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  • 2018 Toyota Camry Hybrid XLE

    Posted on July 13th, 2018 ninarussin

    Next-generation sedan raises the bar for eco-transport

    By Nina Russin

    2018 Toyota Camry Hybrid

    2018 Toyota Camry Hybrid

    It was kismet that I received the keys to the new Camry Hybrid at the start of what turned out to be Phoenix, Arizona’s hottest spell this year. While most people associate the efficiencies in Toyota’s gasoline-electric powertrains with enhanced fuel economy, they provide additional advantages including better temperature control in the car’s interior.

    The same battery pack that extends fuel economy by powering two electric motors also provides power for the car’s air conditioning compressor, that operates whether-or-not the gasoline engine is running. In temperatures approaching 115-degrees Fahrenheit, the HVAC system cooled the interior down to a comfortable temperature in about five minutes. While the ignition auto-stop feature on many new cars turns the air conditioning compressor off at idle, the Camry system continues to work, keeping occupants comfortable in stop-and-go traffic.

    The newest Camry Hybrid utilizes an updated version of the automaker’s gasoline-electric technology, including a new power control unit that has reduced parasitic power loss by about 20 percent. Fuel economy isn’t quite as high as the more aerodynamic Prius, but its 46 MPG average is nothing to sneeze at.

    Engineers made some important changes to packaging: notably relocating the nickel-metal hydride battery pack beneath the second-row seats, so trunk space is the same as for the gasoline-powered sedan. This also lowered the sedan’s center of gravity for enhanced high-speed driving dynamics.

    Base price for the test car is $32,250 excluding the $895 destination charge. Options include a birds-eye view camera that enables the driver to see obstacles around the vehicle’s entire perimeter when moving at low speeds, adaptive headlamps, power moonroof and premium JBL audio system with the newest version of Toyota’s Entune infotainment system. Final MSRP is $37,255.

    Head-turning style

    2018 Toyota Camry Hybrid

    2018 Toyota Camry Hybrid

    A common complaint regarding previous generations of Camry has been the sedan’s plain vanilla styling. The dramatic new exterior on 2018 models should have more appeal to young drivers who are drawn to the automaker’s reliability but don’t want to be seen in a stodgy-looking car.

    Not only is the exterior more stylish, but also more aerodynamic, with kinship to the body Toyota uses for its NASCAR vehicles. The automaker’s attention to detail remains unchanged, with excellent fit and finish throughout the vehicle, and appropriate choices for interior finishes. While leather upholstery is both attractive and more practical in the Southwestern summer since it reflects heat to keep the interior cooler.

    Test drive in Southern Arizona

    2018 Toyota Camry Hybrid

    2018 Toyota Camry Hybrid

    I spent the week driving the new Camry Hybrid around Phoenix, Arizona’s east valley as well as some rural roads south of town. With its more powerful new engine and improved driving dynamics, Toyota’s newest midsize hybrid sedan delivers on all levels. The 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and electric motors develop 208 net horsepower. Torque for the engine is rated at 163 pound-feet, but because the sedan’s electric motors develop peak torque at extremely low speeds, the sedan’s launch off-the line is much better than what those numbers suggest.

    Engineers have made significant improvements to the continuously-variable automatic transmission for more linear and responsive acceleration. The other noticeable improvement is to the electric power steering system, that provides significantly better on-center response at high speeds.

    A stiffer chassis gives the sedan a more-nimble ride, but not at the expense of the passengers. A four-wheel independent suspension consisting of MacPherson struts up front and a double wishbone- multilink design in the rear keeps both rows of occupants comfortable.

    Four-wheel disc brakes stop the sedan in firm, linear fashion.

    2018 Toyota Camry Hybrid

    2018 Toyota Camry Hybrid

    Visibility around the perimeter is good. The optional birds-eye camera enables the driver to see obstacles near all four wheels, while blind spot monitoring illuminates LED signals in the side mirrors when vehicles in adjacent lanes pass through the driver’s blind spots. As with all new Toyota models, the Camry gets Toyota Safety Sense with Pedestrian Detection as standard equipment, automatically braking if the system sees a pedestrian in front of the car.

    LED headlamps provide long bright beams of light that are close to daylight in color and intensity with minimal drain on the battery.

    Engineers did an excellent job of minimizing road, engine and wind noise intrusion to the interior to maintain the quiet the automaker is known for.

    Spacious interior

    Toyota Camry Hybrid Interior

    Toyota Camry Hybrid Interior

    Inside the Camry Hybrid provides seating for five passengers with plenty of room in the newly enlarged trunk for their luggage. Keyless entry and start saves the driver from fumbling for the key fob.

    I found the power driver’s seat easy to adjust upward for a clear forward view with plenty of lower lumbar support. A standard heads-up display enables the driver to monitor vehicle speed without taking his eyes off the road.

    Audio controls are intuitive to operate with controls easy to reach from both front seating positions. The hybrid comes with an energy display screen so drivers can monitor the electric motors, gasoline engine and regenerative braking.

    Standard safety

    The Toyota Camry Hybrid comes with eight airbags, antilock brakes, traction control, stability control, blind spot monitoring, daytime running lamps, tire pressure monitoring, pedestrian detection with autonomous braking, dynamic radar cruise control and lane keeping assist.

    Toyota builds the Camry at its Georgetown, Kentucky assembly plant.

    Like: A stylish hybrid sedan with excellent performance, a high level of standard safety features and excellent fuel economy.

    Dislikes: None

    Quick facts:

    Make: Toyota
    Model: Camry Hybrid XLE
    Year: 2018
    Base price: $32,250
    As tested: $37,255
    Horsepower: 208 net horsepower
    Torque (gasoline engine only): 163 lbs.-ft. @ 3600 rpm
    Zero-to-sixty: N/A
    Antilock brakes: Standard
    Side curtain airbags: Standard
    First aid kit: N/A
    Bicycle friendly: No
    Off-road: No
    Towing: No
    Fuel economy: 44/47 mpg city/highway

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