Several weeks ago, I reviewed the new, redesigned Camry sedan with a V-6 engine. This time, I got the hybrid version to evaluate. The Hybrid shares everything with the standard Camry, except the power train. The gas/electric version teams the base Camry 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine with an electric motor to generate 208 horsepower. This is a few horsepower more than the gas only version, but nearly 100 hp. less than a Camry V-6. The standard Camrys are hooked up to an eight-speed automatic gearbox, whereas the Hybrid gets continuously variable (automatic) transmission (CVT).

Buyers of hybrid vehicles look for great gas mileage. The 2018 Camry Hybrid certainly meets this requirement. Most versions deliver 46 mpg in combined City/ hwy. driving. However, the base LE model comes in with an even more impressive 52 mpg. That’s like the Toyota Prius.

Like its gas-powered siblings, the Hybrid gets fresh sheet metal. In fact, there are two different looks for this latest Camry. The most common version gets a very large open-mouth grille and sharper headlights, while the sporty SE model, is fashioned with huge simulated air intakes next to the grille that look menacing when you see them in your rearview mirror.

Inside, the design team gave the Camry a new look. A large, shield-like control panel dominates the center dash. It’s one of the most intuitive setups for controlling audio, air conditioning and navigational functions that I’ve seen. Buttons are well-marked and the touchscreen is large and bright. Furthermore, satellite controls on the steering wheel provide a nice backup. The cabin itself is well put together, and the materials are high quality.

The new Camry is about an inch lower on the outside, and the seats inside are lower as well. The designers reconfigured the front seats, and made them more comfortable. And the seats in the rear are not bad either—the head-and legroom is adequate for adults. Behind the back seats, storage space in the trunk is the same size as that in the gas-only Camry, 15.1 cubic-feet. That’s remarkable since hybrid battery packs usually cut into storage space.

Toyota offers the Camry Hybrid in three levels of trim, LE, SE and XLE. Most buyers are likely to choose the LE with the higher gas-mileage rating. It comes with the lighter lithium-ion battery pack, (in place of nichel-metal hydride) and popular features, like keyless entry/start, rearview camera, six-speaker audio and Bluetooth. The sportier SE gets 18-inch alloys, paddle shifters and a rear spoiler. The luxurious XLE provides leather upholstery, a power passenger seat, a head-up display and more.

In the safety department, Toyota deserves a big pat on the back. All versions of the Camry come standard with a suite of advanced safety equipment. This includes adaptive cruise control, front collision warning/braking, lane departure warning and mitigation and auto dimming headlights. Buyers can also order optional blind-spot warning and rear-cross traffic alert.

On the road, the Camry displays a nice balance of competent handling and a comfortable ride. The steering is taut and precise, and the lower center of gravity provided by the battery pack insures that corners are negotiated without much body lean. The Camry feels solid, yet the suspension is sufficiently compliant to take the edge off bumps in the pavement. Furthermore, the Hybrid is quiet. Passengers will only be aware of a hint of wind noise at freeway speeds. Power from the hybrid system is not overwhelming, but buyers should find it adequate.

Pricing for the Camry Hybrid starts off at $28,685 for the LE. The SE comes in at $30,385 and the XLE is $33,185.



Outstanding Fuel Economy

Fresh Styling

Stndard Safety features

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