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HEELS ON WHEELS: 2015 TOYOTA CAMRY HYBRID REVIEW


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HEELS ON WHEELS
By Katrina Ramser
San Francisco Bureau
The Auto Channel

INTRO TO THE CAMRY HYBRID VEHICLE
A mid-size sedan favorite for years, the Camry remains competitive thanks to a sizable overhaul for the 2015 model year, stepping up technology needs and refined interior features, all while offering a Hybrid model that can deliver 40 miles-per-gallon combined.

I drove a 2015 Toyota Camry Hybrid with a Synergy Drive powertrain combining a 2.5-liter Atkinson cycle four-cylinder engine and an electric motor for an output of 200 horsepower. Available in three popular Camry trims – LE, SE and XLE -- standard equipment in my SE test drive included: seventeen-inch wheels; a 6.1-inch audio touch-screen; Entune capabilities; Bluetooth; eight-way power driver’s seat; upgraded SofTex interior material; rearview camera; chrome-tipped exhaust; multi-information display; dual-zone climate control; and EV and ECO driving modes. Price as described came to $27,995.

Redesigned just three years ago, highlights include sportier and more sculpted exterior styling and improved materials for the cabin. Main competitors include the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid, Nissan Maxima Hybrid, and Ford Fusion Hybrid, Honda Accord Hybrid.

HEELS ON WHEELS REVIEW CRITERIA

Stylish But Comfortable Results: The dashboard layout adapted a sporty edge, with the SofTex upholstery now having a plushier feel. The second row is roomy enough for a baby seat without the front passenger feeling cramped; overall, all five passengers will feel plenty of shoulder and leg room. The Entune media system connects your smartphone in seconds, allowing all music, calls, and apps to be accessed via voice command and on the easily navigated touch-screen. My test drive featured the available $1,300 upgraded Entune Premium Audio System with Navigation (App Suite, Bluetooth, XM Radio).

Reliability & Safety Factor: The Camry sports such safety highlights as a first-in-class ten airbag system, Smart Stop Technology and Vehicle Stability Control. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) lists the Camry as a Top Safety Pick with ratings of “Good” in all areas of testing. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gives the Camry a 5-Star Safety Rating.

Cost Issues: The Camry is an affordable choice -- even when considering all trim levels and hybrid powertrains. An entry-level Hyundai Sonata starts at a modest $21,150 with the Camry at $22,970 (talking non-hybrids here). My SE test drive with the optional Entune Premium Audio System with Navigation came to $31,308.

Activity & Performance Ability: The Camry Hybrid is sprightly for a hybrid, with an EV Drive mode allowing for pure electric propulsion at lower speeds and the driver-selectable ECO mode optimizing throttle response. Regenerative braking captures and stores energy in the compact battery pack, and the exclusive Hybrid System Indicator shows real-time fuel economy, energy flow, and cruising range using vivid graphics at the Multi-Information Display. Overall, the Camry has strong engines with an available 2.5-liter with a fuel economy 28 combined.

The Green Concern: Whether you go for the gas-powered 2.5-liter four-cylinder getting 28 combined; the 21 miles-per-gallon city and 30 highway 3.5-liter V6 engine; or the Hybrid with 40 miles-per-gallon combined, the Camry remains is a strong choice.

FINAL PARTING WORDS
It isn’t hard to see why the Camry reaps so much success, as Toyota works hard to keep the mid-size sedan fresh and desirable. Elegance, intelligence, and just pure exceptional engineering makes this vehicle you want to hang onto – hybrid model or pure gas powered.

©2015 Katrina Ramser

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