2015 Toyota Camry SE Hybrid – Review

2015 Toyota Camry SE Hybrid

2015 Toyota Camry SE Hybrid

I’m a ‘car guy’, so my priorities are supposed to rank driving fun above all else.  BUT, I also appreciate quality and good value.

So I was really surprised to find it took me only a few minutes of driving to be really impressed with the 2015 Toyota Camry SE Hybrid.

Really?  Aren’t hybrids supposed to be the vehicles of choice for people who hate cars and see them as one of the ‘necessary evils’ of living in the modern world?  You know, the proverbial ‘tree hugger’/Greenpeace/Sierra Club member.

Perhaps I’ve been wrong about hybrids all along.  Until now, I’ve been an entrenched loyalist of diesel power.  A few years ago I had an interesting debate with Stephen Beatty, one of Toyota Canada’s senior executives.  He said something to the effect that Toyota would not likely bring diesel power in any significant way to their models for North America any time soon, the main problem being, if memory serves me correctly, that the emission regulations were simply too difficult and expensive to meet.

As much as I love diesels for their low rpm torque and fuel efficiency, maybe Toyota has gotten it right.  Using an existing (and emission-approved) 4-cylinder powerplant and adding on a battery pack and electric motor seems much easier than the costly process of trying to engineer a diesel engine to meet strict emission control standards.

2015 Toyota Camry SE Hybrid

2015 Toyota Camry SE Hybrid

The Camry Hybrid's instrument cluster is simple and straight-forward

The Camry Hybrid’s instrument cluster is simple and straight-forward

Driving the Camry Hybrid

Two things impressed me right off the bat.  First, the electric-gas power delivers solid torque.  The Camry Hybrid accelerates from a stop with enough ‘oomph’ you’d think there was a V6 under the hood.  With an aggressive throttle foot, you get a pleasant shove into the seatback.

The second characteristic that pleasantly surprised (and puzzled me) was the Camry’s tightened up suspension.  (Fellow auto writer Tom S. thought it was out of character for the Camry to get a firmer suspension.)  But I liked it.  While the new Camry definitely feels firmer than past variants, make no mistake, this is no sport sedan, but the added tautness is much appreciated.  It’s still a VERY comfortable sedan, but the ‘floatiness’ and numb driving experience has thankfully been dispensed with.  With its revised suspension, the new Camry is a much, much more enjoyable car to drive.

Like any good modern car, the hybrid Camry comes with automatic stop/start.  Stop at a red light and the gasoline engine will typically shut down to save fuel; this is dependent on the outside temperature and whether the cabin requires heat or AC.  I found the auto stop/start unobtrusive, and I like the idea that the car isn’t needlessly burning fuel while stopped.  Some drivers hate the feeling of the car shutting down and re-starting; I’d rather pinch the pennies and save fuel.

On the road, the Camry gives a nice, comfortable and quiet ride.  At highway speeds, there is little wind or road noise that intrudes into the interior.  This is a car I wouldn’t hesitate to take the family on a cross-country tour.

You can select a view to show where power is originating - electric, gas or both

You can select a view to show where power is originating – electric, gas or both

While the SE is the mid-line variant of the hybrid Camry range, the car comes nicely packaged with enough convenience features to satisfy most buyers.  The SE gets a different sports-tuned (rear) suspension and 17-in. alloy wheels and a trunk lid spoiler to differentiate it from the base LE ($28,710) and highline XLE ($34,800.)  The fabric interior is of nice quality and there is a decent audio system.  Keyless entry with trunk release, a push button to start, power windows/door locks, dual-zone climate control and backup camera are all conveniences one would expect on a car of this trim level.

The glaring omission (and my big pet peeve with many manufacturers) is the lack of heated seats; for that you have to move up to the pricier XLE, and Toyota doesn’t even offer a heated steering wheel.  Grrrrr.  C’mon Toyota, this is Canada, and here on the Canadian prairie, we NEED these heated ‘conveniences’ when winter temps drop to minus 32 C.

The Camry Hybrid’s CVT transmission is unobtrusive, operates seamlessly, and undoubtedly contributes to the car’s very good fuel mileage.  We averaged a very nice 6.5 l/100 km (44 imp. mpg) in mostly city driving in ‘normal’ mode.  (There’s an ‘Eco’ button which likely forces the transmission to upshift earlier and ‘softens’ throttle tip-in.  We did not use this mode.  Also, it’s our understanding that National Resource Canada’s ‘official’ fuel economy ratings requires manufacturers to test vehicles in the ‘standard’ driving mode, not ‘Eco’ mode.  So using Eco mode ought to improve fuel efficiency.)

Bottom Line

The 2015 Toyota Camry SE Hybrid has changed my thinking on the value of hybrid technology compared to diesel technology, as it pertains to fuel efficiency.

I really liked the Camry hybrid.  It’s the automotive embodiment of the ‘holy trinity’ for frugal drivers:  excellent price point ($31,400); impressive fuel economy (6.5 l/100 km in city driving); and Toyota’s unimpeachable reputation for reliability.

The 2015 Toyota Camry SE is the first hybrid vehicle that I’d buy with my own money and earns our unconditional recommendation.

The Camry Hybrid's textile interior has contemporary, elegantly simple good looks

The Camry Hybrid’s textile interior has contemporary, elegantly simple good looks

Likes:

  • Torque-rich power
  • Pricing
  • Impressive fuel economy

Dislikes:

  • Not much.  Mid-level SE lacks heated seats; heated steering wheel not available.  Really, Toyota?  This is Canada!

 

 

2015   Toyota Camry SE Hybrid
Type of vehicle Hybrid mid-size front-wheel-drive sedan
Engine 2.5-litre DOHC 4-cylinder with variable valve timing + electric motor
Power 200 horsepower (combine gasoline+electric)
Transmission CVT
Brakes 4-wheel disc with ABS
Tires P215/55R17 All-season
Price: base/as tested $29,935
Destination charge NA
Natural Resources Canada fuelEconomy, L/100 km 5.7/6.1 (City/Hwy)

 

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