Road Test: 2016 Toyota Camry Hybrid SE

Road Test: 2016 Toyota Camry Hybrid SE

The No Brainer Gets a Remake

2016 Toyota, CAMRY HYBRID,mpg,road test

Rolling on with new style and grace

For decades the midsize family sedan commanded the largest share of the U.S. car market. For the past 14 years, the Toyota Camry has ruled the midsize roost, a position it continues to hold through the first six months of 2016. Included in the Camry’s yearly sales number since 2006 is the Camry Hybrid like the 2016 Toyota Camry Hybrid.

But the midsize car dominance began waning last summer, with sales declining two percent in 2015. The family hauler replacement choice is the compact crossover sport utility. This year the little SUVs will likely nudge the midsize sedans off the top spot and become the best-selling vehicle segment.

This trend is also evidenced when looking at hybrid vehicles. The 2016 Toyota RAV 4 Hybrid small crossover has leapfrogged over the Camry Hybrid to become the second-best selling hybrid vehicle in 2016 behind the company’s Prius. Through the first half of the year, the RAV Hybrid has outsold the Camry Hybrid two to one.

The children of baby boomers are driving this surge, but that doesn’t mean the midsize sedan is an abandoned child—more than 2.3 million were sold last year. But if you’re one who is going to stay the course and are considering a 2016 midsizer, then why not invest a few extra dollars for the Camry with a gasoline-electric drive system?

A hybrid-powered Camry offers a sparkling EPA combined city/highway rating of either 41 or 40 mpg, and gives you 650-plus miles between visits to the gas station. In an era when one storm—meteorological or political—could send gas prices toward $4 per gallon again, the hybrid option on the Camry seems to me a common sense choice.

Yes, the gasoline pump price currently hovers just over two bucks a gallon, but what if…?

Last year Toyota gave the Camry gas and hybrid models more than a usual “mid-cycle” refresh. The updates included a 1.8-inch longer body, a new exterior appearance, upgraded cabin appointments and engineering tweaks to sharpen driving dynamics. The 2016 editions are carbon copies.

The 2016 Toyota Camry Hybrid is available in three trim levels: Base LE starts at $26,790 plus $835 destination charges; the sporty SE has a sticker price of $27,795; and the top XLE is priced starting at $30,140. LE editions have an EPA fuel economy rating of 43-mpg city/38-mpg highway/41-mpg combined. The SE and XLE are rated at 40-mpg city/38 highway/40 combined.

Styling: Is This Really A Camry?

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Restyled enough to make you wonder if it’s a hybrid

Past Camrys were not unattractive, but words like bold or expressive were never used to describe their styling. The impressions were Palm Springs-retirees as the target customer. Not anymore.

Tightly drawn and crisply rendered, the 2016 Camry Hybrid has an in-your-face large trapezoidal grille complemented by slim headlights that sweep into the fenders. Vertical LED turn signals set into the outer edges of the front facia are almost menacing in appearance.

The sportier XLE Hybrid is distinguished by a mesh grille and front fascia treatment—a statement that economy and entertainment need not be mutually exclusive.

Slab formed body sides are out, replaced with a sharp body crease that begins at the muscular front fenders and sweeps across the doors and rear quarter panels. Slightly flared doorsills suggest a road-hugging stance. Around back, large two-tone taillights are connected by a chrome garnish.

Attention to detail lets the 2016 Hybrid slip through the air with a 0.27 coefficient of drag, and that saves fuel and reduces noise.

With all the benefits of the design and only a few exterior badges to call attention to its gas-electric powertrain, the Camry Hybrid is a fine way to go green without broadcasting it.

What About The Cabin?

Open the doors and one might think Toyota borrowed a couple of interior designers from the company’s Lexus premium division. The cabin exudes the kind of quality and refinement that buyers

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The dash is upgraded too

of luxury cars are used to.

The feeling and look inside is upscale with the integration of rich-looking plastics, soft-touch surfaces and upholstery, including a mix of leather and Ultrasuede. There are carefully chosen upscale cues, such as genuine cloth stitching on the dashboard.

Headroom is ample, and five-footers can easily see over the hood. Thanks to a height adjustment on the driver’s seat and a tilt/telescoping steering column, nearly everyone should be able to find a good driving position. The left dead pedal is just where it should be.

Controls are large, easy-to-reach, easy-to-understand at a glance and are glove-friendly. Nestled between the three-dimensional Optitron gauges in the instrument panel is a new 4.2-inch color screen on the SE and XLE models. It displays a range of vehicle functions and coordinates with the multimedia system to display audio, navigation, warnings and communications.

