When petrol is burning deeper holes in our wallets hybrids should define our way forward. Alvin Thomas gets riyal-istic about the Camry-ness of things: style and substance, with fuel frugality
There are many reasons to buy a hybrid vehicle. But until recently none of those reasons ever made sense to the average car shopper from the Middle East. Matters such as taking the environment into consideration with one’s car merely existed with posts on social media platforms, while the distance one’s car covered over a tank of fuel seemed like a worry for another day.
Alas! The day has come. Petrol, as you know, is turning out to be an expensive commodity – and we’ve now come to a point where every baiza counts, literally.
That’s where the Camry Hybrid comes in to save the day. If you thought that Toyota was only aiming to pump out a gas-guzzling V6 variant into the country, then think again. They’ve brought out one of the most frugal mid-size sedans in the world – and we couldn’t fault the timing of its arrival either.
For most parts the Camry looks much like its other siblings from the same pond. The eight-generation skin is worn from head to toe. For instance, there’s a two-piece grille upfront that now nestles the Toyota emblem, while the air intake vents take up a greater portion of the bumper.
Meanwhile, the side profile is quite handsome, too. The windows are large and sizeable, and aren’t intended to hide the sedan-like proportions of the car. On the other hand, the chiselled side mirrors, the bevelled door line and the machine-polished alloys make their way to the hybrid variant too.
Where things become a bit different, or shall we say, apparent, is when you move over to the rear of the car. Sitting prominently – and proudly – on the corner is the ‘Hybrid’ badge, that is intended to draw the line between you and the average car buyer from Oman.
Underneath the skin lies a 2.5-litre in-line four-cylinder engine that is coupled with an electric motor that aims to provide the best mileage at any given situation and with the least amount of carbon emissions. We found this to be incredibly handy when driving in city traffic.
We’ve grown to love Toyota’s hybrid systems over the years (especially the one in the Prius), and the new layout we experienced in the Camry was no different either. Of course, where it does score is in performance. Our tester came pumping an impressive 208HP (combined output: motor + engine) and was mated to a quick-witted electrically controlled continuously variable transmission (CVT).
In addition to the 2.5L dynamic force engine, the car boasts of an electric motor coupled with a nickel-metal hydride type hybrid battery.
While that puts the Camry into a whole new territory of powerful hybrid sedans, it also returned 22km of drive per litre during our hot weather highway test. This also makes the Camry Hybrid the most efficient mid-size sedan we’ve ever road-tested.
The CVT does a great job in keeping the engine revolutions to a minimum when you’re driving normally. But, as is characteristic with cars equipped with CVTs, we did come across a little bit of drone when we trashed the pedal to the metal. Albeit, come to think of it now, an acceleration test of this car was completely redundant, given that the car will most likely spend its time cruising along the highways and quietly prowling around cities.
During normal driving, we didn’t find it hard to notice the brake regeneration working in tandem with the batteries to keep them charged always. Upon leaving the accelerator pedal, there’s a whiff of friction that can be felt from the system recovering lost kinetic energy and converting it into potential energy, which can be then used for a blast of electric power sometime later.
We didn’t find the batteries to particularly weigh the car down; to be honest, it felt just as agile as the V6 variant we had tested earlier. Body roll, while existent, was kept to normal levels and wind and road noise were also doled down to a minimum.
Moving inside, you’ll find that the Camry Hybrid maintains the aura of the sportier variant. There’s not much to split the two, but for the energy monitor that is displayed on the eight-inch touchscreen. It’s hard to pinpoint on what’s more interesting; the graphical overlay of the batteries being charged by the engine, or the actual technology that is constantly in motion as you drive along. Either way, it’s a great way to keep yourself company during long drives, and who knows, maybe, you could also try beat your own scores at efficient driving.
Moving on, the seats are comfortable and what you’d normally find in any other Camry. They offer adequate amounts of side bolstering and lumbar, and are eight-way adjustable. I also found them to be very compliant during long journeys.
Rear space has always been the Camry’s forte – and it keeps the trend going. Leg and head room is in plentiful, and the large windows will ensure that passengers don’t feel claustrophobic at any point.
As is expected from a large sedan, the boot space is excellent, too. With its rear seats in position, it offers a large cargo area.
The Camry Hybrid was a welcoming addition to Toyota’s lineup in Oman, to be completely unbiased. But, it’s a change we foresaw – although its coming does ring a few bells in the automotive industry in the region. And the other contenders in this class should watch its back because not only has Toyota managed to wrap up an efficient car in a striking body; it’s a vehicle that may very well set the trend for hybrid cars in motion in the Middle East. That we’ll have to wait and see.