The Toyota Camry gets a major facelift for 2015, and when we say major, we mean a face replacement. The 2015 Toyota Camry’s new look radical as, and in some ways imitates, the spindle grille of the Lexus line. Indeed, Toyota calls it a “road-hungry looking front bumper and grille.” Toyota is also offering an SE version of the Camry, with the same idea as the Camry SE we tested back in 2012. But what we’re really here to talk about is the 2015 Toyota Camry Hybrid.
More about that in a moment. First, that face. It’s a love it or leave it kind of thing. No doubt it will shake up the midsize class a bit and drive more young buyers to Camry. The Camry SE already sells to a market 12 years younger than other Camrys—and in car sales numbers, that’s huge—and accounts for almost half of all Camry sales. No wonder Toyota makes a big deal about it. Giving the Camry a more aggressive visage can’t hurt (unless, of course, it drives older buyers away…).
Mechanically the Camry stays the same, with LE and SE models powered by the 178-hp 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and the XLE and XSE available with the 2.5L four or, with six-cylinder engines increasingly uncommon in the midsize segment, a 268-hp 3.5-liter V6. Both engines are equipped with a six-speed transmission and front-wheel drive.
The 2015 Toyota Camry is also, as we mentioned above, offered in a hybrid version. Using Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive system, here with a 2.5-liter Atkinson cycle four-cylinder engine and a small high-torque electric motor. The 2015 Toyota Camry Hybrid makes 200 horsepower maximum on gas engine and electric motor combined. Of course, like most such systems, the Camry Hybrid can run on one or the other or both, depending on the needs of the moment, depending on vehicle speed, throttle position and state of battery charge. Foot to the floor, the Camry Hybrid takes 7.6-seconds to go zero-to-60, according to Toyota. That acceleration time places the Camry Hybrid’s performance between the four-cylinder and V-6 Camrys. It’s not slow but it’s well less than thrilling.
Although not as sensitive to the driver’s right foot as earlier Toyota hybrids, the 2015 Camry Hybrid still requires a gentle touch to stay powered only by its electric motor, shifting into dual mode early on. At least on light throttle at speed, and especially while coasting, the “EV” light on its dash will light up, indicating that the gas engine is on momentary sabbatical. There’s no sensation of the systems switching back and forth while underway, and the only way we knew for sure was whether that light was on or not.
Our favorite thing to do with the Camry Hybrid, however, was to push the EV mode button, which to a certain extent locks the system in electric mode. But it was fun to go into EV mode and sneak up on people in parking lots. Yes, since you asked, we are easily entertained.
To humor the modern generation, the 2015 Toyota Camry Hybrid’s dash-center multi-information screen has “apps.” As in, the radio is an app. Included among the apps is a new version of the fuel economy minder, including the ever popular schematic of power flow, entertaining for passengers, letting them see what’s being recharged or drained or shuttling electrons about.
Like earlier, um, apps, the Camry Hybrid records fuel economy history in various ways. The best fuel mileage we saw was 42.1 mpg, with one tankful an average of 36.1 mpg and another39.8 mpg. Our driving was predominantly highway, so those number gibe with the EPA estimates of 40 mpg city/38 mpg highway/40 mpg combined.
The system was generally transparent. The only time we felt or heard the powertrain changing modes was when we sat still for an extended period with the air conditioning running. Powered by an electric motor, the compressor still ran, providing cool air, but eventually the battery would be drained and the engine had to run for a fresh dose of recharge. There’s be a bump as the starter fired up the engine, and the four could be felt running, but it was all rather modest and benign.
The 2015 Toyota Camry Hybrid had a sneaky way of encouraging thrifty driving. The dial that’s now common place on hybrids replacing the tachometer shows whether the car is charging, neutral or sucking up electricity like, well, us with a chocolate shake. Yes, we know the dial should keep the dial at the left end of its sweep. But then we know we shouldn’t have ordered the large shake. Guilt matters.
Overall, the 2015 Toyota Camry Hybrid operates much like its six hybrid sibs in the Toyota lineup. Anyone who likes the Toyota Hybrid Synergy System and likes the Toyota Camry will love the Camry Hybrid. As long as they can abide that grille.