Where's the passion?
Fortunately, I got over this little detail thanks to a myriad of interesting touches. First and foremost, interior room is plentiful, both up front and in the back. That's very important since the Camry is primarily a family sedan.
Also, the seats are comfortable and positively improve the driving experience. True, they offer virtually no side support, but who would want to drive a hybrid so aggressively that side support becomes an issue?
And as a high-end Camry, this hybrid boasts a wide array of standard features and accessories, including dual-zone climate control, voice command and a center display, which make the car surprisingly well equipped considering its price.
On the road
Before talking about the driving experience per se, I think it would be appropriate to give more information about how Toyota's Hybrid Synergy Drive system works. The principle is rather easy to understand: a tradional gasoline engine (a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder) is mated to an electric motor. Once you reach about 43 km/h, the former steps into play to assist the latter, varying power distribution based on driving conditions.
In order to ensure that the car runs solely on electricity, though, you really have to accelerate smoothly, otherwise the combustion engine will quickly intervene and spoil all your efforts to save fuel. Therefore, it goes without saying that Toyota's system requires a more gentle drive -- forget spirited maneuvers.
That being said, the hybrid system is a great fit for the Camry. Let's say you're stuck in traffic with your wife and kids. Well, don't worry because the car won't burn a single drop of fuel. Personally, my tester averaged 6.1 liters per 100 kilometers in city-highway driving.
In normal driving conditions, the Camry Hybrid is a decent performer. The steering feels heavy and artificial. Meanwhile, the comfort-tuned suspension is definitely up to the task on the highway, although it generates significant body roll in tight corners.
You don't buy a Toyota Camry if you're a driving enthusiast or if you want a car that reflects your outgoing personality. This is not a head-turner.
On the other hand, if you're looking for comfort, economy and quality, you should not hesitate to sign your name on the dotted line. You won't find a more advanced and more sophisticated hybrid for the price.
Photos: Marc Bouchard
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