Call it an electric car that self-charges as you drive, and now it looks the part, too
Can you imagine a large luxury car, weighing over 2,000-kg and powered by a 2.5-litre petrol engine, returning a fuel-efficiency of more than 20kpl in urban, stop-and-go traffic? Conventional technologies cannot make a car that efficient; hybrid can.
Toyota is the global leader in hybrid technologies, and the planet’s favourite hybrid car is its Prius. Closely following the Prius is the Camry Hybrid. In India, the Camry was first introduced in 2002, and the hybrid version in 2013. Recently, the all-new Camry Hybrid was launched. We drive it.
What is a hybrid?
It’s a vehicle that uses both an electric motor and internal-combustion engine to power the wheels. The motor gets its energy from the battery, and the engine from the fuel. The engine, while powering the wheels, also charges the battery. In addition, the battery gets charged when you apply brakes—the technology is called brake energy regeneration. There are numerous other fuel-saving and power-enhancing technologies in such vehicles.
How does the new Camry look?
It has an attractive and bold face, characterised by a two-grille design, new moon roof (another name for sunroof), new rear combination lamps, and new headlamps. The front looks too ‘busy’, with sweeping design lines, but these make the car look elegant and sophisticated. It rides on 18-inch alloy wheels. The paint job is a class apart.
How luxurious is the cabin?
The Y-design shape on the centre of the dashboard is a treat to the eyes. The quality of plastics and leather used is top-class—in the league of, say, Mercedes-Benz E-Class—and the cabin is adorned with soft upholstery, metallic accents and is beige in colour. Front seats can be adjusted in 10 ways and are ventilated. Like in most high-end luxury cars, there are memory settings for ORVM, driver seat and steering position. Qi-compatible phones can be charged wirelessly. The audio system, with nine speakers, is by JBL.
How spacious is the rear seat?
It is one of the few cars in India whose rear seats can be individually reclined for more comfort, and you can even access the boot space from there. The Camry has one of the most convenient, and most comfortable, rear seats on Indian roads—it has loads of legroom, and an armrest with touch-control switches for audio, recline, rear sunshade, and automatic climate control. All windows get automatic, one-touch up/down function.
Which engine powers it?
It has a 2.5-litre petrol engine (178PS and 221Nm). The hybrid motor delivers power output of 120PS and torque of 204.1Nm. The battery is made of nickel-metal-hydride and is placed under the seats, freeing up space in the boot (in the previous generation, the battery was placed in the boot). The engine is mated to a CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission) gearbox and it gets paddle shifters.
How does it drive?
A 10-inch heads-up display welcomes you as you fire the engine. Wait a minute, there is no sound. Because it is a hybrid, initially it drives on electric motor. And if you don’t floor the accelerator pedal, you can continue driving on electric motor for a considerable distance (depending on battery charge). If you floor the accelerator, both the engine and motor join forces to power the wheels, and shoot the car ahead. As you approach a traffic signal and apply brakes, the regenerative braking turns the car’s kinetic energy into electric energy and charges the battery. On a complete stop, the petrol engine shuts down but the electric motor remains on, ensuring the car’s AC is running, without the unnecessary fuel consumption and emissions associated with idling. The certified mileage of the new Camry Hybrid is an unbelievable 23.27kpl (while driving in and around Hyderabad, I constantly got more than 20kpl). While the Camry is predominantly used as a chauffeur-driven car in India, the new Camry Hybrid is more engaging to drive than the previous generation—but it’s no BMW as far as driving pleasure is concerned.
How safe is it?
The car gets nine airbags (front driver and passenger, two front side, two rear side, two curtain, and driver knee), ABS with electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist, vehicle stability and traction control (with a switch-off function), parking assist, impact-sensing fuel cut-off and speed-sensing door auto-lock, and tyre-pressure monitoring system.
Is it a good buy?
The Camry Hybrid is priced Rs 36.95 lakh, ex-showroom, all-India. So, its on-road price will be more than Rs 40 lakh. While it is, no doubt, expensive, the kind of technology, features, comfort and convenience you are getting in this Toyota equals what you usually find in cars priced Rs 60-80 lakh, such as the E-Class and BMW 5 Series. There is a unique way to look at the Camry Hybrid—it’s an electric car that self-charges as you drive. It’s available in seven colours, but we prefer the two shades of black (attitude black and burning black).