• Hybrid version of Camry enables stress-free, high-mileage driving
  • Topline XLE model has luxury-brand levels of comfort and refinement
  • Toyota Camry Hybrid starts at $29,070

 

“Would I want to drive this car cross-country?”

That’s the question I ask myself in every car I test drive. Most of them get a maybe, at best. But that answer for the new Toyota Camry Hybrid is a resounding yes, especially in its topline XLE form.

Toyota’s hybrid midsize sedan looks good but isn’t flashy, is taut enough but not exactly athletic, and blends into its landscape in a rather nondescript manner. But its comfort, efficiency, smoothness and refinement are hard to beat. As a mile-eating cruiser, it’s a master.

That’s my takeaway after driving a 2018 Toyota Camry Hybrid XLE around the outskirts of Dallas, Texas. I was in the area to tour Toyota’s vast new headquarters in Plano, test some TRD Pro off-road versions of the 4Runner, Tacoma and Tundra, and attend the debuts of the 4Runner Nightshade, Tacoma SX and Tundra SX at the State Fair of Texas.

Relaxed feel with 40-plus mpg

It had been a busy few days, and by the time I got the keys to the Camry Hybrid, I was ready for a more relaxed experience. This Toyota hybrid delivered exactly that as I headed south to visit my parents, who retired in Texas years ago before an exodus of other Californians realized the favorable exchange rate between the two states.

Over the next few days I would use the Camry as the family sedan it is made to be, shuffling us to and fro. While a hybrid version of the Camry is nothing new, this latest generation, which debuted along with the standard variants available with a 4-cylinder or V6 engine, is all-new for 2018.

In XLE form such as this, this new Camry Hybrid sedan is rated at 44 mpg city/47 highway, and a combined economy of 46 mpg, all figures I found close to reality. If you’re seeking even higher efficiency, it can be had in the Camry Hybrid LE, which has less creature comforts but a higher-voltage lithium-ion battery, vs. the nickel-metal hydride variety used in the SE and XLE models. That gives the LE trim fuel-economy figures of 51 mpg city, 53 highway and 52 mpg combined. Additionally, the Camry Hybrid LE starts at $29,070, including destination, for the 2019 models that are now arriving at dealerships. In addition to the battery-fed electric motor, all Camry Hybrids also use a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine.

Also: See the 12 Kelley Blue Book Best Buys of 2018

The topline Camry Hybrid XLE like the one tested here starts at $33,645 and includes amenities like leather interior, dual-zone climate control, Qi-compatible wireless smartphone charging, heated and power operated front seats, and a massive 10-inch head-up display. Additionally, like all new Camrys, it comes with Toyota’s safety and driver-assist suite that includes adaptive cruise control, lane-departure alert with steering assist, and forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking. Extras such as a navigation system, premium JBL audio system, and bird’s-eye backup camera lifted the price of this model to $37,640. And while this 2018 model didn’t have Apple CarPlay, that is finally changing for the 2019 Toyota Camry that is now on sale: The popular smartphone integration comes standard.

Extra oomph in a hybrid sleeper

Regardless of trim, the Camry Hybrid puts out 208 horsepower, which is actually a few more than the standard 4-cylinder. It’s a seamless system, and transitions between the electric motor and gasoline engine are nearly imperceptible. This shouldn’t be a surprise coming from Toyota. They’ve been making the Prius for decades now, and that name is synonymous with “hybrid.”

Unlike the Prius and its, um, futuristic design, you’d be hard-pressed to tell this Camry is a high-mileage hybrid. Just a few small badges are the best giveaway that separate it from the regular sedan. While the Camry Hybrid’s starting price is a few thousand more than a base standard version, it’s a smart choice for those with long commutes and/or savvy buyers wary of a future spike in gasoline prices.

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