With the 2015 Toyota Camry Hybrid on the schedule, I set myself for a week of adrenaline-free driving, scooting around the highways and byways of the San Francisco Bay Area at a comfortable pace. After a few long freeway trips I noticed the fuel gauge was still pegged at full. Was it broken? Would I be stuck on the side of the road with an empty tank?
Far from it. First of all, the average fuel economy on the trip computer read over 40 mpg. Compounding that excellent fuel economy and explaining the glacial movement of the fuel needle, a look at the specs showed that Toyota fits the Camry Hybrid with a big 17 gallon fuel tank.
At the Camry Hybrid's EPA average of 40 mpg, that means 680 miles of range. Just think how infrequently you'll be stopping at gas stations.
The Camry is Toyota's midsize sedan, a big seller in the US. For the 2015 model year, Toyota gave the Camry a seemingly big update, with completely new styling. However, the company carried over the engine options from the previous generation, keeping the base 2.5-liter four-cylinder, the 3.5-liter V-6, and the hybrid gasoline-electric drive system.
A base 2015 Toyota Camry Hybrid, in LE trim, will set you back $26,790. The model I tested was the $27,995 SE trim, with tech options and destination fee boosting the price to $31,110. Meanwhile, Australian buyers will pay AU$35,490 for a car that can cover the vast distances of that continent with few fill-ups. Toyota doesn't offer any sort of Camry in the UK, and the closest equivalent to the Camry Hybrid would be the Prius, with a base price of £21,995.
The sticker for the car I tested showed the Entune Premium Audio with Navigation package, added for $1,300, but when I tried duplicating this car build on Toyota's Web site, it forced the Entune package on me. A Toyota spokesperson insisted Entune is optional on the SE trim Camry Hybrid, but standard on the LE and XLE trims. Your dealer may tell a different story.
Successful app integration
That said, I was completely pleased with the Entune upgrade. The 7-inch touchscreen in the dashboard showed navigation, hands-free phone, audio and apps, and responded quickly to all my inputs. The system showed a homescreen, and let me choose its configuration. Maps in the navigation system looked good, offering perspective and plan views. Although not as detailed as maps I've seen from Audi and BMW vehicles, the ones in the Camry Hybrid gave me reliable route guidance, complete with automatic rerouting around traffic problems.
The points-of-interest database in the navigation system lacked a free-form search, but Toyota's Entune app system made up for it. To run this system, I had to install the Entune app on my phone. Toyota offers it for iOS and Android. Then, with my phone paired with the car, I could access Bing search, Yelp, MovieTickets.com, OpenTable and iHeartRadio on the Camry Hybrid's touchscreen. The system used my phone's data connection to power these apps, and integrated them with the car's navigation system. Using Yelp, for example, I could do a free-form search and get a list of local businesses, then easily select one and set it as my destination.
Entune works very well, one of the better app integration schemes available, and while I like the current roster of apps in the system, I would like to see Toyota expand its offerings.
For audio apps, Entune include Slacker, Pandora and iHeartRadio, though I found that Pandora got a little sticky after I activated it. No matter what I tried, I couldn't change the audio source back from Pandora to any other source on my phone. That might be partly an iOS issue, as I've noticed this problem in other cars.
Other audio sources in the Camry Hybrid's stereo include HD Radio, satellite radio, Bluetooth streaming audio and a USB port for drives or a wired iOS device connection. Where the stereo showed a full music library on the touchscreen for devices plugged into the USB port, the Bluetooth audio interface offered only limited control over music playback, with no ability to select music.
The Premium Audio phrase in the Entune package's name is a bit misleading, as the 6-speaker audio system that comes with this package in the Camry Hybrid SE falls a bit short of the 10-speaker JBL GreenEdge system available in the Camry Hybrid XLE model. You will definitely want to go for the higher-trim car if you want better audio.
The sweet spot
I was able to enjoy that JBL audio system when I reviewed thepreviously. But while I lauded that car's cabin tech, I wrote that the Camry Hybrid would likely be the better car. After spending a week with the hybrid model, my opinion is roundly confirmed.