Review: 2015 Toyota Camry Hybrid, it’s back and it’s GOOD [+Video]


When the Camry XV50 was first introduced here back in 2012, it barely missed on the tsunami of a hype that its older XV40 sibling had so effortlessly generated. Criticisms were hurled towards Toyota for producing a successor no more interesting than the Kardashian’s comical family drama, and over time, the Camry’s charm rapidly wilted and subsequently lost its coveted D-Segment top spot.

Competition grew stiffer in the following years with arrivals of the new Honda Accord, Mazda 6 and Nissan Teana. At one point, the Accord was outselling the Camry at a 4:1 rate – that’s one Camry for every four Accords sold! But if there’s anyone you can count on to come back stronger and harder after taking a serious beating, it’s Toyota. This time, with the refreshed Camry.

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QUICK FACTS

NameToyota Camry 2.0EToyota Camry 2.0GToyota Camry 2.5 Hybrid
Engine1,998cc; DOHC with VVT-iW1,998cc; DOHC with VVT-iW2,494cc; DOHC with VVT-i & ACIS
Transmission6-speed auto Super ECT6-speed auto Super ECTE-CVT
Max Power165 hp @ 6,500 rpm165 hp @ 6,500 rpm158 hp @ 5,700 rpm
Max Torque199 Nm @ 4,600 rpm199 Nm @ 4,600 rpm213 Nm @ 4,500 rpm
Hybrid Motor Output; Battery type141 hp & 270 Nm; NiMH
Combined Max Power / Torque205 hp / 213 Nm
Fuel Consumption7.3 litres per 100km7.3 litres per 100km5.2 litres per 100km
Price (OTR with insurance & GST)RM149,900RM159,900RM174,900

EXTERIOR

Let its new looks not fool you into thinking that this is an entirely new model, no. Despite UMW Toyota Motor’s best efforts in marketing it as such (new engine, new transmission etc), truth is, it really is just a heavy rework of what’s essentially a popular, yet lagging D-Segment competitor.

Though the new Camry retains its familiar profile and silhouette, the new front face gets cut deepest under the knife, veering its styling in the course of sportiness. Or as Toyota puts it, “The Camry is inspired by our Keen Look Identity and Under Priority design philosophy.” We’re sure they could have picked a better way of saying it (read: Fluidic Sculpture 2.0), but ‘Keen Look’ fits the bill just nice.

Toyota’s three pronged offensive is comprised of the 2.0E, 2.0G and range topper 2.5 Hybrid. Differentiating the Hybrid from the rest is fairly simple; it gets twin projector LED headlights, a mesh-type grille, a larger set of two-toned 17-inch wheels (poor design choice though) and a blue-tinted pair of tail lamps.

The non-hybrid variants make do with HID bi-xenon headlights as standard, a lateral fin-type grille and sits on 16-inch wheels. Where the Hybrid gets a single exhaust pipe, the 2.0-litre ones get dual pipes. It’s not all for show, though, as bits of aero stabilising fins have been incorporated to the side mirrors and tail lamps, creating air vortices which improves driving stability.

INTERIOR

Inside, the changes are minute, but largely noticeable. Gone are the two-toned beige on black interior scheme of old, duly replaced by an all-black upholstery married to two kinds of wood – Zebra Wood on the Hybrid and Crotch Wood (yes Crotch, it’s not a typo) for the 2.0-litre variants. The ‘Optitron’ instrument cluster is also new here, having serve its informing duties in the brand’s more up-class Lexus models.

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Smacked in the middle of the Camry Hybrid’s dashboard is a factory-fitted 7-inch touchscreen with reverse camera and GPS navigation. The Android-based hardware supports smartphone mirroring and is paired to a 10-speaker JBL Green Edge with 5.1 surround sound system capable of producing rich levels of audio quality. In furthering cabin comfort, the Camry comes equipped with acoustic-reducing windshield glass, achieved by inserting a polyvinyl layer between two sheets of glass that is tuned to absorb chassis vibrations and specific sound waves for – you guessed it – a quieter cabin.

Similarly, the rear and side windows have high-frequency wind noise reduction properties, courtesy of Toyota’s High Solar Energy-Absorbing glass. If the boss in you isn’t impressed yet, the Camry Hybrid gets an exclusive Qi wireless phone charging dock, nanoe air ioniser (said to moisturise your hair and skin, no joke) and electrochromic rear view mirror.

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If you’re in the back seat being chauffeured to board meetings, the familiar four-way electric front passenger seat adjuster is kept in check, conveniently positioned towards the upper right side of the seat to increase rear legroom. The head restraint on the same seat can be folded down, granting you full view of the way forward, from the back seat of course.

