Is anything normal anymore? It seems as if American culture and values have come unhinged, as if there is nothing unifying us anymore except the desire to see the Barbie movie, or perhaps Oppenheimer. And yet, the middle holds.
There is still much that unites us, such as our love of boring things, like American cheese, baseball or HGTV. And it explains how the Toyota Camry has remained the bestselling sedan in America for 24 of the last 25 years.
Redesigned for 2018, with a light makeover in 2021, the Toyota Camry continues to deliver what nearly a quarter million Americans want in a new midsize sedan. And Toyota hasn’t broken what works for 2023. This explains why it basically remains unchanged. Why mess with success?
The Toyota Camry SE gets a revised Nightshade package that includes matte bronze 19-inch wheels, black front grille, rear spoiler, mirror caps, and emblems in addition to black headlamp and taillight trim this year, with no changes coming for 2024, as a new model is slated to arrive for the 2025 model year.
Like the conventionally powered sedan, the gas-electric Hybrid in offered in entry-level LE and sporty SE variants, stepping up posher XLE (added comfort) and XSE (enhanced sportiness) trims. However, the conventional Camry is also available with a 301-horsepower V-6 as well as even sportier TRD trim. We spent a week with a Camry SE Hybrid dressed in the Nightshade package, and we actually didn’t need caffeine to keep us awake while driving.
When the 2023 Toyota Camry SE Hybrid arrived, I was far from shocked by its cobalt blue color. The past six weeks have seen test cars all painted that same hue, one that psychologically represents reliability and well-being. And really, wouldn’t you describe a Camry’s personality as being true blue?
Personally, given the spectrum of color at our disposal, the fact that the only color seen on cars, aside from the typical black, gray, beige or white, is blue speaks of our visual illiteracy. It’s sad really. It’s why everyone believes that all kitchens must have islands with granite countertops and shaker style cabinets. My. How imaginative.
But this blue Camry’s color works surprisingly well, endowing it with a handsome demeanor offset by the striking matte bronze wheels. It’s eye-catching, making the car easy to spot in a sea of black, gray, beige and white.
There was a time when Toyota Camry interiors felt above their station, as if you’re getting more than you paid for. But that was 20 years ago, and it’s no longer the case. Nevertheless, it retains its most striking feature, an artfully sculpted instrument panel that lends the interior a sense of motion. It’s padded and offset by stitching that effectively adds a spike of visual interest.
Being an SE, you’ll find the cabin retains a fair amount of hard plastic, which is especially noticeable on the side of the center console where the driver’s leg rests.
Toyota is no longer the insightful automaker that once populated its cabin with surprise and delight features. But what’s here is well assembled and its quality is still better than most competitors, particularly the Chevrolet Malibu, with an interior only a GM accountant could love.
The seating position is low, although the firm seats provide good support and comfort. The driver is treated to perfectly placed dead pedal, as well as excellent outward visibility. The cabin is roomy, as is the trunk at 15.1 cubic feet.
Toyota offers the Camry with conventional as well as hybrid drivelines. Choose the latter and you’ll get 208 horsepower along with a continuously variable transmission and front-wheel drive. The LE Hybrid returns an astonishing 52 mpg in combined driving according to the EPA. The SE, XSE and XLE Hybrids are a bit thirstier.
Still, at 46 mpg combined, it remains remarkable for a midsize sedan. The variance in fuel economy is most likely due to the different models’ footwear, with the LE getting low rolling resistance tires, and the others wear grippier rubber.
All 2023 Camry Hybrids use lithium-ion batteries for their electric motors.
Of course, you might prefer something more conventional. For you, the Camry comes with a 203-horsepower 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine and an 8-speed automatic transmission or an optional 301-horsepower V-6, but you’ll have to spring for the spendier Camry XLE or XSE. But these conventional drivelines are your only choice if you want all-wheel drive. Otherwise, you’ll have to settle for front-wheel drive.
Safety and Technology
Say what you will about the Camry’s driving fun, it’s one very safe sedan. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gives it five star in all crash safety categories, while the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety rates the Toyota Camry a Top Safety Pick +, it’s top designation.
Surprisingly, a blind-spot monitor and rear cross-traffic alert, are a $600 option on our test vehicle, although a number of other driver assistance systems come standard.
Considering how old the current model is, the tech bundle is largely satisfactory. Along with a Wi-Fi hotspot, standard features include wired Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Although it feels modest in comparison to newer competitors, the base LE come with a 7-inch infotainment touchscreen while a 9-inch screen on other models. It’s surrounded by buttons that provide quick access to various features, like the phone. Unless you opt for the Qi wireless phone charging pad, you’ll have to use the car’s USB ports.
The car’s true-blue color represents this car’s demeanor. It’s a solid, predictable sedan, with fairly light, but accurate, steering and responsive braking that make for a dash of sportiness in a vehicle that’s always been fairly indifferent to the meaning of fun. Power delivery is typical of Toyota Hybrid drivelines, with an inherent alertness that adds a vibrant alertness that makes up for pure speed. Being a Camry, sportiness is a relative term, especially with a mere 208 horsepower.
But the hybrid model is preferable to the conventional four-cylinder engine as it seems more vigorous despite possessing similar power. And the hybrid’s combined fuel economy of 46 mpg is preferable to the conventional Camry’s 32 mpg. But given the difference in base price between the SE Nightshade and the SE Hybrid Nightshade — $2,330 — the SE Hybrid buyer will have to wait four-and-one-quarter years before the higher base price is offset by the SE’s higher fuel costs. Only then does the hybrid become the more economical choice.
But the hybrid driveline has one ace up its sleeve: it’s quieter, smoother and more refined than the conventional four-cylinder powertrain could ever be.
2023 Toyota Camry SE Hybrid Nightshade Specifications
|Dimensions: L: 192.7 inches/W: 72.4 inches/H: 56.9 inches/Wheelbase: 111.2 inches
|2.5-liter 4-cylinder gas-electric hybrid, CVT and front-wheel drive
|44 mpg city/47 mpg highway/46 mpg combined
|208 horsepower and 163 pound-feet of torque
|Base price: $30,615; As tested: $32,909, including $1,095 destination charge
To designate the 2023 Toyota Camry SE Hybrid Nightshade a transportation appliance is to do it a disservice. After all, you can’t drive your dishwasher. No one knows how many gallons of water it uses, and most people don’t care how it’s styled, or whether it has Bluetooth. Certainly no one has given an affectionate nickname.
But people do love their Camrys, like the wealthy come to admire their loyal servants. So maybe it’s wise to consider the 2023 Toyota Camry SE Hybrid Nightshade the ultimate cul-de-sac butler, reliable, thrifty and capable of being fun on occasion. Then it can put away, seen but not heard.
2023 Toyota Camry SE Hybrid — Frequently Asked Questions
What is the gas mileage for a 2023 Toyota Camry SE Hybrid?
It’s 44 mpg in city driving, 47 mpg highway and 46 mpg combined, according to the EPA. The entry-level LE gets better mileage: 51 mpg city, 53 mpg highway and 52 mpg combined.
What is the driving range of a 2023 Toyota Camry Hybrid?
It depends on which model you choose. The LE has a range of 686 miles; the SE, XSE and XLE return 607 miles due to their grippier tires.
How long does a Camry Hybrid battery last?
About 5-8 years depending on climate, temperature and amount of use, according to J.D. Power.