By Peter Perrotta
As a kid growing up in the Bronx in the 60s, I remember listening to Yankees’ broadcasts and hearing Phil Rizzuto refer to his former teammate right fielder Tommy Henrich as “Old Reliable.”
Henrich was known as a notoriously good clutch hitter. He helped the Yanks win an incredible 7 World Series titles.
All championship caliper teams must have their stars and then those other guys, like Henrich, who are in the background, come through in those clutch moments when you really need them.
That analogy also pertains to car companies.
Most manufacturers have their star performers and then their “old reliables.”
For Toyota, one of the world’s largest auto makers, the Camry sedan , a best-selling staple in their lineup of vehicles for 38 years, is truly this Japanese importers “Old Reliable.”
Toyota redesigned the Camry for the 2018 model year. No longer can this model be criticized for looking like a refrigerator on wheels. The 2018 redesign which carries over to the 2020 Camrys, offers up a sleeker, more aggressive looking Camry sedan.
I recently jumped behind the wheel of the 2020 Toyota Camry Hybrid Sedan XLE for one week to not only take a look at one of the world’s best selling sedans but to also check out the new Toyota Hybrid System (THS) 2 that was upgraded for this year.
If you ask me, the new THS 2 is a smashing success.
This new hybrid system was designed to be more efficient and more powerful at the same time.
As far as gas mileage goes, it would be hard to beat the 46 miles per gallon EPA average for this sleek, comfortable and exciting to drive hybrid. The highway gas mileage rating comes in at 47 miles per gallon with a 42 mpg rating for city driving.
Moreover, the EPA estimates this model uses a miserly 2.2 gallons of gas per every 100 miles you drive it and carries an impressive annual fuel cost of $900 – one of the lowest I’ve seen since resuming this column in November.
Another impressive change for 2020 is the driving mode selector choices. Beyond the typical normal, eco and EV modes for driving, Toyota added a “sport” mode option for 2020 designed to give this car more of an edgy and aggressive drive.
It works. I found that when you push the “sport” mode button on the center console, it morphs the usually staid and conservative Camry Hybrid into a bit of a sports sedan with an aggressive edge to it.
It accelerates aggressively and smoothly and with ease and handles cornering curves quite nicely as well.
I recently took the 2020 Camry Hybrid on a road trip (about 320 miles roundtrip) from the flatlands of South Jersey to the hilly, twisty mountain roads of Mahopac, New York.
I found the Camry Hybrid to be way above average in comfort, handling and performance on my trip.
But, beyond that, with the drive selector in the sport mode this car only used a little less than one-quarter tank of gas to get me from Maple Shade, N.J. to Mahopac, N.Y.
We tooled around Mahopac for the weekend – visiting relatives – and headed back to Maple Shade with an amazing half-tank of gas left when we got home. Never once having to stop to refill.
Powering the Camry Hybrid XLE is a 2.5 liter, four cylinder engine, combined with an 88 kilowatt electric motor that makes up the Hybrid Synergy Drive System – putting out a more than adequate 208 horsepower.
The hybrid system is coupled with an electronically controlled continuously variable transmission (ECVT) that makes for a very smooth almost seamless operation.
The base price for the Hybrid XLE sedan is $32,550. With options, my tester vehicle carried an MSRP sticker price of $39,819 – including $995 for destination and delivery.
Added options to my tester included: $2,375 for a driver assist package; $415 for adaptive headlights; $1,810 for the navigation package; $860 for a power/tilt sliding moonroof; $259 for a carpet/trunk mat set and $395 for paint protection film.
The driver assist package includes a 10-inch color heads up display; bird’s eye view camera; intelligent clearance sonar with rear cross traffic braking and multi staged ventilated front seats.
The navigation package also includes a premium audio system with JBL speakers, a subwoofer and an amplifier.
The navigation system along with the phone sync and music integration – from my ipod – was fairly easy to use. The premium JBL sound system was definitely one of the better auto sound systems I have heard.
In its annual review of all makes and models, the editors at Consumer Reports gave the Camry glowing reviews.
“The Camry is one of the better models among mid-sized sedans thanks to its comfortable ride, quite cabin, good fuel economy and easy to use controls,” says CR.
In its overall grading system CR gives the Camry an impressive 84-to-86 overall score with a road test score of 86-to-89.
When it comes to crash test safety, the Camry Hybrid sedan didn’t miss a beat either.
On the government’s 5 star safety ratings the Camry Hybrid scored a top of the mark 5 star rating.
In fact, the Camry Hybrid turned in 5 star marks for the frontal crash test, side crash test and the rollover test, as well.
Overall, I must say, I was quite impressed with the Camry Hybrid SLE and would have to say that anyone is considering a mid-sized sedan hybrid who doesn’t give this vehicle serious consideration would be making a serious mistake.
Peter Perrotta’s On The Road column appears weekly. Questions, comments and suggestions are more than welcome. You can contact Mr. Perrotta at firstname.lastname@example.org