PERFORMANCE

Although this review is centred around the Hybrid, we feel that the new 2.0-litre 6AR-FSE engine very much deserves to share this newfound limelight. This brand new four-banger VVT-iW engine is nearly identical to the unit powering the Lexus NX200t, except in the Camry’s case it forgoes the in-house developed twin-scroll turbocharger.

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VVT-iW, short for Variable Valve Timing – intelligent Wide, refers to the engine’s advanced valve train and dual injection system (direct and port injection), enabling it to operate between Otto and Atkinson cycles. Generally, most internal combustion engines adopt Otto’s, but Toyota’s new engine is capable of switching between the two, depending on engine speed (rpm). It makes 165 hp at 6,500 rpm and 199 Nm at 4,600 rpm thanks to the 12.7:1 compression ratio. Together with the new six-speed automatic torque converter, it yields a quoted fuel efficiency of 7.3 litres per 100km 

On the flip side, the Hybrid draws propulsion from Toyota’s patented Hybrid Synergy Drive system first developed for the Prius nearly 20 years ago. This series-parallel hybrid system means that the Camry can be driven in pure electric mode and via the Atkinson cycle engine, or both when required.

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Unlike the new 6AR-FSE engine, this older 2.5-litre (2AR-FXE) four-cylinder port injection engine sees the VVT-i’s duties resumed, and on its own makes 158 hp and 213 Nm of torque. It’s paired to a high-torque electric motor producing 141 hp and 270 Nm of torque, and together they make for some formidable numbers – 202 hp (combined torque figure unavailable, sadly), an output bettered only by the Peugeot 508 GT and Ford Mondeo EcoBoost. Both turbocharged and exceed the RM200,000 mark, by the way, making the Camry – priced at RM174,900 – a much more enticing proposition.

Tasked with supplying power to the electric motor is a 1.6 kWh nickel-metal hydride battery pack, and the reason for skipping out on a lithium-ion pack is that Ni-MH batteries are better suited for hybrid cars demanding quick recharge and discharge rates. It’s also more efficient in storing energy when receiving sporadic surges of electricity produced via regenerative braking.

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The downside of using the Ni-MH pack is having to deal with its incommodious bulk, and the only way around it is to store the battery in the boot, reducing storage space to just 421 litres. In a practical sense, this compromise translates to a nicely packaged D-Segment sedan with a boot space smaller than that of a Vios!

But what you do get out of that trade is a quoted fuel consumption of 5.2 litres per 100km, and because it carries the Hybrid Synergy Drive badge, power delivery is managed by Toyota’s Electronic Continuously Variable Transmission.

THE DRIVE

The Camry, after nearly two decades of pitting itself against the more dynamically superior Accord, has always been the go-to car for those preferring comfort and long term reliability. The duo’s rivalry can be traced back to the mid 90s (in the 80s was the Accord vs the Corona), yet the Honda has proved time and again that it has the slight edge round the bends. Today, that deeply imbedded notion is about to take a dramatic turn.

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In our brief stint with the 2.0G, we found the new engine’s performance to be remarkably smooth, and it’s hard to tell when the cycles alternate between Otto and Atkinson. Preliminary impressions had us believing that the latter kicks in at engine speeds no more than 3,500 rpm, and going above that mark means transitioning into the more performance-oriented Otto cycle. Otherwise, the transition is nearly indistinguishable.

The new six-speed gearbox must also be commended for its competence in extracting the engine’s full grunt. Power delivery is hardly erring, with all 165 hp and 199 Nm evenly spread across the rev band. It’s right up there in the top three best 2.0-litre engines, and we loved it even more in the NX200t. In the handling department, the Camry’s chassis retuning proves to be a delightful leap forwards, granting new levels of agility that far exceeds our expectations. And when we say far, we mean really far.

The Camry 2.0G is noticeably smoother, more refined and more poised on the highways compared to the preceding model. It’s sprung harder on the front axles, giving way to increased confidence while tackling the corners up Genting Highlands, thanks in part to a new preload differential fitted on the front axle. A differential is basically a housing comprised of meshing gears that distributes power to both the driving wheels (in this case the front wheels, because the Camry is FWD), allowing them to individually rotate at different speeds for better traction as you go around the corners.

Jumping into the Hybrid thereafter tells a slightly different tale. The air of luxury feels pleasantly denser, although that deduction may have originated from a completely subjective standpoint. Nevertheless, the key characteristic separating the Hybrid from the 2.0-litre variants lies in the way it drives, and we could instantly tell that it rides suppler. The marginally softer suspension setup will surely please loyal Camry followers, but as far as comfort goes, the Nissan Teana is still king.

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That said, the Camry strikes a profound balance in the way it’s suspended; it’s equally up for a leg-stretching sporty drive as much as it is your personal, day-to-day limousine. Acceleration isn’t all that thrilling partly due to its weight, but when flooring the throttle from rest, both propulsion sources kick in and soon the Camry Hybrid began chasing horizons – that or the Honda Accord. Don’t we just love rivalry?