The screen can also illustrate the flow of electric and gas power and can be adjusted to detail fuel-consumption data. But it does without the growing-leaves animation and other visual diversions used by some hybrids to coach efficient driving.

Four adults fit comfortably and, as with virtually every car in this class, three across in the rear seat means sitting shoulder-to-shoulder. If little ones are part of your family, front- and rear-facing child seats will fit in the back with ease.

Since this is a hybrid, the nickel-metal hydride battery pack has to be packaged somewhere; in the Camry it’s in the trunk. Cargo space is a respectable 13.1 cubic feet, 2.3 cubes less than the non-hybrid models. For additional space, the rear seatback folds down.

No Lack of Tech

The 2016 Toyota Camry Hybrid offers a standard convenience feature list and options that include virtually every infotainment and connectivity item buyers expect. Even the base LE is equipped with keyless ignition and entry, automatic headlights, heated exterior mirrors, full power accessories, cruise control, an eight-way power driver’s seat and dual-zone automatic climate control.

Infotainment, including the intuitive Entune system, provides smartphone-based access to the Bing search engine and popular mobile applications such as iheartradio and Pandora Internet radio. It enables casual-speech voice command of audio and navigation functions and can convert incoming text messages to speech, answering with programmable responses.

Dual 12-volt power outlets coupled with USB and Aux inputs gives the cabin lots of connection points.

Safety

High-tech safety options include Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, lane-departure and blind-spot systems with cross-traffic alert, and a pre-collision system.

The 2016 Toyota Camry Hybrid is a Top Safety Pick for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and enjoys a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) 5-star safety rating overall.

Proven, Reliable Hybrid Powertrain

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The heart of the machine

Toyota’s mid-cycle refresh of the Camry Hybrid was extensive, but in the engine room the Prius-derived Hybrid Synergy Drive is the one thing the engineers left alone. The hybrid system has no black magic, but it is one of the most sophisticated and refined of its kind. Plus, it’is a proven, reliable powertrain.

Like the Toyota Avalon Hybrid and Lexus ES 300h, the Camry’s gasoline engine is a 2.5-liter four-cylinder dual overhead cam engine that runs on the more efficient Atkinson cycle. Output is 156 horsepower and 156 pounds-feet of torque.

The engine is joined by a 105-kW permanent magnet AC synchronous electric motor that produces 199 pounds-feet of torque. Combined with the 141 equivalent horsepower that the electric motor later puts out, the combined output is rated at 200 horsepower overall, a confusing rating given the numbers involved.

Power is routed through a continuously variable transmission (CVT) with three drive modes – hybrid, ECO, and EV for low-speed, short-range electric propulsion. The Hybrid’s onboard sensors automatically determine what blend of gas and electric propulsion best balances power and fuel economy.

Completing the system is a 6.5 amp-hour sealed nickel-metal hydride battery pack. Regenerative braking converts the electric motor to a generator that captures kinetic energy when coasting or the brake is applied, storing it in the hybrid battery pack.

This isn’t a decaf version of standard gasoline Camry. The Hybrid’s 0 to 60 mph sprint of 7.2 seconds is actually quicker than the regular four-cylinder car by a half second. That’s not pokey, and means it’s an admirable highway car with good passing power and on-ramp acceleration.

Driving the Camry Hybrid

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Dialing in a little more aggression

Our week-long test drive car was a SE model; the version Toyota says dials up some “eco fun.” Added to the $27,995 sticker price was an Entune premium audio and navigation package, a moonroof, special paint color, VIP security system and the QI wireless phone charger, which was not compatible with my iPhone. With destination charges, the total price ended up at $32,099.

We gave the SE Hybrid a shakedown in a variety of driving environments from back road to highway, to Interstate stop-and-go, to in-town.

In the world of daily driving where the Camry Hybrid will live most of the time, I found it to be supple and as smooth as well-oiled ball bearings. The suspension soaked up the bumps of city streets with only distant notice of their passage.

Western Washington is a land of hills and mountains, and I appreciated the hill-start assist. It prevented the car from rolling backward when starting off on an incline when the brake pedal is released—a common occurrence in these parts.

The transition from all-electric to gasoline engine is exceptionally smooth. While I know that CVT’s are the fuel economy way to go, I still dislike the engine revs held at a high level during rapid acceleration. But, it is something I can almost get used to.

