It wouldn’t take a mandate — or subsidies — to get people to buy an electric car that could go almost 700 miles, that could get going again in just a few minutes, that could carry a family comfortably and only cost a little bit more than $28,000.
There is such a car.
It is called the Camry hybrid.
Yes, it’s not entirely electric. But electric cars aren’t entirely “zero emissions” either — tailpipe emissions-free not being the same as zero emissions.
And besides, what good is a “zero emissions” car — assuming it is one — that only a relative handful of people can afford to buy and that just isn’t practical for many?
What It Is
The Camry hybrid is a part-time electric car that’s basically the same car as the Camry, Toyota’s popular midsize family sedan.
It’s almost the same price, too.
The regular Camry stickers for $26,220 to start; the same thing with a part-time electric drivetrain stickers for $28,355. A top-of-the line Camry hybrid XSE stickers for $33,795 vs. $31,520 for the nonhybrid Camry XSE.
What’s not the same, or rather, one thing that’s very different, is that the hybrid Camry can go almost 700 miles on about 13 gallons of gas.
Because it averages 50-plus mpg.
What’s New for 2023
An updated Nightshade package is available. It bundles 19-inch matte bronze finished wheels with special paint/trim.
A much more practical — much more affordable — alternative to a full-time electric car.
One of the best all-around family cars ever made.
What’s Not So Good
The focus on EVs has taken the focus off hybrids.
Under The Hood
The hybrid Camry has a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, like the nonhybrid. Neither is turbocharged and both tout about the same power — 208 horses for the hybrid vs. 203 for the nonhybrid.
The difference is the hybrid’s engine is augmented by an 88-kilowatt electric motor and lithium-ion battery, very similar to what you’d find in an electric car — just not entirely responsible for moving the car.
This is how a hybrid eliminates the range-recharge issues that beset electric cars.
The system cycles the engine off when it’s not needed to move the car, as when coasting/decelerating or just sitting. It comes back on when again needed — to move the car — and to keep the battery charged up.
That’s why the hybrid Camry’s battery never runs out of charge.
It’s also why it’s so fuel-efficient: 51 mpg in the city and 53 on the highway. That’s about 20 mpg better, on average than the nonhybrid Camry.
On The Road
For half the price of a midsize electric luxury car, you can drive a car that not only goes almost 700 miles before it needs a little gas but also has cushy leather seats with heaters, a superb JBL audio system, headlights that turn with you in the curves, a big LCD screen — if you’re into such things — as well as a bird’s-eye view camera system to help with parking and a Heads-Up Display, just like the six-figure boys.
It is not, of course, as quick as electric cars, but that’s just the point. Or rather, it ought to be. If the point of all of this is to build a car that uses less energy in order to produce fewer unwanted byproducts and so on, then quickness ought to take a back seat to those values.
But is it quick enough?
That depends on how you define “quick.” The hybrid Camry can get to 60 in about 7.4 seconds. That’s about half as quick as electric cars like the Tesla 3 (which is also a smaller car), but it’s about as quick as the typical midsize/midprice crossover, which is what most people who aren’t driving luxury-performance cars are driving.
It has enough power. And it has more usable power than entirely electric cars. Like them, it has the immediate propulsive thrust that electric motors deliver. Not quite as much, but a piece. The difference is you can use all it’s got as often as you like, and there’s no cost — other than maybe having to stop for a little more gas, a little bit sooner.
The hybrid attributes aside, this is also still a Camry, which means it is one of the most easygoing and pleasant new cars available, like a favorite pair of casual shoes.
Try one on and see for yourself.
At The Curb
There aren’t many cars left on the market and fewer that are still selling well. The Camry is one.
The why is obvious, leaving aside the upsides of the hybrid layout.
It is, first of all, not a small car. It is a family-size car.
There’s room for 4-5 adults plus enough space for their stuff in the large (15.1 cubic foot) trunk. The rear seats have 38 inches of legroom, which is about 2 inches more than is typical (a Tesla 3 has 35.2 inches of backseat legroom), and that makes it as comfortable in the back as it is upfront.
Another desirable thing about this car — based on the fact that hundreds of thousands of people buy one each year — is that it isn’t polarizing in terms of how it looks. Maybe you don’t love it.
But almost no one hates it.
Kind of like vanilla ice cream. And there’s nothing wrong with that either.
In addition to the hybrid setup, the Camry is just about the only new family-priced midsize car still available with a V6 engine.
If you’re interested in that, you may be interested in this.
The Bottom Line
It’s a shame more love isn’t directed at hybrids, which do everything better than electric cars — except go as quickly.
Eric’s latest book, “Doomed: Good Cars Gone Wrong!” will be available soon. To find out more about Eric and read his past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.
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