Is Toyota a better company than Mercedes
One of the best-selling cars in the world is still an insider tip: The rise of hybrid drives is bringing the Camry back to Europe. The big limousine will no longer be hipsters or athletes, but it will become a loyal friend for frequent drivers and companies - because a more comfortable and, in the long term, more reliable car is hard to find.
19.08.2020Author: Fabian SteinerPhotos: FOTObyHOFER / Christian Hofer
Who are we dealing with here?
A very special car. The Camry is consistently one of the ten best-selling cars in the world, has been built almost 20 million times since the 1980s and, as the most popular car in the USA, is practically the "Gulf of the Americans". The fact that only a few people know about the large limousine is due to the fact that it is a large limousine. In Europe, Mercedes traditionally dominates the luxury class with the E-Class, Audi with the A6 and BMW with the 5 Series. Toyota drew the consequences 15 years ago, took the Camry out of our range - and is now doing the U-turn: A comeback that makes sense because the Avensis has expired, but above all because the hybrid drive is making a grandiose rise.
What does the Camry comeback have to do with Toyota's hybrid drive?
For decades, the luxury class had diesel shares in excess of 90 percent, but for known reasons, compression-ignition engines are no longer so fashionable. At the same time, the EU is putting the thumbscrew on the manufacturers when it comes to CO2 values, while some cities are targeting nitrogen oxides. The full hybrid drive from Toyota provides a convincing answer to these problems: As an electrified gasoline engine with low consumption and low CO2 and NOx emissions, it is practically today's diesel. In the past, often ridiculed, Toyota's hybrid drive is now more of an object of envy in the industry. Toyota has a major development lead thanks to its early start into the future - the first Prius came in the late 1990s.
Why not use the rechargeable plug-in hybrid right away?
Because you just have to charge it. The plug-in hybrid drive, which almost all brands (including Toyota) are now using more and more often, is a really good thing - but it only makes sense if there is a daily charging option at home or in the company. Anyone who wants to be independent of the socket, i.e. simply does not have a freely available power connection for the car, is better off using the full hybrid. Although it has less of a purely electric range, it is a self-contained system that charges itself through braking energy.
The design is good. The Camry is unlikely to be a hipster anymore ...
Yes, the design of the Camry is well-behaved, classic. And the details, for example the lights, are not as fancy as in the European luxury class. US customers are more frugal there. But what is important: the proportions are right; if you approach the Camry from a little distance, you will see a harmonious sedan design.
Basically, in times of the SUV boom, sedans are mainly bought by fleets and companies, so it's not the hip look that counts, but economic reason. Of course, it would make sense if more private buyers would also remember the advantages of sedan design over SUV forms, especially when driving fast on the autobahn (more on this below).
How does it look in the interior?
Here, too, the Camry relies on traditional design that meets the tastes of traditional buyers. This is of course not as cool and ultra-modern as with European upper-class models, but it also has undisputed advantages: The cosiness of the large comfort chairs, for example, on which you can sit perfectly for a whole day if need be. Or the consistently excellent user-friendliness, because the operating concept with easy-to-read displays and many switches is very sophisticated and coherent. Other cockpits are more impressive at first glance, but this one is more convincing in the long term.
And the space available?
We're talking about 4.90 meters in length and over 2.80 meters in wheelbase, so there is plenty of space for passengers, especially in the second row. With 525 liters, the trunk has upper-class dimensions and can also be expanded by folding down the split, folding rear backrests.
How does the Camry drive?
Completely different from the European upper class. While there is always - and for a long time also at Mercedes - emphasis on driving dynamics, the Camry does not give the impression of being in a hurry. Sporty drivers are not the target group here, but frequent drivers of all kinds: Anyone who sits in the car often and for a long time - from business travelers to sales representatives to taxi drivers - begins to appreciate the comfort of the Camry to such an extent that they no longer want to do without it. At least that's how it was for us. Gliding can be a passion.
In addition to the soft coordination of steering and chassis, the hybrid drive in particular ensures this relaxed type. It combines an electric drive supplied with recovered braking energy and a 2.5-liter four-cylinder petrol engine, which has a relatively large flywheel and is based on the efficient Atkinson Principle works. In the low speed range, the combustion engine runs very smoothly and purrs wonderfully quietly to itself. During normal acceleration processes, the electric motor supports so much that the gasoline engine does not have to exert itself much, i.e. it remains relaxed. The experienced hybrid driver tries to use the electric thrust optimally by carefully measured acceleration - the hybrid display also shows visually by means of a green area how well this quiet and pleasantly comfortable "ride on the green wave" is successful. Of course, you sometimes have to or want to give full throttle, and the Camry has largely got rid of the previous weaknesses of the hybrid drive - high-revving engine with rather weak propulsion - through better coordination and more power. The speed is no longer so decoupled from the acceleration and the total output is so high that the propulsion always remains sovereign, even on more brisk stages on the main road or motorway.
How high is the consumption?
Amazingly low. In the test, the Camry has shown that it achieves four values on country road stages and average five values in the city despite its luxury class weight. Only 5.3 liters of long-distance consumption on the Vienna - Salzburg - Vienna route were just as impressive. SUVs can only dream of this motorway efficiency, which is where the significantly cheaper aerodynamics of sedans help.
How is it financially?
The Camry starts for less than 40,000 euros, already richly equipped with, for example, leather seats, aluminum rims and LED lights. The one-time-all variant including GPS costs a good 42,000 euros. Since the cheapest variant of the E-Class and Co. start around 10,000 euros more, including extras are even significantly higher.
In addition, it is so strange that it sounds like a future-oriented hybrid car, the conservative design. Toyota has been building hybrid drives for 20 years and the Camry for almost 40 years. Drive technology and cars are both millions of sellers. This constellation speaks for quality, for which Toyota has become synonymous in many countries. So if you have really good plans with your car - for example driving a lot of kilometers or a lot of years - you will find it difficult to find a more reliable car in this class in the long term.
How is the conclusion?
Not so well known to us, but a quiet hero - also in terms of driving style: the quiet and relaxed Camry is an extremely comfortable car. Not made for hipsters or athletes, but a loyal friend for frequent drivers and companies. The economical hybrid drive is the ideal alternative to diesel. Price and reliability also make the Camry an extremely sensible choice, especially in business.
DATA & FACTS
Toyota Camry 2.5 Hybrid(August 2020)
price39,790 euros (Business version) to 42,390 euros (Top Lounge version).
driveFull hybrid drive with: four-cylinder petrol engine (2487 ccm, 178 hp) and electric motor (120 hp), total system output 218 hp, max.torque 221 Nm from 3600 to 5200 rpm. Front-wheel drive, continuously variable transmission (E-CVT).
DimensionsLength / width / height 4,885 / 1,840 / 1445mm, wheelbase 2825 mm, trunk volume 524 liters.
WeightWeight 1,595-1,660 kg, permissible total weight 2,100 kg.
Driving valuesTop speed 180 km / h, acceleration from 0-100 km / h in 8.3 seconds, standard consumption (l / 100 km) according to WLTP 5.3 to 5.5 liters, CO2 emissions according to WLTP 119 to 125 g / km.
Test consumption5.5 liters.
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