Toyota tweaks the Camry Hybrid, so that the eco-conscious customer can enjoy clean energy without compromising on luxury. But can it change the Camry’s fortunes in India?
The world’s number one hybrid automaker, Toyota, has become serious about producing clean cars in India – and, to demonstrate that, they took the wraps off the 2015 Camry Hybrid. The Japanese giant insists that this is an all-new hybrid model, but really it’s more of a well-timed facelift. Though this car offers a magic carpet ride, is laden with features, and has a very comfortable cabin it never really became the popular choice. The problem is that sedans priced in the Rs. 25-30 lakh bracket end up making way for the mighty German brigade. They are more expensive, and offer less space, but buyers aspire towards the luxury brands from Munich and Stuttgart. As a result, the Japanese cars are left high and dry. But, this time, Toyota has a plan that doesn’t rely solely on the customer’s affluence. Rather, it aims to lower the cost-per-kilometre with its hybrid tech – and keep the environment clean at the same time.
Thankfully, Toyota has upgraded the Camry’s exteriors. The angular nose and huge trapezoidal grille has added some character to the docile looking Camry. This massive front air dam and grille comes with a generous helping of chrome, while the fog lamps are beautifully tucked into the front bumper. The grille itself is slimmer now, but retains a thick chrome lip above it. And just in case all that doesn’t make the Camry stand out, the new headlamps – with integrated LEDs that look like Katana blades – cement that newfound attitude. The dagger shaped turning lights, meanwhile, are smartly placed right below the headlamps and in front of the wheel arches to give the driver additional visibility at night. In profile, however, the Camry remains the same – and this is the blandest part of the design. There are some minor changes at the rear, like revised taillights and the addition of a lot more chrome.
The cabin continues to feel like an airy lounge with some upgraded features. Toyota has beautifully used both wood panels and chrome inserts to make the interiors feel like that of a private yacht. The new u-shaped centre console gets a touchscreen entertainment system, and a 3-zone climate control system – which can set individual temperatures for the driver, front and rear passengers. The air conditioner also purifies the air thanks to the use of nanotechnology, which allows you to breathe in clean air apparently! The seats remain big and comfortable, and pamper you like a ‘Lazy Boy’ recliner would. The rear seats recline by 8-degrees, making the ride a relaxed one. Another handy feature for the summer is a rear windscreen sunshade that comes into play at the press of a button.
The heart of the Camry hybrid remains the same. It’s powered by a 2.5-litre, 159bhp petrol engine, assisted by a 141bhp electric motor. It has a total power of 202bhp – not 300, because both the motor and the engine don’t hit maximum output at the same time. It is still a very smooth car, with linear acceleration that can also be quite quick thanks to the instant torque of the electric motor. The Camry comes in two driving modes – Eco and EV. The Eco mode is when it’s on hybrid power. The acceleration is smooth and the CVT gearbox ensures that there’s enough punch in the engine at all times to ensure that the driving experience remains seamless. The EV mode is all about the 1.6 AH nickel-metal-hydride battery that enables the Camry to combat stop-and-go traffic by being a pollution free car – as it can run for a couple of kilometres under 40km/h purely under electric power.
You may wonder why Toyota is trying so hard to make this model a mainstream one. For starters, they sold 523 units of the hybrid in 2014 compared with 197 units of the petrol Camry. This shows that people want to buy a clean car. Therefore, Toyota wants to make the hybrid model as affordable as possible, by becoming the first car manufacturer to assemble a hybrid car in India. And now, with the government’s new FAME (Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Electric Vehicles) scheme, Toyota has straight away slashed Rs. 70,000 off the sticker price as a rebate. But the Camry hybrid still remains an expensive proposition, at Rs. 31.9 lakhs, ex-showroom, Delhi (as compared with Rs. 28.8 lakhs for the standard Camry).
The Camry is a luxurious car, which comes with acres of cabin space and has all bells and whistles. It provides unbelievable comfort, but it lacks the clout of the Germans. Toyota will hope, then, that the eco-friendly tag will help give it the edge!
FIRST OF ITS KIND
The Camry Hybrid is not the first hybrid car launched by Toyota – that would be the Prius. But it is the first hybrid vehicle to be assembled locally in India. This historical move was achieved in 2013. What is interesting to note is that, last year, over 70% of the Camrys sold in the country were the Hybrid version. Toyota will be hoping that its green credentials, combined with the luxury that it offers, will enable the Camry Hybrid to make greater inroads this year. And while they’ll be thankful for the government’s new FAME (Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Electric Vehicles) scheme, they’ll be hoping for more aggressive incentives for eco-friendly vehicles in future.
- Toyota Camry Hybrid
Electric motor: 6.5 AH/ Nickel-metal Hydride
Transmission: CVT automatic
Engine output: 159bhp @ 5,700rpm
Engine torque: 213Nm @ 4,500rpm
Motor output: 141bhp
Motor torque: 270Nm
Total output: 202bhp
Fuel economy: 19.16 km/l (ARAI figures)
Price: Rs. 31.9 lakhs (ex-showroom, delhi)