2018 Toyota Camry Hybrid gas-mileage review: going the distance

Toyota can’t be blamed for a lack of effort: The 2018 Toyota Camry Hybrid is dripping with it.

From the creased hood and cascading brow to the Modernist center console enclosed by flickers of chrome, the mid-size stalwart is anything but lazy.

Our first, limited exposure to the hybrid sedan left us impressed, but with unanswered questions.

Namely, how the nickel-metal hydride battery setup in the XLE Hybrid would fare in providing real-world fuel economy.

Also, what kind of Camry Hybrid can customers expect to find on dealers’ lots? After all, the early pre-production prototypes we drove were rough around the edges in a few places.

The results are mixed, we found.

2018 Toyota Camry Hybrid

2018 Toyota Camry Hybrid

2018 Toyota Camry Hybrid

2018 Toyota Camry Hybrid

2018 Toyota Camry Hybrid

2018 Toyota Camry Hybrid

Thirst things first

Before we set out on our drive, we topped off the tank and reset the trip meter. Our heads told us that the world is a better place when computers give us overall mileage; our guts told us to trust, but verify.

The EPA said we wouldn’t use much gasoline anyway. The 2018 Toyota Camry XLE Hybrid we tested is rated by the feds at 44 mpg city, 47 highway, 46 combined.

Winding Colorado roads, stop-and-go Denver traffic, and exurban stretches at the base of the Rocky Mountain foothills gave us a reasonable overall sample—but draining the tank would have required a jog to Utah and back.

The Toyota Camry should be familiar to anyone not living on the moon for the last four decades or so.

The 2018 Camry takes the same mid-size formula for Toyota’s best-selling car—comfortable seating for four adults, quiet interior, demure performance—and adds electrons.

2018 Toyota Camry

2018 Toyota Camry

There’s nothing thrilling about the Camry, and that’s OK. Sometimes a car is just a car.

The evolution here is that the Camry makes a strenuous effort to be stylish, a departure from previous generations.

There is honest-to-goodness art here, but some of the Camry’s outward styling elements exist only to serve themselves. For example, there’s no reason for the lower nose to look that complicated. Full stop.

DON'T MISS: 2018 Honda Accord Hybrid first drive review: lighter shade of green

Other elements like the subtle curve over the rear roof pillar look just fine.

The hybrid version doesn’t get its own dedicated look, just a couple of badges around the car. If you’re looking to wear your green on your shirtsleeve, the Camry Hybrid ain’t it.

The Camry Hybrid is powered by an Atkinson-cycle 2.5-liter inline-4 paired to an 88-kw electric motor and 1.6-kwh battery pack. The total system output is 206 horsepower—153 kw in new money, if you prefer.

2018 Toyota Camry Hybrid

2018 Toyota Camry Hybrid

That power is shuffled through an electronically controlled two-motor hybrid system that substitutes for the transmission.

It's programmed to hold the Camry Hybrid in the sweet spot for efficiency that inadvertently trains drivers to use the right pedal judiciously. Hammer on the throttle and the Camry Hybrid gets noisier—though not initially faster.

Thanks to the batteries, the Camry never feels short on power, but it often feels like it’s catching up to the driver.

Tapping the Camry into Sport mode increases throttle response but doesn’t subvert physics: all of the safety, fuel saving, and comfort tech makes this Camry weigh 3,571 pounds in this configuration.

Despite our efforts into goading the Camry into something it isn’t (a racecar), its hybrid system excelled at what it is (fuel-efficient). Our calculators confirmed what the onboard mpg computer showed: just over 50 mpg combined on a 150-mile journey in a mix of highway, urban, and suburban driving.

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