Tom Crosby: 2016 Toyota Camry Hybrid still No. 1

Tom Crosby

Tom Crosby

The Toyota Camry has dominated the mid-size sedan market for nearly two decades and had its 8th generation upgrade last year. That means this year’s 2016 Camry is relatively unchanged, except for some new multi-media features and a Special Edition option.

We test-drove the hybrid LE, the hybrid entry-level trim beneath the SE and XLE. Using the tested powertrain mixture of a 2.5-liter gasoline engine and nickel metal hydride batteries, the hybrid remains surprisingly quick and a gas sipper at a parsimonious price. We averaged 38.5 miles highway – compared to EPA’s 39 mpg estimate – driving more than 1,200 miles of Interstate inside a quiet cabin with comfortable seats and Toyota’s basic Entune audio – trademarks of the nation’s best-selling passenger car.

The Camry’s resale value remains top tier, with reliability that compels owners to boast of 200,000 odometer miles or more with regular maintenance. The steering is nicely centered and precise on 16-inch alloy wheels in both driving mode- Eco, which manages fuel input based on rpms, and EV — using electric power only at lower speeds. The continuously variable transmission was flawless in responding quickly to a need for speed or for lower gearing. Engine cut-off at stops did sometimes generate a slight twitch when re-engaging the engine. The suspension system with independent MacPherson strut in front and independent dual link in rear, both with stabilizer bars, absorbs road imperfections for a comfortable and refined ride.

Outside, the Camry’s profile is sculpted, with minimal but stylish chrome – windows, grille and badging only – side molding and an aggressive, front muscular look with a large lower air dam between fog lamps.

Inside, seating is ample everywhere, upscale-looking materials with white stitching along the dashboard and brushed satin trim throughout the cabin. Visibility is excellent and knick-knack spaces are numerous, including a small coin tray embedded below the dashboard. Gauges and controls are easily reachable and the radio always searches out the strongest local non-satellite station.

New this year is an upgrade to Toyota’s touted navigation/Entune option for a broader range of useful and timely information.

The trunk contains a spare tire with adequate storage space. Rear seats don’t fold flat; there is a small pass-through. The Camry receives top or near top scores in crash safety tests.

The success of Camry’s hybrid has sparked hybrid competition in Ford Fusion, Hyundai Sonata and Honda Accord models.

LIKES: Mpg, looks, power, handling, rid.

DISLIKES: Jerky re-starts.

BOTTOM LINE: Camry still top dog in hybrid mid-size sedan wars.

FACT FILE
2016 TOYOTA CAMRY HYBRID LE

Base price w/destination charge: $27,625 ($28,497 as tested.)
Curb weight: 3,485 pounds.
Wheelbase: 109.3 inches.
Length: 190.9 inches.
Width: 71.7 inches.
Engine specs: 2.5-liter, 4-cylinder, DOHC.
AC magnet synchronous motor.
Horsepower: 200 hp combined gas/electric.
Torque: 156 lb.-ft. @ 4,500 rpm (gas).
199 lb.-ft. @ 0-1,500 rpm (electric).
Transmission: 2-speed continuous variable transmission
EPA rating: 43 mpg city and 39 mpg highway
Range: 17-gallon tank, unleaded fuel
Performance: 0-60 in 7.6 seconds

Tom Crosby is a former journalist and communications director for AAA Carolinas. He has been reviewing cars since 1996, and has been active in traffic safety issues for more than 30 years.

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