Driving on two-lane highways and freeways, the interior was as quiet as anything sold under Toyota’s upscale Lexus brand. That can be attributed to beefed-up window and door seals, outside mirrors reshaped to reduce wind turbulence and carpeting with 30 percent more insulating material.

I really liked the confident grip of the thick leather-trimmed steering wheel. Steering felt predictable, and the SE Hybrid accepted quick steering transitions with ease. The car felt just as composed taking curves as it did in a straight line, Body roll was well controlled, and the extra chassis rigidity and the SE’s specific suspension tuning gave the car the ability to tackle a twisting road with some zest.

I’m not saying the 2016 Toyota Camry Hybrid SE is a sports sedan, but I give Toyota engineers a big nod for an impressive job of turning the Hybrid into a rather engaging car to drive.

At the end of our week the trip meter registered 548 miles. Even with 62 miles of some entertaining driving, the instrument panel readout was 43.9 mpg. That’s a number that exceeds the EPA estimate, mainly because I was more judicious in managing fuel economy than the EPA’s protocols, and the EPA does not factor the Eco and EV modes in their fuel economy estimates.

The Midsize Hybrid Car For You?

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Still the most trusted badge

The 2016 Toyota Camry Hybrid’s fuel economy and new personality are difficult to ignore, but it’s not the only kid on the block. Ford’s Fusion Hybrid has been nipping the Camry Hybrid’s heels for some time. It has sharp styling and its 44 mph highway trumps the Camry.

If you want fuel economy and function, the Honda Accord Hybrid has my attention with mpg numbers of 50 city and 45 highway. Then there’s the reengineered Hyundai Sonata Hybrid that equals the Fusion Hybrid’s fuel economy with mature styling and the automaker’s flair for tons of standard equipment.

New hybrid car buyers with no attachment to a specific brand will have to spend some time to determine which of the above is the best choice for them. It’s a no brainer for Toyota devotees, however. The Camry Hybrid’s new exterior and interior styling, lots of features, plenty of power along with the fuel economy makes it an easy choice. Select the SE model and you can add eco-driving fun.

Related Stories You Might Enjoy:

Road Test: 2016 RAV4 Hybrid

Road Test: 2014 Ford Fusion Hybrid

Road Test: 2015 Honda Accord Hybrid

Road Test: 2016 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid

Road Test: 2016 Lexus ES Hybrid

Road Test: 2014 Toyota Avalon Hybrid

Disclosure:

Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.

Our focus is on vehicles that offer the best fuel economy in their class. We also feature those that are among the top mpg vehicles in their class. In addition, we aim to offer reviews and news on advanced technology and the alternative fuel vehicle market. We welcome any feedback from vehicle owners and are dedicated to providing a forum for alternative viewpoints. Please let us know your views at publisher@cleanfleetreport.com.

Top 10 Best-Selling High-MPG Cars of 2014 (January-March)

Top 10 Best-Selling High-MPG Cars of 2014 (January-March)

Toyota,Prius,Plug-in,EV,sales

Still leading the hybrid way

Electric Cars, Plug-in Hybrids, Diesels Lead the New Year Charge.

When sales are down, the excuses flow. We’ve been hearing them for three months as January-March automotive sales are almost flat compared to last year in defiance of what appears to be ongoing economic recovery. It’s the terrible weather, some say. Rising prices, others add. Some alternatives to conventional gasoline-powered cars don’t have to make any excuses; their sales are humming along quite nicely, thank you.

While overall sales languished a mere 1.3 percent above the first quarter of 2013, high-mileage electric cars, plug-in hybrids, and clean diesels continued a torrid pace similar to what they were experiencing during most of last year. The only laggard in this group was gas-electric hybrids, which dropped almost 16 percent compared to last year, based heavily on declining sales of several Prius models. Check out the gains:

  • Plug-in hybrids were up 36.8 percent compared to January-March 2013
  • Diesels were up 19 percent
  • Pure battery electrics were up 13.4 percent

The year has also started with some juggling of the Top 10 compared to the previous year’s rankings. The Prius remains the top dog by a long shot, the only true mainstream vehicle among these alternatives, but Ford’s Fusion Hybrid is now a solid No. 2 and the Nissan Leaf and Tesla Model S (both pure electrics) appear to have moved permanently into the Top 10 along with the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid.

