Toyota Camry Hybrid i-Tech 2010 Review

It’s not just a hybrid drivetrain that’s arrived in NZ with the latest Toyota Camry, it’s come carrying great anticipation too. While it’s often only badge fans that eagerly await a new model, the Camry Hybrid has sparked interest from private buyers, fleet purchasers, the environmentally conscious and even interested Taxi Drivers. Why shouldn’t it be anticipated either, it’s (almost) locally produced in South Australia, has the latest in fuel saving tech and is a fresh take on an old favourite. So is this hybrid machine really worth all the fuss? Car and SUV spent a week playing an eco-friendly, fleet-buying taxi driver to find out more.

While Toyota’s Prius was always designed to be a hybrid-only vehicle, the Camry doesn’t share that luxury and small tweaks have been made to its appearance for both functional reasons and to distance it from lower-spec siblings.  The most noticeable difference comes with a unique front bumper and grille. More than just give it a reworked face the new front end provides additional cooling to the engine bay and drops the coefficient drag by six percent to just .27cd. There’s also eye-catching blue tinted headlights, ‘Hybrid’ badges all round and some classy chrome trim on the boot and front grille. Our tested top model Camry Hybrid i-Tech also features 16-inch alloy wheels, front fog lamps, LED rear lights and a rear boot spoiler as standard kit. Elsewhere it shares the same low-key but modern styling as the rest of the Camry range.

In the cabin there’s a distinct luxury feel with black leather upholstery and high-grade dark plastics. One point of interest is an all-new instrument cluster that looks fantastic and drops the traditional tachometer in favour of an instantaneous fuel consumption meter. This special meter allows the driver to gauge how economically they are driving and lets them know when the petrol engine is off and the car is regenerating energy. The central instrument panel is also of note with its cool blue illumination, silver switchgear and large control screen. This touch screen handles standard stereo functions but also gives a detailed fuel consumption graph and an energy-use display that tells everyone when the electric motor is working and when it’s recharging. The rest of the cabin is slightly uninspired but offers good visibility and comfortable seating for five adults. The leather seats are nicely soft but could use more lateral support and there are ample small storage options front and back. Boot storage however, has been compromised by the nickel metal hydride battery packs and capacity is reduced by 71-litres to 389-litres. It’s also more difficult to load longer items into the boot, but the back seat still split-folds to reveal a slim ski-port.

The Hybrid i-Tech model gets a great spread of standard equipment including smart key entry and start, climate air-conditioning with ECO mode, satellite navigation, 4-disc CD player with eight speakers, Bluetooth, power seats, auto headlights, rain-sensing wipers and a reversing camera.

Push the start button and the Hybrid Camry silently springs into life. Under the bonnet lays an Atkinson-cycle 2.4-litre four-cylinder engine with 16-valves and variable valve timing. This unit works in conjunction with two electric motors for a total output of 140kW. The added torque generated by the electric motor is available from 0rpm and helps give the Camry Hybrid greater shove from standing than its peers. The Hybrid will get to 100kph in 8.9-seconds and has decent pace for open road overtaking. In terms of economy the Toyota quoted figure is 6.0l/100km combined which is suitably impressive for a med/large petrol powered sedan. Stop-start technology means that in traffic the petrol engine will turn off and restart as you press the accelerator but there is a slight delay before the power becomes available.

Unlike the Prius there is no ‘EV mode’ button making it difficult to operate the Camry on battery power alone for any real distance. Maximum EV range is 2km on a full charge but once you slowly get up to 40km/h the petrol engine will always kick in.

Power is delivered to the front wheels through a CVT transmission, while it’s a modern system that further helps fuel economy, it does pause before it finds the ideal gear ratio. This means the Camry could be more responsive through the mid-range and by keeping the motor at a constant rpm the CVT creates a droning engine noise under acceleration. That said, once up to cruising speed the Hybrid is nicely quiet and refined.

