The new 2015 Toyota Camry is almost upon us but just before that, UMW Toyota Motor invited us to attend a short media drive of the D-segment saloon, now available in a hybrid variant.
Hold on a minute, isn’t that just the same Toyota Camry with a visual upgrade? You wouldn’t be wrong to assume that but beneath what is familiar, lies something new as you’ll soon find out.
Offered to us were two of the three variants that will be available on launch day: the Camry 2.0G and new Camry 2.5 Hybrid. The 2.0E variant sadly wasn’t among the attendees.
The drive itself was divided into two sections, the first consisted of a new technology and refinement demonstration of the 2.5 Hybrid variant whereas the road driving portion saw us have a go at the 2.0G-spec Camry.
Three variants will be available at launch: the 2.0E, 2.0G and 2.5 Hybrid. Prices will only be announced at launch and this first impressions drive merely focuses on the 2.0G and 2.5 Hybrid only.
Toyota Camry 2.0G
Toyota Camry 2.5 Hybrid
At first glance, the new, dynamic front fascia seems to be near identical on both variants. Look closer and you’ll see the 2.5 Hybrid gets LED headlamps instead of HID projector ones on the 2.0G. The grille pattern also differs from the 2.0G with small notches on the horizontal slates for the Hybrid and side indicators at the sides of the front bumper.
Along the side, different sized (17-inch for the Hybrid and 16-inch for the 2.0G) and designs of the alloy wheels further add to the differentiation. At the rear, all is similar except the dual exhaust tips on the 2.0G compared to the Hybrid’s singular one. Other minor details on the 2.5 Hybrid include the blue halo Toyota logo and ‘Hybrid’ badging while the 2.0G wears the ‘VVT-iW’ badging instead.
Step inside both variants and you’ll notice the almost similar interiors save for the different design ‘wood’ trim. However, the Hybrid variant does come with a few additional features including the Blind Spot Monitor, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, different multimedia and navigation unit, additional on-steering wheel controls, and all-around automatic power windows.
Shared between the variants are an 8-way driver and passenger electric powered seats, dual-zone climate control unit, gated gear shifter, and leather seats. Also, the materials used are better as well, a welcome approach over the previous Camry’s cheap-feeling plastics.
The 2.0G benefits from an optional Android powered 2-DIN multimedia and navigation unit with reverse camera and a larger boot thanks to not having a battery pack as found in the Hybrid.
All variants have anti-lock brakes (ABS) with electronic brake distribution (EBD) and brake assist (BA) but vehicle stability control (VSC), traction control (TRC), and hill-start assist control (HAC) is reserved for the 2.0G and Hybrid variant. Airbag count stands at two for the 2.0E and 2.0G but the Hybrid gets a full seven.
Driving a 2015 Toyota Camry 2.5 Hybrid:
For this part of the drive, most of it was done in a controlled environment within an open air parking lot to demonstrate some of the highlighted technologies found on the hybrid car. Sadly, we didn’t get a chance to take the Toyota Camry 2.5 Hybrid on the open road.
New Hybrid Powertrain
Part one of the drive began with a sprint test (untimed) to demonstrate the new hybrid powertrain that lurks under the hood. The Atkinson cycle 2AR-FXE 2.5-litre petrol engine works together with an electric motor that draws its power from a nickel-metal hydride battery.
If you do want to put it in full EV mode, you can do this with a simple press of a button but keep in mind that you would need a minimum charge capacity of four bars as indicated on the multi-info driving display to do so. An engineer from the Toyota Motor Corporation says the maximum speed in EV mode is 40 km/h and the electrification serves more as a support for the petrol engine and as such, range is highly limited (undisclosed).
Off the line, the Camry Hybrid is pretty brisk and when compared against a competitor in the form of the Honda Accord 2.0 VTi, the results pretty much spoke for themselves although we weren’t behind the wheel of both vehicles at the same time to conduct a test (drag race) of our own.
The claimed fuel consumption figure of 5.2 litres per 100 km was provided to us, which follows the European Driving Combined Cycle. Unfortunately, we weren’t given the chance to drive the car long or far enough to make our own calculations.
Blind Spot Monitor
The next phase of the demonstration saw us being escorted by two motorcyclists on both sides of the car, specifically the blind spot areas of the car to demonstrate the Blind Spot Monitor found only on the Camry Hybrid.
In practice, whenever a motorcycle or something larger comes within three metres behind and metre alongside the vehicle, pictogram indicators would light up to inform the driver that there is something in his blind spot. Should you continue to activate your turn signal before switching lanes (something more people should do), the indicators would then begin flashing to catch your attention. Suffice to say, the system worked flawlessly.
Rear Cross-Traffic Alert (RCTA)
Reversing out of a parking lot can be extremely stressful as you can’t really see what is coming up from either side of your car, which is where the RCTA system comes into play.
Simply put the car in reverse and the rear-view camera is displayed on the seven-inch touchscreen display. Even before you begin moving your vehicle, the system will keep track of any side approaching vehicle behind the car and will beep three times rapidly to inform you once that vehicle gets too close. Keep in mind however that this system only works if you’re reversing at a speed of under 8 km/h.
In several passes, the system was able to detect and alert the driver of a car passing from behind.
Our last test wasn’t as scientific as we would have liked it to be but it demonstrates the overall improvements to the Camry’s cabin NVH levels. Toyota say the new Camry is 7 decibels (previously 81 dB) quieter than before so we fired up our smartphone Sound Meter app and drove the Camry Hybrid over sand, loose gravel, and rumble strips.
On average, we managed to record a reading of 74 dB throughout the ‘experiment’ but it was agreeable by the other motoring media riding in the car that the new Camry Hybrid was comparatively quiet.
Driving a 2015 Toyota Camry 2.0G:
Done with the hybrid, we hopped into the Camry 2.0G for a short 14 km drive where we had to swap vehicles in between, which included the current Camry, the new Camry 2.0G, and other segment-equivalent competitor models: Honda Accord .
The 6AR-FSE 2.0-litre mill now outputs 167PS and 199Nm of torque, 19PS and 9Nm more than the previous Camry. This new engine is capable of running on both the Otto and Atkinson cycles by managing the intake valves, now governed by Toyota’s new VVT-iW variable valve timing technology. The exhaust side is still controlled by VVT-i.
Toyota claims a 12% increase in fuel economy with a combined fuel consumption figure (ECE) of 7.3 litres per 100 km. Paired to the engine is another new introduction, the U761E six-speed torque converter automatic transmission with Super ECT and sequential shifting that replaces the previous four-speed automatic.
Driving dynamics that have been improved include new suspension and steering calibrations, and a new pre-load differential that aims to increase stability, improve turning performance and enhance steering
How do these changes reflect on the road? Put simply, they make the Camry a much improved car compared to its predecessor. On the highways, it cruises along nicely and should you be required to overtake, the new six-speed gearbox now reacts quicker than the previous four-speed while ensuring the engine doesn’t sound overworked.
Although we only had a brief encounter with the new Toyota Camry in the 2.0G and 2.5 Hybrid guise, it certainly left an impression on us. In many aspects, there’s a lot going for the new car. On one hand, the new powertrains are a step up from its predecessor’s, the cabin has seen some much improved refinement in the choice of materials, and a better ride quality add up to make this a better Camry.
Like we said, beneath what is familiar, lies something new and with Toyota’s latest offering, they look set to increase their competitive edge over their rivals.