2014 Toyota Camry Hybrid
2014 Toyota Camry Hybrid
2014 Toyota Camry Hybrid
2014 Toyota Camry Hybrid. Click image to enlarge

Review and photos by Brendan McAleer

While it is not the editorial position of this website to encourage the illegal practice of street-racing, I’ll have you know I beat the pants off a brand-new BMW M5 in this thing. Straight heads-up draggin’. Going the distance for a full ten minutes, covering literally dozens of feet.

At least, the guy behind the wheel of the big Bimmer sure seemed to be racing. A real weavin’-Steven: changing lanes every thirty seconds, gripping the wheel so tight his knuckles whitened on the rim, clenching his teeth and waving his arms around like he was conducting an orchestra.

Meanwhile, in the cockpit of the greenish Camry, things were a jot more serene. Soft voices chatted about gentle topics on the CBC. The temperature was set just-so. Gently we wafted, my kid chatting happily away in the back. “We’re totally whipping this guy’s butt,” I told her.

In case you haven’t figured it out yet, both cars were mired up to our wing-mirrors in sluggish Vancouver traffic. Now boasting the dubious distinction of being TomTom’s most congested city in North America, Rain City, B.C. is no place for a 500+hp super sedan on a snarled-up Tuesday morning. The Lion’s Gate Bridge is a lovely piece of architecture to look at, but it might as well be made from tar and flypaper when it comes to handling traffic volume. Inch by inch, we made our way downtown, one of us enraged, the other slightly amused.

Here’s the best argument for the added weight and cost of a hybrid powertrain in a family sedan. If people are going to go to the trouble of buying a twin-turbo V8 you can’t use anywhere outside of a race track, doesn’t it make sense to spend the dough on something you can actually use?

You’d theoretically be saving those dollars back, mile-by-mile if you did this sort of driving regularly, with the hybrid burning a projected 3.5 litres less every 100 km or so (according to the slightly more accurate US figures). Gasoline’s hovered around $1.30 per litre this year, if not higher, so assuming between 15-20,000 km a year of heavy traffic battling, and you’d be saving between $700–900 per year. With an equivalently equipped four-cylinder XLE coming in at $4,845 cheaper, that’s a mere five to seven years of driving in stop-and-go traffic before you’d be in the black.

Hmm. Five to seven years. Sounds like a prison sentence. Also, my observed economy was approximately 15 percent worse than projections over the week.

But if the guy in the Bimmer didn’t buy his car for entirely sensible reasons, perhaps there’s something else going on here. The styling? Well, it’s hardly offensive, apart from those wacky chrome foglight housings. It’s generic, sure – if you could buy a Kirkland-brand car this is what it’d look like – but generic is fine. It’s the khakis of cars, and in a do-everything family sedan, what’s wrong with that?

Inside, the Camry is something of a leather easy chair, upholstered in a colour that I, as a parent, would never choose in a hundred million billion years. Think of the stains! In particular, the UltraSuede seat inserts look like they’d be UltraRuined given any sort of hard use.

However, it’s extremely comfortable in here, and you could always choose the alternative Ash Grey if you’d prefer to be sitting on something that looks like it was made out of Eeyore rather than Christopher Robin. The cabin is bright and pleasant, and the two-tone dashboard has a line of impressed stitching that isn’t real, but works if one doesn’t peer too closely.

2014 Toyota Camry Hybrid2014 Toyota Camry Hybrid2014 Toyota Camry Hybrid
2014 Toyota Camry Hybrid. Click image to enlarge

Out back, my junior co-tester has plenty of space, even seated in a rear-facing seat. Given that the current guidelines are to keep your children in a child-seat or booster until they are well over 45 kg (100 lb), parents take note. Adult passengers have similarly roomy accommodations, particularly with regards to hip room.

The trunk is compromised by the addition of a battery pack, but not to the extent you’d expect. This should be a pleasant surprise to anyone who’s seen the cramped trunk of an old Altima hybrid. The flexibility of a folding seatback is lost, but you do get a tiny pass-through suitable for skis and the like. Total volume is listed at 370 L (over 13 cubic feet), just 15 percent less than the standard Camry.

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