2015 Toyota Camry SE Hybrid Review
At the new Camry’s launch event in Florida last Fall, we were very surprised to hear the best-seller’s recent powertrain sales mix. With such a gem of a 3.5-liter V6 available and pushing sprint times to the low 6’s, that would be our choice Monday through Sunday.
And such a smooth and effortless hybrid available too, with almost no downsides except a very-slightly smaller trunk?
These two premium powertrains have recently each pulled just 10-percent of overall sales each, with the base four-cylinder hoovering up 80-percent of the overall mix. Surprising to us as auto enthusiasts, yes – that people would choose every option for comfort and style… except the one that makes the Camry a rocketship (V6) or a mileage champ (Hybrid)!
But this is what the market wants. And it is a testament to the smooth and relatively peppy feel of the base engine, of course. Toyota execs said that would gladly build as many V6s as dealers requested, so they are not setting these goals internally.
Another caveat is that 10-percent of Camry sales numbering 400,000 annually is still a big number of cars.
The big V6 will still be rare in the 2015 restyle, but we expect the portion of Hybrid takers to jump dramatically.
Why? It makes an excellent case for itself in all scenarios. Read on to learn how we struggled to find any problem areas in the Camry SE Hybrid over a 1000-mile road trip, but came up with three after much inspection.
Plus see the trims and colors in animated comparisons, compare Hybrid MPG stats as LE vs SE vs XLE, and learn the pricing of the 2015 Camry lineup.
The big news of the style front of the 2015 Camry Hybrid is that the green-tea-sipper is now available with the SE style theme. The SE and LE Camry’s are vastly different from one another this year, so the previous strategy of the Hybrid wearing mild earth-tone colors and tiny wheels would always limit its uptake.
The Hybrid now comes in SE or LE trim grades, with the SE packing a fresh and sexy gloss-black nose where the LE wears a conservative grey grille, intake and bumper design.
This change also affects the handling tune, the cabin materials and colors, and the lip spoiler on the trunk of the SE Hybrid. Yes, we still have Hybrid badges on the trunk and flanks telling the world you care, and a blue-tinted Big T badge up front.
But what of these sexy multi-spoke alloys in a dark-ish titanium color?! Dual chrome-tipped exhausts? Gasp!
Our test SE Hybrid lacks the coolest (XSE and XLE-specific) LED headlights and LED fogs down below, but does have dark-tinted lamp shrouds and amber LED blinkers in the bumper.
Along with the sporty and convincing SE nose look, the SE Hybrid is indeed sporty-looking enough to feel comfortable in the fast lanes on I95. But with the new Hybrid setup and 200-horsepower engine up front, can it keep up with the DINAN M5 and Impreza WRX we paced en route to the sunshine state? See the Performance section below.
The cabin of the 2015 Camry SE Hybrid is perhaps the most univerally-easy and comfortable of any machine. In terms of winning driver and passenger kudos in the first block, the new Camry nails it. Good firm seats, lots of space, airy view outside, near-silent step-off and a much-improved sense of chassis rigidity.
Camry’s have always felt solid, but this new 2015 model has dozens of reinforced welds in the subframe to make it stiffer and more resistant to flex. The extra rigidity actually allows the Camry to ride even smoother than ever, but it is also a bit of a handler this year, too.
We do not have the full-fat XSE style here with its tasteful hypersuede black fabrics and contrast-stitched seats, doors and dash. The SE Hybrid is half-sporty inside, you might say, with tan stretch-fabric on the seat-fronts and a dark material on the seatbacks. It feels pretty cool, but not offensive.
The new Camry is defined by its superior tech: new iMid screen in the gauges is extremely high-res and helpful, new touchscreen audio is standard, with the Nav upgrade highly recommended. Entune Audio Plus adds $615, or Entune Premium Audio with Navigation packs a thumping stereo from JBL along with map functions for $1300 over the base system. Satellite radio is a pricey $449 option, which seems steep.
With the new Entune, you can now have three panes of info vs just two before, showing Nav, music and climate simultaneously, for example.
MINI ISSUE #1
A new charging pad is fantastic with its $20 special phone case, but without that case, we came across a slight problem. The USB charge ports appear to be the 1-amp kind, not the 2.1-amp variety. This means it trickle-charged my iPhone 6 Plus. It would barely charge it at all: adding 1% battery life every 2 minutes or more. Slows-ville. Standard lighter jacks will work better for most people needing juice.
Tap one and it becomes a full-screen display. Press Home icon and all reverts back to your settings. It is foolproof, and responds with near-instant tap controls. No irritating button lag.
Toyota also makes big claims about the voice-recognition being vastly improved. We can vouch for the old system not understanding much at all. This new one is still a bit irksome, but learns your voice. If you help it by saying a few phrases via the Menu screen Help sections, it is actually really good. It gets full addresses in one fell swoop. No more yelling the state, city, house number and street one at a time, mercifully.
You’ll want to use the voice-control because nav address inputs are locked out when the car is moving. (Side note: This could be disabled via sneaky button push sequences in 2014-model-year Toyota… but only for that session of driving. Nanny comes back when car is restarted.)
Yes, even in the dark it was clear: our Camry SE Hybrid was the same shade of Swedish Racing Purple as the previously-mentioned M5 and WRX. It is also, funnily enough, a dead ringer for one of the 2015 Ford Mustang colors….
Toyota calls this SE-exclusive shade Blue Crush, by the way, not my above nickname.