It has pace, don’t get us wrong, but it doesn’t reward you with the kind of kick you get in a turbocharged car. In casting our nitpicking nets aside, the dual propulsion technology deserves a warm welcome in any household. In fact, we dare say that it’s 100 percent the most exciting Camry to be introduced in Malaysia to date.

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IS IT FOR YOU?

To call this Camry a refreshed model can be quite an understatement, because if you factor in its value proposition and exceptional mid-life enhancement on top of a list of amenities that’s far more generous than before, the Camry Hybrid in particular, is charging a whole different ballgame altogether. It’s sedately good looking and is comparatively easier on the wallet in the long run (refer to comparison table below) as well. For your peace of mind, Toyota is offering an 8-year warranty coverage on the battery pack alone.

So, again. Is the Camry Hybrid for you? If you’re creeping up the D-Segment market for the first time, much won’t go wrong with the Camry Hybrid. It may fall somewhat short in terms of driver’s involvement compared to, say, the Mazda 6 and Honda Accord; but if you’re new to the segment, chances are you’ve already outgrown your petrolhead alter ego. Trust us, if you look to Toyota’s way, you will be hard pressed to not look elsewhere.

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But like our editor GC said in his video review, if you’re not a fan of hybrid and CVT gearboxes, then it’s better to call a pass on this one. Oh, did we tell you that, without the EEV incentive, the Camry Hybrid will cost around RM250k? Don’t say we didn’t warn you!

COMPARISONS

Let’s put it this way. The D-Segment market today is nothing like it’s been in a while. We’ve narrowed down three of the Camry’s closest rivals – the Honda Accord 2.4 VTi-L, Mazda 6 2.5L and Nissan Teana 2.5 XV. There are of course more, like the Ford Mondeo EcoBoost, Hyundai Sonata, Peugeot 508 GT and Volkswagen Passat CKD, but we feel the greater need to pit the Camry Hybrid against its Japanese rivals to see how far they’ve come over the years.

Toyota Camry 2.5L HybridHonda Accord 2.4 VTi-LMazda 6 2.5L Skyactiv-GNissan Teana 2.5 XV
ENGINE
Type4-cylinder petrol hybrid4-cylinder petrol4-cylinder petrol4-cylinder petrol
Displacementcc2,4942,3562,4882,488
Max Powerhp/rpm205/5,700173/6,200185/5,700171/6,000
Max TorqueNm/rpm213/4,500225/4,000250/3,250234/4,000
STEERING
TypeElectric Power-SteeringElectric Power-SteeringElectric Power-SteeringElectro-Hydraulic Power-Steering
DRIVETRAIN
TransmissionE-CVT5-spd auto6-spd autoCVT
SUSPENSION
TypeMacPherson Strut / Multi-LinkMacPherson Strut / Multi-LinkMacPherson Strut / Multi-LinkMacPherson Strut / Multi-Link
FrontVentilated discVentilated discVentilated discVentilated disc
RearSolid discSolid discSolid discSolid disc
TYRE & WHEELS
Tyres215/55 R17235/45 R18225/45 R19215/55 R17
WheelsAlloyAlloyAlloyAlloy
DIMENSIONS & WEIGHT
Overall Lengthmm4,8504,8704,8654,885
Overall Widthmm1,8251,8501,8401,830
Overall Heightmm1,4701,4651,4501,485
Wheelbasemm2,7752,7752,8302,774
Max Kerb weightkg1,6001,5851,4441,517
Luggage Capacity (VDA)L421461489516
FUEL
Tank Capacity65656265
Consumption5.2 l/100 km N/A6.4l/100 km7.4l/100 km
PERFORMANCE
Max Speedkm/hN/AN/A221N/A
0 – 100km/hsecN/AN/A8.1 secondsN/A
PRICE (with insurance and GST)RM174,900.00173,386.00194,647.00 (without insurance)169,900.00

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WILL I BUY IT?

We’re not going to waste your time here. All things considered, I just might. Why? Because UMW Toyota Motor is only projecting to produce about 7,000 units by end-2015, and if the Camry Hybrid loses its EEV incentive by the time the revised National Automotive Policy is announced for 2016, it could get slapped with a new RM250k asking price. The clock is ticking, and we’re pretty sure the Camry Hybrid is flying off the shelves as we speak. With the gap now closer than ever, who will make the next big move?


IMAGE GALLERY

2015 Toyota Camry Hybrid

2015 Toyota Camry 2.0G


Matthew H. Tong

Matthew H. Tong

A straightforward, fun-loving guy who appreciates the superficiality of a car's appeal, but his admiration for anything on four wheels gives him no reason to neglect the makings of a car. He still believes that fun comes with three pedals and a stick.
  • yk

    great review and comparison!

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