|The Camry’s grille is hardly short on size or style. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
Camry owners can’t fly under the radar anymore. The only four-door sedan in the mainstream volume sector with a more conspicuous grille is the slightly larger Toyota Avalon that shares much of the Camry’s componentry, but the mainstream family sedan’s flashy new attitude doesn’t appear to have eroded sales.
Last year the Camry remained number one in its class in both the U.S. and Canada, and by a considerable margin. Certainly sales in the mid-size family sedan segment have been slowing in recent years, the Camry falling victim to crossover SUV growth that includes the ever more popular Toyota Highlander, a mid-size
|From the rear, the Camry is a much more conservatively shaped mid-size sedan. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
Toyota sold 404,301 Camrys in Canada and the U.S. last year, compared to just 204,343 Highlanders, and 2016 was a particularly poor year for the four-door sedan. By comparison, Camry sales for calendar year 2015 totaled 446,160 in the two jurisdictions, while Highlanders only accounted for 169,327 units. 2014? A few more Camrys at 446,851 units compared to considerably less Highlanders at 155,876.
|Auto high beams help the XLE earn a best-possible IIHS Top Safety Pick Plus rating. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
While the Camry was nearly twice as popular as the Highlander in North America’s two northernmost countries last year, this isn’t at all the case in Canada. In fact, Camry
|The XLE gets stylish vertical LED driving lights and multi-spoke 17-inch alloys. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
Compacts are much stronger here than in the U.S. (at the close of Q1, 2017 the Camry was the fifth most popular vehicle in the States and 28th in Canada), where the Corolla led Toyota Canada’s four-door sedan sales with 45,626 units last year (currently fifth most popular in Canada and seventh in the U.S.), and the RAV4 led the entire compact SUV segment as well as every other Toyota model with 49,103 deliveries (currently tenth in Canada and eighth in the U.S.).
|The taillights are LEDs as well. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
I was on that launch program, part of which included side-by-side drag races against conventionally powered four-cylinder Camrys down an airport runway on Toronto Island (not during spring floodwaters, mind you). The Camry Hybrids came out ahead as you might expect, the exercise designed to dispel a common belief that HEVs were boring to drive.
|The Camry’s interior has come a long way over the years. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
Granted, performance has improved thanks to an updated 2.5-litre Atkinson Cycle four-cylinder internal combustion engine (ICE) that, when combined with the same Hybrid Synergy Drive technology that incorporates an identical 105-kW rating for its permanent magnet electric motor
|Soft-touch surfaces, high-end electronics, leather, and attractive satin silver trim set the XLE apart. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
While older tech than Lithium-ion (Li-ion), NiMH batteries have served Toyota well over the years; powering some Prius taxi cabs more than a million kilometers before needing replacement. Despite the power upgrade and a change by Transport Canada to a new more realistic five-cycle testing method, the 2017 Camry Hybrid’s fuel economy is actually better than the 2007 model in the city at 5.6 L/100km, and not much worse on the highway (on paper) at 6.2 L/100km (I’m sure it’s improved for real; its combined rating is 5.9 L/100km incidentally), while the car itself is miles more impressive.
I’m not necessarily talking about its styling (I’m more of a “fan” of the current generation’s
|Bright and highly legible gauges join a large MID at centre. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
As you might expect the Camry Hybrid XLE is a lot more about comfort than performance, and to that end I found it an extremely nice car to drive. It soaks up inner-city bumps very well, is quite manoeuvrable in tight parking lots, around town and on a winding back road (as long as you don’t push too hard), and it takes to the highway ideally. The Hybrid drivetrain provides plenty of power too, especially for passing duties, while it can cruise at high-speed all day long in quiet, near serene comfort.
With respect to that aforementioned winding back road, the Camry is a fairly wide car with a relatively low centre of gravity allowing
|The 7.0-inch infotainment touchscreen gets unique HEV functions in Camry Hybrid guise. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
Optimally any car should have a set of winters like these X-Ice tires for the colder season and summers when it’s warm, swapping them out in the fall and spring so as to maximize road-holding and minimize wear. This said if you send the Camry Hybrid XLE into a sharp curve too hard it tends to understeer, which means it pushes
|The XLE comes standard with very accurate navigation. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
Trims in mind, the Camry Hybrid is available in three variations including LE, SE, and as-tested XLE. While my tester was dressed up much nicer than the sub-$30k base
|That’s a wireless phone charger (on the right), a handy part of the XLE upgrade. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
|The Camry Hybrid’s CVT-like single-gear drive system gets a "B" mode for quick-charging the battery when coasting downhill. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
Additionally, Toyota’s standard Star Safety System includes the usual ABS-enhanced brakes with electronic brake-force distribution and emergency brake assist, traction and stability control, and Toyota’s exclusive Smart Stop Technology (SST) that eliminates any chance of driver-induced unintentional acceleration. This gets added on top of the usual count of standard airbags, plus two for protecting front occupant knees. If you want the benefits of an IIHS Top Safety Pick Plus rating you’ll have to spend more, but the ability to do so sets the Camry apart from most competitors.
|Leather upholstery helps lift the XLE into entry-level luxury territory. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
My XLE didn’t include most of the SE’s sporting gear but kept the leather-wrapped controls, powered passenger’s seat, and heatable front seats, while adding a different set of 17-inch alloys. Additionally the XLE includes automatic high beams, LED daytime running lights, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a garage door
|A powered moonroof over the front seats is always appreciated. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
The cabin that much of these goodies comes in will be familiar territory to those exposed to the pre-makeover seventh-generation car, which was already much improved over previous iterations. Nice details like a stitched soft-touch dash top flows downward across the instrument panel ahead of the front passenger, before butting up against a pseudo grey woodgrain inlay, the latter quite nice to look at as long as you don’t follow up appearances with any physical contact-it’s as cheap
|The rear seats are comfortable and spacious. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
Just like the lower dash, the lower door panels are finished in a hard plastic, which isn’t very upscale but likely durable. Likewise the Camry doesn’t offer any luxury padding on the centre or lower console sides, but I love the way its edges are surrounded in satin-finish aluminum-look trim. The same treatment highlights the rings around the instrument cluster gauges, the steering wheel spokes, switchgear, and some of the door garnishes, as well as the inner door handles, while chrome applied here and there adds dazzle.
|The abbreviated trunk should be spacious enough for most. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
|The battery divides much of the rear bulkhead, only allowing a 40-percent pass-through for skis and other long cargo. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
We’re near the end of the line for the current Camry anyway, and for that reason we
|Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive has long provided reliable, efficient performance. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
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