For your trouble, Entune gives front-seat passengers access to a handful of useful apps. OpenTable, for example, allows users to search for restaurants and book reservations from within the touch-screen interface. MovieTickets gives you access to currently playing films in near by theaters and--if the theater is in MovieTickets.com's network--allows you to purchase tickets right from your dashboard. Pandora does what it's always done--stream custom-generated Internet radio stations through your car's speakers--and iHeartRadio works similarly, but with local radio stations from around the globe. Finally, Bing search allows users to find points of interest and quickly navigate to them or call via Bluetooth hands-free. Any destination found via Bing search on the handset can be saved as a favorite for later navigation, so you can do your trip planning before you get behind the wheel.
Toyota also lists a handful of SiriusXM data services under the Entune umbrella, which is frankly a bit confusing. However you choose to define it, our Camry Hybrid XLE featured XM weather forecasts, fuel prices, stock quotes, sports scores, and XM NavTraffic. That last bit comes into play when getting from point A to B using Toyota's HDD navigation system. This 7-inch touch-screen unit performed well during our testing, with snappy performance, good-looking and fast-rendering maps, and an intuitive split-screen interface that can dedicate half of the display to an upcoming turn-list, a detailed live map, or historical fuel economy information. I found that last configuration useful for keeping my lead foot in check without missing my next turn.
Both the navigation and hands-free calling systems can be voice controlled with the touch of a button. Thanks to clear onscreen prompts and a robotic voice prompt that guides new users through using the system, I was able to quickly input street addresses, search for nearby POIs, and initiate calls to the friends in my phone book--at least those with easy to pronounce/spell names. Once you get used to using the system, the voice prompts can be disabled to quickly speed through inputs without waiting for the system to speak. However, I was a bit annoyed that although I could speak an address, I was not able to voice input an intersection or city center--many users will not care, but if you've ever tried to meet someone at "that burrito place near 24th and Mission Street" you'll appreciate having all destination options available via voice.
A rear-view camera made use of the large dashboard display for its video feed and an available blind spot monitoring system utilizes LEDs in the side mirrors to notify the driver of potential obstructions when changing lanes.
The last bit of the Toyota's infotainment systems that we'll discuss is the hybrid information system and fuel economy displays. Users can view a historical graph of fuel economy over the last few minutes or for the last few trips. There's also the same graphic representation of the HSD system that live updates the user of whether the vehicle is using gasoline, electric, or both forms of motivation, as well as the battery regeneration status and charge level.
In sum: The best Camry that money can buy?
A "regular" Toyota Camry XLE starts at $24,725. Stepping up to the Camry Hybrid XLE model bumps that MSRP up to $27,400. The extra $2,675 gets you three more highway mpg, but also a whopping 15 more mpg in the city. What's more, the hybrid doesn't make you work to reach those goals like a standard gasoline model would--you just drive and the mpgs sort of magically add up. Both models feature similar creature comforts and are pretty handsomely equipped as cars in their class go and when you consider that the standard four-cylinder Camry XLE isn't really much faster, nimble, or even much cheaper, why wouldn't you go ahead and drop the extra dough on the more efficient, more quiet, and more refined hybrid model? It may just be the best Camry for the buck in Toyota's lineup.
However, if you like checking option boxes, the Camry Hybrid XLE can get a bit pricey. For example, the Blind Spot monitoring system is a $500 option. The Convenience package that includes the back-up camera is another $695. Having leather seats with heated surfaces adds $1,160 to the bottom line and the Premium HDD Navigation with Entune and JBL package is, as I mentioned earlier, a $2,600 option! Our tester was also equipped with a moonroof ($915), Toyota's Safety Connect telematics system ($450), wheel locks ($67), and an emergency assistance kit ($70).
As tested, that comes to a total of $34,617 (including a $760 destination fee). I mentioned the as tested price to my father--a man who has owned every generation of Camry for the last 20 years, and is currently in the market for a 2012 model--his response an incredulous, "$35,000 for a Camry?! You may as well just buy a Lexus!" I'm sure that he's not alone in that sentiment.
Personally, at the end of my week with the 2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid XLE, I was convinced that $35,000 for a car that comfortable, efficient, and well put together was an absolute steal. I found myself defending the hybrid to my enthusiast buddies. The words "eco-performance driving" may have slipped past my lips when describing the thrill of beating the efficiency score of my last trip and finessing a longer chunk of EV driving out of my commute. However, after settling behind the wheel of the next car I was tasked with reviewing and sliding out into traffic, I found myself stuck behind the slowest Prius ever for about 10 blocks.
"Blech, hybrids," I thought to myself. "They're the worst!" I guess old habits die hard.
|Model||2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid|
|Power train||2.5-liter direct-injected four-cylinder with Toyota Hybrid Synergy Drive system|
|EPA fuel economy||40 city, 38 highway mpg|
|Observed fuel economy||34.2 mpg|
|Navigation||7-inch HDD navigation available|
|Bluetooth phone support||Hands-free, audio streaming|
|Disc player||Single-slot CD|
|MP3 player support||Standard analog 3.5mm auxiliary input, USB/iPod connection, Bluetooth audio streaming|
|Other digital audio||SiriusXM satellite radio, HD radio tuner|
|Audio system||Optional 10-speaker JBL GreenEdge system equipped|
|Driver aids||Available rear-view camera, blind-spot monitoring|
|Price as tested||$34,617|