Test Drive: 2018 Toyota Camry Hybrid XLE
Although sales of electrified vehicles are lagging because gas prices continue to be so low, manufacturers are improving them so much every year, consumers are eventually going to begin considering them on their own merits.
A case in point is the 2018 Camry Hybrid, which gets both better mileage and more power this year. And that's on top of all the improvements in the Camry lineup, which was completely redesigned this year and is better than ever.
Although a midsize car, the 2018 Camry now looks, drives and feels like a full-size car. The exterior lines are cleaner, the interior feels roomier, and the ride is more comfortable, even over broken pavement. In fact, the Camry is likely to draw buyers away from Toyota's own full-size Avalon who see them both on the same lot.
Surprisingly, Toyota is offering two slightly different powertrains in the new Camery Hybrid. Both feature a 2.5-liter inline four cylinder as the gas engine. But the base LE comes with a lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery pack that combines to offer 52 miles per gallon, while the more upscale SE and XLE versions use a nickel-metal hydride (Ni-mh) battery and are EPA rated at 46. Both ratings are remarkable for such a large and powerful car, however.
Although the new Camry is now one of the most stylish midsize cars on the market, several people commented that the oversize grill is too, well, oversize. The same is true for most Toyota vehicles these days. It's as though company designers are trying to link them to the wildly oversized grills on the vehicles sold by Lexus, Toyota's luxury brand. But the entire Lexus line is so aggressively styled, their grills don't stand out as much as those on the simpler Toyota vehicles.
There's no faulting the dramatic, angular dash in the Camry, however. It is a work or art that vaults the interior into a whole new league. The dash both futuristic and functional, with a shiny black surface housing controls that are in fact logically laid out and easy to operate. And the wood and aluminum trim in our top of the line XLE test model set it off to perfection.
Our model also came with a full leather interior, a sunroof, a sumptuous sound system, and the complete array of Toyota's advanced safety systems. They warned us of other vehicles in the blind spots, whenever we drifted too far out of our lane and more.
All the options pushed the price of test car to $37,245, or a little more than $4,000 over the base SE Hybrid. And both are more than the conventional versions of equivilent models. But the fuel savings are significant and the overall level of performance is so good, buying a 2018 Camry Hybrid now is wise investment for when gas prices go up again, as we all know they will.
2018 Camry Hybrid XLE
Base price: $33,135
Price as tested: $37,245
Style: Midsize sedan
Engine: 2.5-liter 4 and permanent-magnet AC electric motor (208 hp)
Transmission: Continuously Variable with Eco, Normal, Sport and manual shift modes
EPA fuel economy: 53 LE, 48 SE and XLE (as tested)
Length: 192.1 inches
Weight: 3,656 pounds
Final assembly point: Georgetown, Kentucky
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