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HEELS ON WHEELS: 2016 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
Having received a significant redesign just last model year, the Toyota Camry remains a front runner in the mid-size sedan segment for offering lasting style, excellent function, impressive technology – and a hybrid model that can deliver 40 miles-per-gallon combined.

I drove a 2016 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 just three of the Camry’s six possible trims – the LE, SE and XLE -- standard equipment in my loaded XLE test drive included the following standards: leather-trimmed and heated front seats; an eight-way power driver’s seat; a leather-trimmed steering wheel; seventeen-inch alloy wheels; a larger 7-inch audio touch-screen; Entune Audio Plus 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.

Last year’s improvements brought 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: One style draw to the Camry is the many options to make it your own: for example, there various types of quality interior fabrics, from the improved SofTex upholstery to Ultrasuede. Entune, Toyota’s multimedia system, is also presented in optional grade levels – my test drive featured the Entune Premium JBL Audio System ($1,330) that came with an App Suite, the seven-inch touchscreen, navigation and ten Green Speakers. As far as room is concerned, the second row is roomy enough for a baby seat without the front passenger feeling cramped; overall, all five passengers has generous shoulder and leg room, and kid seats are easy to click in. My test drive also had an optional Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Cross-Traffic Alert ($500), an Advanced Technology Package ($750) with Lane Departure Alert and a Pre-Collision System, a pretty pricey $915 moonroof, and a $75 Qi wireless charging system right in the lower center console.

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 2016 Toyota Camry as a Top Safety Pick with ratings of “Good” in all areas of testing. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gives the 2016 Camry a 5-Star Safety Rating.

Cost Issues: With a base starting price of $26,790 for the Camry Hybrid, you get a great deal on a highly styled green machine. With options, my top-of-the-line Camry Hybrid XLE came to less than $35k. (See all 2016 Camry models below).

Activity & Performance Ability: The Camry Hybrid continues to feel energetic upon acceleration with an EV Drive mode tapping into pure electric propulsion at lower speeds. The driver-selectable ECO mode can adjust the 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. Turning radius is comfortable and braking time is precise.

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
Toyota’s secret to the Camry Hybrid’s success is giving buyers a fresh perspective on an old favorite: various interior choices, from upholstery fabric to Entune media systems, set buyers up for what feels like a more customized experience, making this the go-to stalwart in the midsize sedan segment.

©2016 Katrina Ramser

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