2012 Camry Hybrid | Behind the Wheel

Toyota Camry Hybrid XLE Sedan Review Behind the Wheel ZipRage 16 2012 Camry Hybrid | Behind the Wheel car reviews  Toyota review Camry Hybrid

THE RIDE:

2012 Camry Hybrid XLE Sedan

THE REVIEW:

My week with the 2012 Camry Hybrid was decidedly uneventful and that’s not a bad thing. The Toyota Camry has, since its inception, been the pantheon of practicality. On the road it’s pleasant and relaxed the perfect car for those who care more for the destination than the journey.

Outside, I immediately recognized the Camry’s new look to be a vast improvement over its predecessor. The front end has been smoothed out and the decklid has been squared off, the resulting look is much cleaner. Overall, it’s a much more handsome Camry.

The Camry’s interior was a bit of mixed bag. Several varieties of plastic are splattered about the cabin and the French-stitched dashboard cover looks out-of-place almost as if it’s an attempt to take your mind off the cheaper materials around it. The car fails to provide the warm feeling interior that the mid to late 90s and early 2000 vehicles did so well.

The car I drove was equipped with Toyota’s Entune system, which uses a smartphone’s data connection to run apps like Bing, Pandora and OpenTable. The system works well and the in-car internet is optimized nicely for functionality on the go. Many cars these days are ditching physical buttons altogether for touch screens, thankfully the Camry retains a plethora of buttons around its screen to allow for use by gloved hands or touch and feel navigation.

On the road the Camry doesn’t pipe engine and tire noise into the cabin, though there was some wind noise above 50 mph. Overall, the ride is exactly what one expects from a Camry; pleasant and relaxed. Highway cruising is comfortable and the suspension and steering soften the road nicely for mindless driving. Acceleration in the Camry is readily on tap even in the energy saving Eco mode. When it comes to the twisties the Camry corners about as well as you would expect given its near-3,500-pound curb weight.

The Carmy’s Hybrid Synergy Drive effortlessly transitions between battery and internal combustion with hardly any noticeable difference to the driver. During my week of testing the Camry Hybrid managed a respectable 39 mpg.

The inclusion of batteries in the Camry does have its drawbacks. Although the car has an ample supply of cubbyholes and storage areas throughout, the location of the hybrid’s batteries disallows folding of the rear seats. A huge drawback for hauling home Ikea purchases.

This is where I begin to question what role the Camry Hybrid plays in the Toyota lineup. The similarly priced Prius V offers a very similar driving experience and nearly the same fuel economy as the Camry. It provided plenty of storage room in the backseat and trunk. The only palpable difference between the two is that the Camry is about 2 inches wider. Overall, the Camry Hybrid just seems like an odd man out. The Prius V is, in my opinion, a more practical vehicle.

BRAGGING RIGHTS:

The Camry is exactly what it promises: a comfortable, roomy sedan with stellar fuel economy.

WINDUP:

The Camry’s detractors often will say,  “anything that’s popular must also be pedestrian.” Honestly, it’s true. The 2012 Camry Hybrid won’t get your heart racing, but it will serve up a comfortable, stylish, and fuel efficient ride and given the Camry’s very strong track record you know it will be around for the long haul, there’s not a thing wrong with that.

THE PHOTOS: