Review and Test Drive: 2017 Toyota Camry Hybrid SE

By Jonathan Spira on 1 June 2017
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Toyota’s gas-electric hybrid Camry recently celebrated its tenth birthday and it has remained one of the roomiest hybrids on the market. When launched, it came with a fuel-economy rating of 34 mpg (6.9 l/100 km), 10 mpg better than the conventionally-powered Camry and with little compromise in the passenger cabin or the trunk.

The conventionally powered Camry has been around since 1982, and it’s grown larger over the decades. It’s also noted for having been the most America-made car in both 2015 and 2016, with over 75% of its parts and assembly coming from the United States.

The Camry Hybrid is comfortable and reliable, one of the reasons you’ll see many of them serving on the streets of New York as taxicabs and black cars. Its powerplant is the tried and true 2.5-liter Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder engine paired with a 141-horsepower electric motor that is powered by a nickel-metal-hydride battery pack. A second motor/generator is used to determine the drive ratio between engine and differential.

While the hybrid Camry was ahead of the fuel-economy curve when it launched, its current EPA ratings of 40 mpg (5.9 l/100 km) city/37 (6.4) highway for the SE and XLE models and even the more miserly LE model with EPA numbers of 42/38 (5.6/6.2) seems quaint compared to Honda Accord and Chevrolet Malibu hybrids, which now achieve 49 mpg (4.8 l/100) in city driving.

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DRIVING THE 2017 TOYOTA CAMRY HYBRID

It’s clear to see why a New York City taxicab driver would choose the Camry hybrid to be his office on the road. Tap the accelerator and its ability to accelerate from a standstill to 60 mph (96 km/h) in 7.2 seconds (which would have been almost sports car territory when the Camry was introduced) is apparent. Just don’t plan a route with too many twisties: this is a car for boulevard cruising, not autocross.

The Camry’s steering, while having a heavy, almost sporty, feel, appeared eerily disconnected and transmitted little road feel. The ride, however, was boulevard quality and occupants will appreciate the cosseting they receive from Toyota’s seat design.

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