Multiple options packages available for Camry Hybrids

Posted Friday, Jan. 24, 2014  comments  Print Reprints
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Toyota redesigned its midsize Camry Hybrid sedan two years ago, bringing a revised Hybrid Synergy Drive system that includes a 2.5-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine and city fuel economy as high as 43 mpg.

The Camry Hybrid was named the best midsize sedan for 2012 by Consumer Reports, based on its great fuel economy as well as its price.

For 2014, there are just two versions of the hybrid – the LE, which starts at $26,140 (plus $810 freight); and the XLE, which I tested for this report, at $27,670. These prices are only slightly higher than those of similarly equipped gasoline-only models.

Added last year were new soft-touch materials on the door panels in place of the harder plastic material in 2012 models. Rear cross-traffic alert is now included in the blind-spot monitoring system. Standard equipment on the LE trim now includes the new Display Audio radio.

EPA fuel economy ratings for the base LE model are 43 mpg in the city and 39 on the highway; the XLE is 40/38. During my test of the XLE, I averaged 42.9 mpg combined. Most of my driving was on the open highway, with some rush hour stop-and-go.

With a combination of gasoline/electric power, the hybrid achieves certification as an Advanced Technology-Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle (AT-PZEV). The nickel-metal-hydride battery recharges while the vehicle is running on gasoline power and/or slowing down, and never has to be plugged in to an outside power source.

A water-cooled system that re-circulates exhaust gas also helps to lower emissions. EV Drive mode allows the vehicle to operate on battery power alone for up to 1.6 miles at speeds below 25 mph; and ECO mode optimizes air-conditioning output and throttle response to save gasoline.

Both models of the hybrid are offered with multiple options packages.

The XLE has more standard equipment than the LE, including 17-inch alloy wheels (16-inch steel on the LE), chrome exhaust tip, chrome trim on the trunk, integrated chrome-trimmed fog lights, heated outside mirrors, auto-dimming rearview mirror with compass, rear air vents, leather wrapped steering wheel with integrated audio and Bluetooth controls, two 12-volt outlets, an eight-way power-adjustable driver seat, and a four-way manual passenger seat.

Standard audio in the XLE comes with vehicle information, hands-free phone capability, and phone-book access in addition to the AM/FM/CD/MP3/WMA, six speakers, auxiliary jack and USB port. Bluetooth wireless technology is included on the LE model.

Equipment standard on both models includes a temporary spare, auto off/on projector-beam headlamps, daytime running lights with off mode, body-color folding/power outside mirrors, chrome-trimmed rocker-panel inserts and variable-intermittent wipers.

My tester came with an upgraded audio/navigation/Entune package with a 6.1-inch touch screen. The audio/navigation system included voice activation for navigation and Bluetooth, real-time traffic information, satellite radio, iPod and USB connections, MP3/WMA player, six speakers, and the Toyota Entune system (includes apps such as Bing, Pandora, iHeart radio, Movietickets.com, sports and stocks — individually connected and programmed.

The premium hard-disc navigation with Entune and JBL Greenedge audio technology includes 10 speakers, a seven-inch screen, and text-to-speech with programmed and customizable text responses.

We found the navigation system simple enough to program — the 12--year-old did it — and the directions were easy to understand. Tuning the radio was a little more complex, with lists and categories not clearly marked. However, the sound was excellent in all positions.

The padded/stitched dash and door panels and two-tone seats make the Camry’s interior nicer.

My tester was Attitude Black Metallic (the flakes were dark blue), with light-gray leather interior and metallic tech-grained trim on the door armrests, the dash and the center console.

For $3,845, we had a convenience package that included leather power/heated front seats, an anti-pinch moon roof, universal garage/gate opener, and the audio/navigation system.

The driver’s area felt very roomy and wide open, with 41.6 inches of legroom and 38.8 inches of headroom. I didn’t feel the need to duck as I entered, and I could move my legs without bumping into something. The front passenger area had lots of space under the dash as well.

Rear passengers weren’t slighted on space, either, with 38.9 inches of legroom and 38.1 inches of headroom. Even the middle seat was adequate for an older child or small adult on a short trip, with no "hump" blocking the floor, and plenty of headroom.

The rear middle seat was not equipped for a child safety seat, though – which is exactly where I would want to put one, as that’s the safest place in the car.

The trunk of the hybrid model is a little smaller than that of the gasoline-only Camry, 13.1 cubic feet, to accommodate the battery and hybrid controller. My vehicle had a 60/40 fold-down rear seatback to open up the space for hauling longer items, although the opening wasn’t as wide as a sheet of plywood.

My tester came with dual-zone climate control with vents on the rear of the console. There were two cupholders on the pull-down center armrest in the rear, and two bottle holders in each door.

For a quieter ride, the Camry comes with a noise-reduction front windshield, and there is High Solar Energy Absorption glass all around.

The Camry Hybrid comes with "first-in-class" rear seat-mounted side air bags, as well as front advanced air bags, front knee bags, front seat-mounted side air bags and front and rear side-curtain air bags.

With the Smart Key System, the key remained in my pocket. The power door locks have an anti-lockout feature, which prevents the keys from being locked inside.

Toyota’s Star Safety System, including antilock brakes, electronic brake-force distribution, brake assist, Smart Stop technology, traction and stability control, and whiplash-injury-lessening front seats, has earned the Camry Hybrid five stars overall in the federal government’s crash-testing program.

During stop-and-go traffic, the fast lane stopped while I was going, and those safety features saved from a collision quite nicely.

Other than that, we enjoyed the comfort, the drive was easy, the power and control were more than adequate, and the ride was smooth and quiet.

Total delivered price of my XLE Hybrid was $32,310, including freight and options.

The automotive columns of Emma Jayne Williams appear weekly in the Star-Telegram. Contact her at emmajayne1948@gmail.com.  

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