2023 Toyota Camry XSE Hybrid - Review by Thom Cannell
Bullet Points—Brief observations based on a decade’s experience.
Senior Editor, Technology Desk
THE AUTO CHANNEL
I’ve often driven the most popular car in the United States, Camry, and this 2023 Camry XSE Hybrid solidifies Toyota’s leadership by delivering an EPA-estimated combined mileage of 52 MPG.
For 2023, Toyota offers five Camry hybrid grades including LE, XLE, SE, SE Nightshade and XSE as well as non-hybrid models: five FWD and five AWD models with four-cylinder engines, and three V-6s variants.
If you’re thinking “A Camry Hybrid is just a big Prius,” you’re wrong—completely -quieter -better materials -more passenger room -buckets of power - far better driving experience—wrong.
That said, “buckets of power” only applies after altering its hybrid system to Sport Mode and a more muscular powertrain expression. Normal Mode remains a viable day-to-day option, however, Eco mode while more Prius-like, delivers improved fuel economy and given fuel prices, might be your better choice.
Today’s Camrys are more athletic, more fun to drive than those of five years older, even when it’s a Hybrid in Normal Mode. Altering settings from Eco to Normal to Sport doesn't change suspension, but it does revise driving dynamics as, with a constant velocity transmission, the drivetrain computer can adjust gear sets to deliver powerful acceleration, pulling additional power from the on-board lithium-ion traction battery. And should you be inclined, there’s paddle shifters to make you feel racy, and a low-speed, short range EV setting as well.
So, other than its rugged, high-strength and responsive TNGA-K chassis, what features are impressive?
Call me crass or bourgeoise but I revel in upscale leather seats, wood and metal trim, heated and cooled seats, killer sound systems (like the nine-speaker 800 Watt JBL system here)—all the righteous luxury options. Camry, particularly at the XSE-level delivers a near-Lexus interior with mostly soft touch surfaces, large touch-screen display, ample driver information display and optional Head-Up display. I liked the HUD for both digital speed information and navigation.
Safety, while not my primary motivation as I carry no children, is important. Therefore, adaptive radar-based cruise control, lane keeping assist and other technology is attractive. What I’ve found most important, other than some form of cruise control, are rear cross traffic notice and automatic high beams for nighttime driving. Note that Camry again is a IIHS TOP SAFETY PICK+ with its pre-collision and pedestrian detection system that peers into intersections. Its lane keeping (more later) assists in keeping your vehicle between the lines and can nudge you back, should you stray. For those with multiple passengers, your Camry will attempt to notify you of rear seat passengers.
It’s likely you’ve experienced radar cruise control slowing you to prevent a collision. I’ve tried the “stupid, inattentive driver” drill on closed courses—it works—yet I can never bring myself to test in public. I did set the multiple systems to warn me about lane excursion in the HUD and, while not actively engaging the electronic power steering and steering me back onto course, did prompt me to attend to driving. Why not let the system push me around? For now, Toyota’s system is overly active, like a new driver constantly moving the wheel to keep perfectly centered. Which can be annoying. That said, in truly blinding weather that and every other safety system was set to maximum to keep me and those nearby unscathed and free from harm.
The final important factor is the room a Camry delivers to its passengers, one of the main reasons people continue to make Camry the best-selling passenger car in North America. It feels full-sized, is a very handsome vehicle that delivers a complete set of safety and comfort features and delivers owners and passengers to their destination reliably and effortlessly.
- • Efficient, powerful, economical hybrid powertrain.
• Timeless styling and congenial, well-appointed comfortable interior.
• Reputation for longevity and high resale value.
- • As many, the lane-keeping system lacks refinement and can be fooled when lane markings deviate from programmed expectations.
- • Auto Glide Control simulates shifting into neutral for more efficient coasting, therefore improving fuel economy. Oh, you get an operation notice in the instrument panel.
Copyright 2022 First North American Serial Rights Unless Otherwise Noted. Original photographs copyright by Thom Cannell