What may be an interesting sidelight to the overall positive news is the decline in total hybrid sales despite a record total of 44 models on the market. The big drop among Toyota models, which continue to dominate the segment, appears to be the culprit in the slip. The 22 diesels, nine battery electric cars and seven plug-in hybrids on the market pushed the total 82 alternatives to gasoline vehicles. And of course those gasoline vehicles have been getting more efficient, too, adding to the competition.

Another sidelight to note is the exceptions to falling year-to-year sales among the Top 10. The Volkswagen Passat TDI, Sonata Hybrid, Nissan Leaf and Lexus CT 200h had increased sales compared to last year while the other six fell.

Top 10 Sales January-March 2014

On top of the group – always – is the Toyota Prius, the only model on the chart with a reasonable chance of breaking 100,000 units in sales for the year. Even dropping more than 25 percent from last year’s sales total the Prius still captures just under a quarter of the total hybrid market. Most of the rest of the Top 10 are regulars, but represent the diversity that characterizes the 21st century automotive market – hybrids, diesels, battery electrics and plug-in hybrids all have representatives. In the chart below we’ve listed the sales for the first quarter of 2014 with the 2013 numbers in parentheses.

1. Toyota Prius – 25,578 – (34,981) The Prius is unchallenged as the leader among all of the alternatives, a mainstream car that ranks up with the best selling standard cars. Its share of hybrid sales is dropping as are its sales numbers as the car comes up on a model changeover in a year or so.

2. Ford Fusion Hybrid – 9,606 – (10,266) Ford’s flagship hybrid is having a good year though not quite as good as last year at this time. What is significant is that it’s solidly outselling its main rival, The Toyota Camry

Ford,Fusion,start-stop,

Fusion moves up in sales in 2014

Hybrid.

3. Toyota Prius c – 8,833 – (9,865) The “baby” Prius continues to attract entry-level hybrid seekers and had a strong first quarter, with its sales dropping less than some of the other Prius variants.

4. Toyota Camry Hybrid – 8,782 – (12,434) The Camry’s hybrid version has slipped among hybrids this year, but its sales are still strong enough to keep it high on this list.

5. Volkswagen Jetta TDI – 8,151 – (9,604) The clean diesel standard-bearer continues to slot itself right alongside hybrid competitors, even with a drop in sales compared to last year. Along with the Passat TDI, they account for more than have of all diesel sales at this point.

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VW Passat TDI had a record month

6. Volkswagen Passat TDI – 7,769 – (7,240) The Jetta’s “big brother” has put a push on its sales in 2014, surpassing sales records for the TDI version set last year. In March the Passat TDI outsold the Jetta TDI.

7. Toyota Prius V – 6,001 – (8,525) The Prius “wagon” is having a tough year so far, dropping even more in sales than the Prius, but still maintaining a good position in the overall sales chart.

8. Hyundai Sonata Hybrid  – 5.677 – (4,256) Call it the stealth hybrid. Hyundai’s hybrid models flies under the radar somewhat, but has had a great first quarter maintaining a position it moved into last year. With the Kia Optima Hybrid using the same technology the combined sales from the Korean manufacturer have moved past the Toyota Camry Hybrid level, though slightly below the Ford Fusion.

9. Nissan Leaf – 5,184 – (3,539) Nissan’s pure electric car continues to benefit from strong word-of-mouth and a price drop earlier in the year from a shift of most production to the U.S. It has been setting sales records and appears to have established itself as a viable model.

10. Tesla Model S – 4,000 – (4,750) Tesla’s pure electric has estimated sales numbers (they release the official ones when they report their quarterly earnings so we only get a glimpse of the real numbers intermittently). Production continues at a high level, but the shift of sales to Europe and soon Asia (as well as a potential saturation of the U.S. market) is affecting U.S. sales (which is all we report). It does have the “honor” of being the most expensive car in this list by a good margin.

10. Lexus CT 200h Hybrid – 4,000 – (3,245) A redesign of Lexus’ small hybrid appears to have revived its sales and bumps it into the Top 10 for this quarter.

Bubbling below the Top 10 (or 11 in this case) are several models that help boost hybrid sales. The sales numbers are close enough to those in the Top 10 that these models are likely to move up later in the year. The Ford C-Max Hybrid, Kia Optima Hybrid, Chevy Volt plug-in hybrid, Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid, Toyota Avalon Hybrid, Lexus ES Hybrid have now been joined by the Lincoln MKZ Hybrid. This group doesn’t rack up big numbers, but add to the strength of the whole segment.

