Toyota Camry Excel
The Toyota Camry returns to the UK with a hybrid-only powertrain. Stately and serene, Richard Gooding finds that Toyota’s spacious saloon is a quietly understated and economical machine
What is it?
The Camry is one of Toyota’s longest-running nameplates. Spanning almost four decades, the Camry has appeared in hatchback, notchback and estate guises, but in the UK, the mid-size Japanese model is perhaps best known in its saloon configuration. The eighth-generation car was introduced in 2019, and marks a return to the UK market after an absence of 15 years. Now exclusively powered by a ‘self-charging’ hybrid powertrain, the Camry effectively replaces the discontinued Avensis and sits above the Corolla Saloon, which can also be had as a hybrid. The Camry is the eighth member of Toyota’s European hybrid electric car family, and the Japanese company picked up the Fleet Car Manufacturer of the Year title at the 2019 GreenFleet Awards in recognition of its commitment to, and impressive range of, alternative fuel vehicles.
How does it drive?
From the outside, the new Toyota Camry could very easily be mistaken for a large BMW. A handsome machine, especially in profile, the big Toyota looks classy yet understated. Its multi-channelled front lower grille may not be to all tastes, but it is distinctive and lends the premium-feeling Toyota some boldness to offset the traditional notchback shape.
Inside, the impression of quality continues. Leather facings appear on the dashboard, door panels and seats, and stylised wood-like trim evokes a sophisticated air. A bold sweep of the dashboard creates the centre console which houses the seven-inch Toyota Touch 2 with Go colour touchscreen multimedia and navigation system, and is an interesting style statement. The physical buttons for the system are too thin, though, and the general look is one of a minimal, if very expensive hi-fi from the 1990s. The navigation system itself is not the most intuitive to use either, and others from rival machines use clearer graphical interfaces. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are also missing, MirrorLink and Bluetooth/USB connections fitted as standard instead. However, in terms of overall equipment and comfort, only very few drivers would find fault with Toyota’s large saloon.
The Camry is based on a version of Toyota’s TGNA platform, which also underpins the current Prius as well as most of its current range. The low and wide stance is appealing, and a 2,825mm wheelbase length ensures there is more than ample room in the rear. The back seat area is truly vast, and Toyota has also cleverly struck an ideal balance when it comes to accommodation and luggage space: with 524 litres of capacity with the seats in place, the boot is large, too.
The 2.5-litre petrol-electric powertrain under the Camry’s bonnet has a total system output of 215bhp and is similar to that found in the RAV4 SUV. Mated to an electric CVT gearbox which isn’t as intrusively loud as it can be in other Toyotas, ‘sequential shiftmatic’ technology allows ‘shifts’ using the lever on the centre console. An auto glide control allows the car to decelerate more slowly in normal driving, and also encourages improved fuel economy by reducing the need for re-acceleration. Three driving modes – ‘Eco’, ‘Normal’, and ‘Sport’ – allow the Camry to be tailored to the prevailing conditions, and it’s surprisingly easy to get good economy: we recorded over 60mpg on more than one occasion. A selection of displays on both the infotainment system and ahead of the driver detail the car’s economy and usage cycles, and an all-electric ‘EV’ mode can also be selected.
On the move, the Camry is supremely comfortable and serene, and would be very at home munching the miles on a motorway. The big Toyota’s well-judged damping delivers a very comfortable and relaxed ride, too, and although the Camry isn’t the kind of car you would associate with a sporty drive, body roll is limited and the steering is light for such a large machine.
How economical is it?
Toyota quotes fuel economy of between 50.44-51.36mpg on the new Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicles Test Procedure (WLTP) cycle for the Camry. Over a distance of 435 miles in mixed conditions, we recorded an average figure of 50.8mpg.
What does it cost?
The Toyota Camry is only offered in two trim levels, Design and Excel. The entry-level Design is priced from £29,995 ‘on the road’ (OTR) and features ambient interior lighting, dual zone automatic air conditioning, front and rear parking sensors, keyless entry, leather upholstery, a full complement of LED lights, power adjustable and heated front seats, rear privacy glass, Toyota’s seven-inch Touch 2 with Go colour touchscreen multimedia and navigation system, and 17-inch alloy wheels.
The £31,295 Excel adds an auto-dimming rear view mirror, power reach and rake adjustment for the steering wheel, rain-repellent door mirror glass, and a wireless smartphone charging tray. Wheels also go up an inch in size. Just like the range of models itself, Toyota has also made the options choice simple. There are very few to choose from: pearlescent paint is £795, and a ‘Protection+ Pack’ – a boot liner, door handle protection film, rubber floor mats, and a rear bumper protection plate – is an additional £320.
Safety kit is high on all Camrys. Both trims include Toyota’s ‘Safety Sense’ system which includes adaptive cruise control, automatic high beam, lane departure alert, pre-collision, pedestrian protection, and road sign assist functions. Curtain, knee and side airbags are also fitted as standard, and an intelligent clearance sonar with rear cross traffic braking system features on the Excel, along with a blind spot monitor.
How much does it cost to tax?
Having a hybrid powertrain, the big Toyota is classed as an ‘alternatively fuelled’ vehicle when it comes to taxation, and therefore attracts a £10 discount on Vehicle Excise Duty (VED). In the first year, the 101g/km Excel model tested costs £140 to tax, falling to £135 thereafter. The smaller-wheeled and lower-emitting 98g/km Camry Design is charged £120 in the first year, rising to the same £135 as the Excel thereafter. Benefit in Kind is currently pegged at 23 and 24 per cent for the Design and Excel respectively.
Why does my fleet need one?
Good-looking, elegant and stately, the new Toyota Camry exudes a quality feel and offers a generous range of equipment. Its hybrid powertrain offers refinement to match its overall air of quiet understatement but also enables the car to achieve good economy and low emissions. A very comfortable, quiet and quality car, the Toyota Camry offers the advantages of hybrid drive in a large-sized and good-value package with few direct rivals.