Year in year out, even during the SUV sales boor, the Toyota Camry has been the best-selling passenger car in the United States thanks to the undiminished reliability and durability that has made it a favorite for consumers, who prize the Japanese automakers consistency and efficiency.
Toyota added a hybrid powertrain to the Camry line, giving us the Camry XSE Hybrid and boosting the vehicle’s overall fuel economy with the company’s Synergy system, which Toyota’s engineers have steadily improved steadily during the past quarter century.
Toyota’s Synergy Drive may not be the most elegant power train in the world, but it is one of the most dependable and it is put to good use in the Camry, and it is nicely integrated into the Camry package, which also includes a generous helping of technology and safety equipment as well as an impressive entertainment system as well as comfort and convenience features such as a cold-weather package that includes a heated steering wheel, which is most welcome on cold spring morning in Michigan.
Four-door sedans are a familiar commodity in many respects, but Toyota has dressed up the 2021 Toyota Camry XSE Hybrid to make it look like a sport sedan complete with a nose-down-side profile. The model I drove also had a two-tone appearance package, complete with a rear-spoiler, and a black-metallic roof that set off the sleek sheet metal, which was painted red on the model I drove.
The XSE package also was embellished with a set of 19-inch designer wheels that added to the car’s overall appearance. The nose of the car carried an unmistakable Toyota grille with the Japanese automaker’s easy to recognize emblem as well as LED headlamps. Toyota doesn’t force people to guess at what is under the hood as the word Hybrid is in bold lettering right on the side of the vehicle.
The interior of 2021 Toyota Camry XSE Hybrid is nicely furnished with special touches such as leather head rest and leather trimming on the seat. Soft material is used on the long dashboard, which is set off with metal accents and wood-grain trim. Like the dashboard, the inner side of the door and finished with stitching that helps enhance the appearance of the interior.
The entertainment and navigation screen in the center stack is easy to read and the knobs and buttons that control it are within easy reach. The leather-wrapped steering wheel also includes controls for the entertainment system.
The cruise control and the information visible in the instrument cluster behind the smaller screen behind the steering wheel. Overall visibility from the driver’s seat, which is still comfortable even after more than three hours of driving, is good. The cabin is relatively quiet, which is welcome on a longer drive and helps boost the quality of notes and voices from the impressive JBL sound system.
The 2021 Toyota Camry XSE Hybrid comes with a 2.5-liter, 4-cylinder engine and a battery-powered electric motor while the Toyota’s Synergy Hybrid Drive system blends the power from the gasoline engine and electric motor for the vehicle’s operation.
The powertrain also includes an electronic continuously variable transmission changes gears and four different operating modes, including EV, normal, ECO and Sport. The Camry Hybrid also has a combined rating from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency of 46 miles per gallon. It gets 44 mpg on the city driving course and 47 mpg on the highway.
Safety and Technology
Toyota loaded the 2021 Camry XSE Hybrid with both safety and convenience technology. It comes with multiple airbags to protect passengers from frontal- and side-impact collisions.
The Camry Hybrid also is equipped with dynamic radar cruise control, backup camera with birds-eye view, head-up display, satellite radio, Android Auto or Apple CarPlay, Wi-fi hot spot, Bluetooth, navigation, a JBL sound system and driver assistance features such as blind-spot detection, automatic hi-beams and lane keeping alerts and assistance and intelligent sensors to help with parking.
The overall on-road performance of Toyota Camry XSE Hybrid is bolstered by the sport suspension, which gives the car a solid feeling around curves and on the back roads across southern Michigan. The model I drove did not come equipped with all-wheel drive. But the solid suspension keeps the front-wheel-drive car on the straight and narrow.
The vehicle’s well balanced driving dynamics were supported by the solid steering and excellent brakes. The regenerative braking feature always seem to furnish additional stopping power when needed.
Hybrids tend to feel underpowered, but the 208 hp supplied by the Synergy drive seemed well matched to the Camry’s surprisingly light curb weight 3,580, making the car a solid performer in a variety of situations during the week I drove it.
If you are looking for a car with extended range from a single tank of gas, the Toyota Camry XSE Hybrid is certainly a vehicle worth considering. It can stretch out the fuel load and looks handsome in a four-door-sedan sort of way sitting in the driveway or at the curb. It also surprisingly nimble. It has plenty of features and can carry up to five passengers.
The price tag at $38,515, including the $995 destination charge is actually below the average price people are paying for new vehicles in the United States this spring. The 2021 Toyota Camry XSE Hybrid also has distinct honor of proving that the passenger car is still alive and kicking even as utility vehicles continue to grab on to a larger share of the overall market.