The Toyota Camry continues to be a legendary leader for value, reliability and owner loyalty now for 15 of the last 16 years in the mid-size segment – not only as the best-selling model in that segment - but also the best-selling car in North America.
Until 2014, Camry has been the mid-size standard for all these years without adding a hybrid. Now they have one and, based on our recent test drive, we think it is right there with the traditional Camry models - offering an additional and measurably more fuel efficient value choice to the consumer.
The 2014 Camry offers four traditional trim levels with MSRP pricing from $22,425 (entry Level L) to $25,810 (top level XLE) equipped with two traditional power train choices that include 2.5L four-cylinder and 3.5L V6 gasoline engines.
For the 2014 model year, Toyota has added a hybrid power train option to their offering in the LE (MSRP $26,330) and XLE (MSRP $28,625) trim level models. This new Camry hybrid was designed to be all about fuel efficiency for a Camry lover – delivering measurably better fuel economy than the four-cylinder and the V6. Contributing to that fuel economy improvement are lower rolling resistance 17-inch tires and technology that shuts down the gas engine when driving electrically and the use of regenerative braking to recharge the battery pack during normal driving adding to the electric drive range
The Hybrid Synergy Drive powertrain in the 2014 Camry Hybrid LE is rated by the EPA at 43/39 mpg city/highway with 41 mpg combined fuel economy. It combines output from the 2.5-liter Atkinson cycle four-cylinder engine and a small high-torque electric motor. The system produces a combined 200 horsepower and varies power between the gas engine and electric motor, or combines both, as needed. Using their highly efficient Electronic Continuously Variable Transmission (ECVT), the Camry hybrid has plenty of pep with a 7.6-second zero-to-60 acceleration time that is better than the the four cylinder engine and slightly under the V6.
An EV Drive mode allows the driver, under certain conditions, to operate the Camry Hybrid solely on the electric motor for up to 1.6 miles at lower speeds (below approximately 25 mph). An ECO mode is also available to enhance the hybrid performance through optimization of throttle response and air conditioning output.
In February of 2014, Toyota added a Camry SE Limited Edition to the hybrid lineup to ramp up the value proposition for the hybrid customer. Toyota took many of the popular attributes of the Camry SE and combined them with the Hybrid Synergy Drive powertrain in order to create the new SE trim level hybrid offering at a value price point. For an MSRP of $27,945, the Camry SE Limited Edition hybrid includes many of the Camry SE elements including the front fascia with its three part lower grille housing fog lamps along with black sport trim headlamp bezels, side rockers, rear valance, rear bumper, rear spoiler, and 17-inch wheels with low profile tires. On the inside it adds the four-spoke, leather-trimmed, steering wheel, silver interior trim, instrument panel, center stack trim, and front and rear seats from the Camry SE grade along with the addition of a rearview camera. And of course, special exterior badging is included.
Recently, Toyota delivered us one of the new Camry SE Limited Edition hybrids for a week long test drive. We fully expected it to perform every bit as well as a traditional gas powered Camry in every area including room, comfort, convenience, and driving performance. We were not disappointed. Given that, the measurable improvement in fuel economy delivered by the hybrid power train was sort of the frosting on the cake.
Our test vehicle was in Barcelona Red Metallic with a Black interior. Additional features included chrome tipped exhaust, dual-zone climate control, SoftTex trimmed sport seats, 8-way power adjusting driver seat, cruise control, power windows, tilt and telescoping steering wheel with audio controls, smart key with push button start and a multi information display in the instrument panel.
Our test Camry SE Limited Edition hybrid also came with the one available optional package available for this vehicle. The Entune Premium Audio with Navigation Package ($1,300) adds a plethora of infotainment capability including the Entune App Suite and Multimedia Bundle, a 7-inch High Resolution Color Touch Screen Display, AM/FM CD player, MP3/WMA playback capability, six speakers, auxiliary audio jack, USB 2.0 Port with iPod connectivity, voice recognition, hands-free phone capability, Bluetooth wireless streaming, HD Radio with Predictive Traffic and Doppler Weather Overlay, AM/FM Cache Radio and SiriusXM Satellite Radio. And lastly, our test Camry hybrid came equipped with a Power Tilt/Slide Moon Roof ($915).
Overall, we would call the 2014 Camry SE Limited Edition hybrid a very well executed addition to the solid performing Camry line of mid-size sedans. There were several things we particularly liked in the 2014 Camry hybrid. They included:
- Changes to the nickel-metal-hydride battery pack (still located in the trunk area) that now has enhanced air-cooling making it smaller. By locating the DC/DC converter in the engine compartment, the trunk in the hybrid is comparable (13.1 cubic feet) to the non-hybrid.
- The regenerative braking system also provides a feature sort of like engine braking for steep descents allowing the drive to put the shifter into a “B” position to aid in downhill control. It also has Hill-start Assist to facilitate safe staring on an incline as the brake is released.
- The SE trim level ride-control system with its McPherson-strut front suspension and proven dual-link rear suspension featuring specific suspension components and tuning, including exclusive steering knuckles and lighter, stiffer lower front control arms - gave us notably better handling and control.
- The front seating from the SE trim level with its higher seat backs and thicker and more supportive side bolsters in addition to longer seat cushions – impressed this larger and taller driver test driver. Headroom was more than adequate at over 38-inches with legroom of just under 42-inches, shoulder room of 58-inches and hip room of 54.5-inches. The backseat room was similarly generous.
- We also noted the use of Hybrid-exclusive trim accents on the instrument panel and door switch bases, upper console panels and shift knob that gave the Camry hybrid a richer interior look.
Including delivery this 2014 (Toyota calls it a 2014.5) Camry SE Limited Edition hybrid priced at $30,920. We very often question if the consumer is best served to pay the premium for a hybrid power train for an often small gain in fuel economy when compared to the same trim level vehicle with a traditional power train. With this Camry hybrid measurably more efficient than the traditional four cylinder and even more so when compared to the V6 – the fuel efficiency advantage favors serious consideration of going with the incremental cost of the hybrid.
If interested, you should know that the Camry SE Limited Edition hybrid will only be available for a while as this limited edition has a build of only 5,000 from February through June of 2014.