Dynamically the Camry Hybrid is no performance car but it does have a stiffer suspension and faster steering rack than the standard models giving it a sportier feel. The extra torque does create some torque-steer at the front but it is damped significantly. The extra weight caused by the battery pack (115kg) over the rear axle works in with fully retuned suspension to give the Hybrid Camry competent handling and it grips well during cornering. Despite the firmer suspension set-up the Camry remains fairly compliant on broken surfaces and maintains its comfortable cruising character.

For safety the Camry Hybrid utilises a system named Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management that incorporates stability control with traction control, ABS brakes and EBD. It’s designed to offer quick and absolute responses to potentially dangerous situations. There are also driver and passenger front, side and front/rear curtain airbags ready to pop.

So what’s the verdict on the Camry Hybrid?

It’s totally worth the anticipation, the hybrid system is advanced and effective in providing great fuel economy and low emissions and there’s just enough in terms of special design to make it feel a little bit special. It’s dynamically capable if not totally inspiring and it is a very comfortable cruiser. Buyers who don’t mind the smaller boot space and the sluggish CVT transmission will receive large car spaciousness with excellent fuel economy. That’s exactly why the Camry Hybrid was much anticipated and that’s exactly what it delivers.

Price: $54,990

What we like:

  • Long equipment list
  • Fuel economy
  • Relaxed Cruiser
  • Interior Space

What we don’t like:

  • Unsupportive seats
  • Delayed CVT response
  • Handling still can’t match some competitors

Words and Photos: Adam Mamo

Other reviews of interest (click link):

Toyota Prius i-Tech (2010) — Road Test

Toyota Camry GL (2010) — Road Test

Toyota Camry Hybrid i-Tech (2010) — Specifications

Engine
Engine Model Code     2AZ-FXE
Type     In-line, 4 Cylinder, 16 Valve DOHC, Variable Valve Timing – intelligent (VVT-i)
Battery Voltage     12 Volts
Bore     88.5 mm
Capacity     2362 cc
Compression     12.5 : 1
Configuration     In-line 4 cylinder
Condition     Combined
Consumption     6.0 L/100km
Test     ADR 81/02
Condition     Combined
Emission     142 g/km
Test     ADR 81/02
Fuel Tank Capacity     65 litres
Fuel Type     91 Octane or Higher Recommended
Injection Type     Electronic Fuel Injection (EFI)
Location     Front, Transverse
Maximum Power     110 kW 6000 rpm
Maximum Torque     187 Nm 4400 rpm
Stroke     96.0 mm

Hybrid
Type     244 Volt Nickel Metal-Hydride (Ni-MH) Battery & 12 Volt Auxiliary Battery
Description     Permanent Magnet Synchronous A/C Motor
Function     Electric Motor function – Drive to front wheels, Generator (Regenerative Brake Control); Generator function – Generator, Engine Starter, Electronic Continuously Variable Transmission (ECVT) control
Maximum Voltage     AC 650 volts Generator DC 650 volts Electric Motor
Condition     Combined
Consumption     6.0 L/100km
Test     ADR 81/02
Condition     Combined
Emission     142 g/km
Test     ADR 81/02
Maximum Power     105 kW
Maximum Torque     270 Nm

Dimensions
Front Track 1575 mm
Rear Track 1565 mm
Gross Vehicle Weight 2110 kg
Kerb Weight 1610 – 1645 kg
Minimum Ground Clearance 150 mm
Overall Height 1480 mm
Overall Length 4815 mm
Overall Width 1820 mm
Wheelbase 2775 mm

Suspension
Front      MacPherson struts and stabiliser bar
Rear     MacPherson struts, rear links and stabiliser bar

Wheels
Description     215/60 R16 steel belted radial ply tyres
Tyre Size     16″ Alloy Wheels
Wheel Size     6.5J x 16″ Alloy Wheels
Wheel Type     Alloy Wheels

To find out more info on the Toyota Camry Hybrid, click here to visit the Toyota NZ website.

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