Think of a word that describes the Toyota Camry. One of the first that pops into our minds is “pleasant.” Which is no slight; for millions of Americans, a comfortable, well built, quality family car that’s both pleasant to own and to drive is just the ticket.
For 2012 we have an all-new Toyota Camry. And yes, it’s still pleasant. Toyota doesn’t mess with success. They don’t rest on their laurels either. So when it came time to test the all-new 2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid, we expected a smooth, efficient car. But we were surprised. Pleasantly surprised, in fact.
Outside of a few Hybrid badges on the exterior, you’ll be hard-pressed to tell this apart from any other 2012 Toyota Camry. That’s okay, because the new model is a good-looking piece, with crisper angles than before. It looks modern and clean—handsome, even, in an understated way.
Where the Toyota Camry Hybrid surprises is in the improvement in the driving. Toyota started by trimming a couple of hundred pounds from the overall weight. A slightly larger 2.5-liter, 4-cylinder combined with the electric motor produces 200 hp. While that doesn’t sound huge, you get all that electric power way down low in the rpm range, and that makes this one quick hybrid. Combined with a smooth CVT transmission, the Camry Hybrid just glides along, but when you give it the spurs it moves out with real authority—enough to even make our lead-footed road testers smile.
Since most people buy hybrids for their frugal nature, we should also point out that the 2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid gets a phenomenal 43 mpg city /39 mpg Highway mpg rating. Real world, a mid-thirties average seems realistic. That’s very impressive for a big family sedan. Also fascinating, the hybrid system can shut down the gas engine and go in full electric mode even up to 50 mph or so, depending on conditions.
If you want to be sneaky, you can press the EV mode and you can drive a Camry Hybrid 1.6 miles up to 25 mph in electric-only mode. There’s also an ECO mode that optimizes throttle response and air conditioning for maximum efficiency. And for those of you who want more interactivity, there are several dash-mounted displays that you can monitor to see how lean and green you’re running.
Even though the Toyota Camry Hybrid is not intended to be a sports model, we were also pleased with the comfy, but well controlled ride and responsive steering. Bonus!
Everyone on board will be happy with the Camry Hybrid’s roomy interior. Up front, Deep-set Optitron gauges and a thick leather-wrapped steering wheel along with high quality materials give a Lexus-like ambience. Redesigned front seats feel notably more supportive and make great long distance companions. The rear seats are comfortable and spacious as well. Trunk space is good—like most hybrids, some of the space is compromised by the additional electric motors and gear.
Purchasing a 2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid is pretty simple. Choose either the Hybrid LE model ($26,660; $1,150 less than the 2011 LE model) or the upscale Hybrid XLE ($28,160; $800 less than the 2011 XLE model).
Plumping for the XLE opens the door to some exciting options, as well. We think the Blind Spot Monitor is a must-have, and we really loved the Leather Package with leather-trimmed Ultrasuede seats that are simply elegant. The Premium Navigation System includes Entune, Toyota’s Multimedia system that integrates Apps with your smartphone, including Bing, Pandora, iHeartRadio, MovieTickets.com and OpenTable. Throw in a power sunroof, Convenience Package and Safety Connect (similar to OnStar), and our fully loaded tester came in at just under $34,000.
Every generation of Toyota hybrids continues to impress. In the new 2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid, there’s really no downside: You simply get great performance with excellent fuel efficiency. Smooth and silent performance, as much luxury and room as anyone could ever want, all wrapped up in a good-looking package. More than pleasantly surprised, indeed.