First drive: The new Toyota Camry Hybrid packs a surprising punch

A midsize sedan with two sides
by Jason Tulio | Dec 10, 2021
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PHOTO: Jason Tulio
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An environmentally friendly Camry, you say?

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Indeed. This hybrid-powered midsize sedan is officially the only Toyota Camry variant available in our market following its recent launch. It’s powered by a combination of a 2.5-liter four-cylinder gasoline mill and an electric motor mated to an e-CVT. The engine is good for 176hp and 221Nm of torque, while the total power output is listed at 208hp. Its showroom price is pegged at P2,335,000.

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Neat. How’s it look?

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Rather modern. You get an athletic, slightly angry front fascia, no-nonsense straight lines along the side, and some sensible wraparound headlamps out back. The entire thing has a long and rounded character, which provides a good mix of elegance and sportiness.

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And inside?

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Leather-clad, of course. The dashboard tapers down towards the center console, giving the cabin a symmetrical look. There’s an infotainment screen in the middle that connects to a JBL speaker setup. While the sound quality is decent, the video output from the screen is rather grainy. This is most noticeable when you flick the car in reverse and the reversing cameras are on display. From the front, there’s plenty of head and legroom, so you won’t struggle to fit at least four people inside comfortably.

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Cool. How does it fare behind the wheel?

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The most surprising thing here is how easily the car handles. Gone are the lumbering Camrys of the past, and in their place is a smooth sedan with feather-light steering and smooth shifting. On the road, the 18-inch tires provide more comfort than you would expect, while the chassis and suspension keep things level in the cabin.

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Perplexing, though, is Toyota’s emphasis on giving this thing a sporty side. Eco and Sport driving modes are fairly standard nowadays to the point of (in some cases) triviality. In this case, pushing the Sport button turns the sedan into an aggressive canine chomping at the bit to chase down the car in front, complete with an uninhibited roar from the engine bay. The torque is instant from the first blip of the throttle, quickly reminding you of the electric motor whirring beneath.

But…why?

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Good question. Why does a sedan designed for ferrying CEOs need so much vigor? The closest answer I got was from one of Toyota Motor Philippines’ PR staff. He shared that the Camry was designed to be chauffered around in on weekdays and driven on weekends. In short, an all-in-one package is what Toyota was aiming for. I question the necessity of such performance, but like an extra feature on a smartphone, it’s nice to know the option is available should you need it.

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PHOTO: Jason Tulio
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