/5.1 highway ratings are a little more optimistic, but they're still a far cry from the non-hybrid V6's 6.4 L/100km highway rating and the base four-cylinder's 5.6 rating. And those cars' city numbers make the Camry Hybrid shine, at 9.7 and 8.2 respectively. Sure the V6 puts 268 horsepower down to the front wheels and the Hybrid's 2.4-litre four makes do with 200 net, but electric torque is more immediate and in the case of its 105-kW motor you can really feel the jolt of boost off the line. So as you don't think I'm bashing the regular Camry, it's 2012 fuel economy rating has improved by a pleasantly surprising 11-percent. Then again, more shocking is the 2012 Camry Hybrid, up 39-percent over last year's version. Another bonus? Despite being one of the more technologically advanced cars on the road, not to mention one of the cleanest, it only requires less expensive regular fuel! You gotta love that.

While I'm still celebrating its fuel economy (I filled it up yesterday before bringing it back to Toyota, and my budget rejoiced), the car's price deserves high praise as well. The new 2012 Camry Hybrid stickers for a mere $28,480 including destination charges, and while priced lower than it's predecessor it hardly leaves its owner wanting for features. Standard items include dual-zone automatic climate control, proximity sensing remote access with pushbutton ignition, and vehicle approach notice that warns pedestrians of the car's presence when in full-electric mode. Why Toyota felt it necessary to delete Bluetooth phone connectivity from the standard Camry features list is anyone's guess.

You can get it on the upgraded Hybrid XLE, mind you, the car Toyota loaned me for evaluation. For an extra $2,000, totaling $30,480 including freight, the XLE adds Bluetooth and the aforementioned leather-wrapped steering wheel, an audio system upgrade with a graphic display interface, an 8-way powered driver's seat, an auto-dimming rearview mirror with integrated compass, fog lamps, and 17-inch alloy wheels to the standard Hybrid mix for a car that would have felt like a luxury sedan if they'd have thrown leather in like they do with the V6 XLE.

Of course, the Camry Hybrid comes filled with most of the base LE's standard features too, including all the usual powered convenience items, powered and heated exterior mirrors, variable intermittent wipers, a tilt and telescopic steering wheel with audio controls, audio system auxiliary input, USB port, and XM satellite radio, cruise, and much more, not to forget a comprehensive list of safety equipment that includes four-wheel discs with ABS, electronic brake force distribution and brake assist, electronic traction control and stability control, plus tire pressure monitoring. Toyota also includes its innovative brake override system dubbed Smart Stop Technology (SST), which automatically turns off the throttle under hard braking to eliminate any chance of unintended acceleration. Lastly, a full assortment of airbags includes new rear side-thorax airbags, side-curtain airbags for both rows, and front driver and passenger knee airbags.

Yes, the new Camry is the midsize car Toyota needs to combat the Koreans that are upping their game and the lone German that's dumbing itself down a bit while dropping its price a lot to gain market share, let alone the Accords and Altimas of the world. Soft-touch plastics abound where hard, uncomfortable and sound resonating hard plastics once flourished. Toyota even went to the effort of stitching some of that plastic together so as to look more like the leather dashes of its Lexus line. The Camry Hybrid's woodgrain is simulated to look more genuine too, while fit, finish, and an overall sense of occasion brings a new level of respect to a nameplate that previous stood for staid and, dare I say boring.

No, the Camry is boring no more. And the Camry Hybrid, especially in XLE trim, is a brilliantly executed car. Forget that it's a hybrid and just drive it for the sake of driving. I'm guessing it'll impress you like it did me, and I'm also guessing that if you don't immediately walk away an owner you'll likely be rejigging your budget to find out how you can upgrade from your Corolla.

Toyota has mastered the hybrid, and the 2012 Camry Hybrid is evidence.
©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: Sedan, Hybrid, HEV, Toyota, 2012, Camry Hybrid, $30,000 - $39,999, Midsize,

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