Photos from manufacturers

Posted April 14, 2014 (compiled with Hybridcars.com & Automotive News information as reported by manufacturers)

Other similar stories you might like:

The Top 10 Electric Cars You Can Buy–Finally

10 Best Fuel Economy Cars for 2014

The Top 10 Best-Selling High-MPG Cars of 2013

 

 

 

Your Next Vehicle – Save Gas, Save The Planet Excerpt

Your Next Vehicle – Save Gas, Save The Planet Excerpt

© flickr.com/blisspix/3884805244/Excerpt from Chapter 1 of Save Gas, Save the Planet: John Addison’s book about hybrid and electric cars, pathways to low carbon driving, and the future of sustainable transportation. © 2009 John Addison. All rights reserved.

Your Next Vehicle

Many Americans are going through decisions similar to the Eubanks. They are interested in ending the ridiculous amounts of money they spend at the pump. They do not know whether to get a new vehicle now, or wait for much better fuel economy with future cars such as plug-in hybrids. They want to save gas, but not at the expense of safety.

The decision is easier for those households with two or more vehicles. The vehicle with the best fuel economy can be used to put on the most miles. If all the vehicles are gas guzzlers, this is a great time to replace one.

If you’re ready to buy now, first consider cars that get at least 30 miles per gallon. If you can afford it, don’t settle for less than 40 miles per gallon. Too many people settle for half that mileage or worse, spending thousands of extra dollars each year. You do not need to wait for future technologies or even invest in a full-featured plug-in hybrid, hydrogen, or electric vehicle. Do not let your decision be clouded with claims about ethanol, biodiesel, and flexfuel. Thanks to new designs and materials, most car buyers can afford a car that offers over 30 miles per gallon (mpg).

When you have a few likely candidates, investigate their safety ratings. Safercar.gov rates most cars with one to five stars in the following safety categories: frontal driver, frontal passenger, side driver, side rear passenger, and rollover. High mileage champions like the Toyota Prius score 4 stars, or better, in all categories. The larger Toyota Camry Hybrid scores higher with 5 stars in all categories except a 4 in rollover. The smaller Smart Fortwo scores 3 in some categories. The Ford Escape Hybrid scores 5 in all categories except a 3 in rollover safety. The massive Chevrolet Suburban also scores 5 in all categories except a 3 in rollover safety.

After investigating your needs, fuel economy, and safety, it is highly beneficial to take test drives and even rent your top candidate for a couple of days.

If you can wait until the end of 2010, your choices will be amazing. You will be able to buy a vehicle that gets 100 miles per gallon or a zero-emission electric vehicle.

By going on an energy diet we can have healthy cities, be energy independent, and stop global warming. If we improve gas mileage by only 4 percent annually for 22 years, we could cut vehicle greenhouse gas emissions by 60 percent.

Will improved mileage ever be accomplished? Yes, in fact, in Europe, there are over 100 car models that get 40 miles per gallon. In Asia, over 40 million people drive light electric vehicles – a trend that will be detailed in the next chapter. In the United States, there is tremendous innovation in plug-in hybrid technology, electric drive systems, advanced batteries, and fuel cells.

We are just getting started with fuel economy innovation.

The Loire Valley in France brings images of magnificent castles, breathtaking landscape, superb wine, and driving 10,705 miles per gallon. Yes, you read that right – over 10,000 mpg and the fuel was gasoline. A team of students at La Joliverie won the Shell Eco-Marathon race with this remarkable fuel economy. It was not an electric vehicle. It was not even a hybrid. The vehicle was shaped for minimal wind resistance. The vehicle was also built with new materials that are lighter, stronger, and available in some new models now in car showrooms.

The Loire vehicle would not be practical for many people. It could not go fast. It only held one person. It was so low to the ground that the driver was required to lie flat. However, many vehicles with good mileage are practical.

We have one global trend towards fuel and energy efficiency, and an opposing force towards increased consumption. Our future depends on efficiency being the winner. Amory Lovin’s and his colleagues at the Rocky Mountain Institute have calculated that moving our typical car with its internal combustion engine wastes over 90 percent of the energy content in the gasoline used. If it is a 200-pound driver in a 4,000-pound vehicle, then 98 percent of the energy was not used in moving the person.

Fortunately, there are many solutions. In the chapters that follow we will evaluate fuels that are alternatives to petroleum including ethanol, biodiesel, natural gas, and hydrogen. We will hear from people driving plug-in hybrid vehicles and electric vehicles. The best solution for you depends on your particular needs.