The swift rise of electric vehicles also seems to have focused more attention on hybrid vehicles. Automakers such as Ford and Hyundai have expanded their hybrid line-ups and put additional promotional muscle behind hybrids as part of their overall electrification strategies.
While critics, including senior executives from rival carmakers complain a hybrid’s engineering is too complicated and too expensive for the benefit derived, it remains a champion of hybrid vehicles. Since their first appearance in the late 1990s. Toyota has put millions of them on the road while, in keeping with the company’s philosophy of continuous improvement it steadily upgraded it performance.
In addition, Toyota also has shifted in directions and now make hybrids powertrains available in broad cross section of its vehicles, not just the Toyota Prius, the original hybrid vehicle, which has become the backbone of taxi fleets in many cities around the world.
Like the RAV4 utility vehicle, the Toyota Camry, long one of the most popular passenger cars sold in the U.S., has clearly benefited from the addition of the hybrid synergy drive. The fuel economy is substantially better, and the Camry’s performance gets a boost from the hybrid powertrain. The 2022 Toyota Camry Hybrid XSE couples both the traditional dependability and appeal of Camry with an economical powertrain that has proven its worth over the years.
Toyota stuck to its guns with the exterior design the 2022 Camry Hybrid XSE, but the interesting thing is as buyers migrate to utility vehicles with their basic two-box silhouette, the Camry’s low-slung shape has become more distinctive.
The 2022 is unmistakably a four-door sedan with a low roofline and rear spoiler. You can also easily lean on the roof and hold a conversation with someone on the other side if so inclined. The front fascia on Camry hybrid with the black mesh grille has the aggressive look Toyota stylists have pioneered for years and rear quarter panels have been made to look brawny like the shoulders of an NFL lineman. The rear is rounded off.
The individual elements of the exterior design quite well done. I especially like the look of the bold, blacked-out, 19-inch wheels at the corners and LED headlights in the front of the Camry hybrid. But the overall effect, despite the strength of the elements, is a bit too much like a car designed by committee that had a hard time reaching consensus.
The furnishings of the cabin tucked inside the 2022 Toyota Camry Hybrid XSE have an eclectic feel to them. It’s not dated as much as it’s mismatched. For example, the screens in the instrument cluster behind the steering wheel present information in clean, straightforward manner. But the presentation on the entertainment and navigation screen seemed rather cramped and a bit cluttered. The stitching on the seats and padding on the instrument panel was nicely done but didn’t seem to line up with the other material used to furnish the cabin. The driver assistance technology was well integrated, and the phone connection was easy to find and use. The view from the driver’s seat also was excellent.
The 2022 Toyota Camry Hybrid XSE is powered by a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder putting out 176 horsepower. It’s mated to an electronic continuously variable transmission and the hybrid synergy drive system, which comes with a lithium-ion battery, which can be recharged as the vehicle is driven. The combined system nets 208 horsepower. The car is also equipped with a drive mode selection and paddle shifters. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has given the Camry hybrid a combined fuel economy rating of 46 mpg, including 44 mpg in city driving and 47 mpg on the highway, for the XSE models. The LE jumps to 51 city, 53 highway and 52 combined.
Safety and Technology
The 2022 Toyota Camry hybrid is equipped with multiple airbags, the Toyota Safety Sense 2.5 pre-collision system with pedestrian detection. It also has full-speed dynamic radar cruise control, lane departure alert with steering assistance, blind-spot detection and rear cross-traffic alert.
It also comes with automatic high beams, and road sign alert and a back-up camera. The car also has a 9-inch touch screen, Bluetooth, Sirius XM radio antenna, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, USB ports and dual-zone climate control. The optional equipment on the car I drove included a heated steering wheel, head-up display, and birds-eye view camera with intelligent clearance sonar.
Hybrids in the past seemed clunky because they represented a compromise between electric and conventional powertrains that did not seem to want to go together. But they have steadily improved and the on-the-road performance of the Toyota Camry Hybrids was rather impressive. Power came on instantly and you could actually feel the boost from the hybrid drive kick in when more power.
The overall driving dynamics of the car were improved by the sport-tuned suspension, which aided the overall ride quality on varied road surfaces. The steering also was quite accurate, and the braking power is amplified by the regenerative braking system which recharges the lithium-ion battery and allows the vehicle to drive exclusively on battery power at low speeds. It was a surprisingly fun car to drive, I found.
Close to the 30% of the cars Toyota sells are now hybrids, and they’ve certainly gotten some newfound respect after the spike in gasoline prices in early summer. Gas prices may be falling, but if you like a passenger car and can afford the $38,000 price tag, the Toyota Camry hybrid offers dependable transportation at relatively affordable price.
It also comes with plenty of safety and connectivity features, which are of growing importance to drivers and passengers. All in all, the 2022 Camry hybrid is not the car you fall in love with instantly but it is a sensible choice and one that will grow on you.