2013 Toyota Camry Hybrid XLEPosted on December 10th, 2013
Midsized sedan with a green footprint
By Nina Russin
The Toyota Camry Hybrid gives fans of the midsized sedan a greener option. Using technology similar to the Prius, the Camry Hybrid extends fuel economy about 25 percent over gas-powered models.
Toyota introduced the newest version of the Camry Hybrid in 2012, improving fuel economy by 30 percent over the first-generation car thanks to a new 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, aerodynamic enhancements and weight reduction.
For 2013, the Camry’s blind spot monitoring system gains cross-traffic alert. There are two available trim levels for the hybrid, of which the XLE, priced from $27,670 is the more upscale. Standard equipment includes heated folding outside mirrors, chrome tipped exhaust, dual-zone climate control, an 8.1-inch display audio system with Bluetooth and MP3, keyless entry and start, and an eight-way power driver’s seat.
The test car includes a blind spot monitoring ($500), rearview backup camera ($695), Safety Connect ($515), leather upholstery ($1,185), navigation with Entune and a premium JBL audio system ($2,670), power moonroof ($915) and carpeted trunk mat ($225). With the $795 destination charge, final MSRP is $35,170.
Test drive in Phoenix
The newest Camry Hybrid serves up satisfying performance, thanks to enhancements in low-end power and extended speed range for the EV drive mode. Although press material state that the EV mode is good up to 25 miles-per-hour, I was able to use it at 35 mph on a flat road.
Because electric motors reach peak torque at very low speeds, acceleration off the line is excellent: just over seven seconds for zero-to-sixty according to the manufacturer. At 200 horsepower, the powertrain has plenty on the high end as well, which comes in handy when the driver needs to pass slower vehicles on the highway.
Toyota has improved on-center response for its power electric steering systems. It’s still softer than a traditional hydraulic system, but the driver feels well connected to the wheels. There is pleasantly heavy response on the highway. I felt confident taking a decreasing radius turn at speed and passing a slower car on a two-lane rural road.
The nose-heavy feel of Toyota’s earlier hybrid models has also been resolved. The hybrid sedan is as well balanced as its gasoline-powered siblings. The four-wheel independent suspension consists of MacPherson struts in front and a dual-link system in back with stabilizer bars on both axles.
My test drive included a winding section of two-lane rural road east of Phoenix. The suspension prevented the car from bottoming out on the pitchy hills, yet was soft enough to absorb shock from uneven road surfaces.
Ventilated disc brakes up front and solid rotors in the back stop the Camry in firm, linear fashion.
The optional blind spot monitoring system makes it much easier to monitor traffic in adjacent lanes: a boon for commuters in densely trafficked urban areas. Today, a rearview camera is really a must, especially for lower profile vehicles. When parked between higher profile vehicles, it’s the only way the driver can monitor oncoming cross traffic.
Toyota continues to use nickel metal hydride batteries in its hybrids rather than converting to lithium ion. The disadvantage of nickel metal hydride is its mass, but the advantage is its proven durability. The battery pack in the Camry is located between the rear seats and the trunk. The trunk on the new model is larger than it was formerly, but it is still significantly smaller than for the gas-powered car. This is something for buyers who regularly carry larger cargo to consider.
Although the interior is generally quiet, I did notice some tire noise at higher speeds: perhaps due to the low rolling resistance tires. It was not significant enough to pose a problem for passengers holding a conversation.
Although the interior of the new Camry is absolutely lovely, I have a problem with the cost of the option packages. They add almost $7,000 to the price of the car, moving it into entry luxury territory. Although buyers don’t need leather upholstery and an upscale audio system, features such as the rearview camera and blind spot monitoring should be standard on a vehicle of this caliber.
Keyless entry and start enables the driver to enter the car and fire the ignition without fumbling for the key fob, adding a measure of safety for owners who commute to and from the city. The standard Safety Connect system automatically notifies police and emergency medical personnel in the event of a serious collision, and also includes stolen vehicle location.
Over the years, the Camry has grown into a much larger vehicle than it once was, providing comfortable seating for up to five adult passengers. The large touch screen audio display is easy to read in a variety of lighting conditions.
I found the power driver’s seat easy to adjust, with ample lower lumbar support for longer drives. The tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel enables smaller drivers to maintain a safe distance from the front airbag and a clear forward view.
The optional navigation system on the test car includes real-time traffic and weather updates, so drivers can reroute around congested areas. Entune enables drivers to access apps including Bing, MovieTickets, OpenTable and Pandora through the audio head unit.
Toyota’s star safety system integrates antilock braking, traction control and stability control in a manner that is invisible to the driver. Standard safety equipment on the Toyota Camry hybrid also includes front, side, side curtain, driver and front passenger knee airbags, tire pressure monitoring and whiplash lessening front seats.
Toyota builds the Camry Hybrid at its Georgetown, Kentucky assembly plant.
Like: A stylish, solidly built midsized sedan with exceptional power, performance and fuel economy.
Dislike: A small trunk limits the type of cargo the driver can carry. The Prius liftback’s more versatile interior is better suited for cyclists. Costly option packages significantly increase the vehicle MSRP.
Model: Camry Hybrid XLE
Base price: $27,670
As tested: $35,170
Horsepower: 156 Hp @ 5700 rpm (200 net including electric motor)
Torque: 156 lbs.-ft. @ 4500 rpm
Zero-to-sixty: 7.1 seconds
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: No
Fuel economy: 40/38 mpg city/highway
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