2014 Toyota Camry Driving Impressions

Camry is available with a choice of 178-hp 2.5-liter four-cylinder, 268-hp 3.5-liter V6, or hybrid gas-electric using a 2.5-liter Atkinson Cycle four-cylinder with electric motor assist (200 hp net system total).

We found the standard 178-horsepower inline-4 quick, silent and smooth. On the four-cylinder Camry XLE, we noted good ratios from the 6-speed automatic, smooth upshifts and invisible kickdowns around town. To get 30 mpg with that kind of performance is great. Toyota boasts a range of almost 600 miles when averaging 35 mpg on the highway.

Four-cylinder and V6 models use a 6-speed automatic that on the Camry SE comes with paddle shifters and normal and sport modes. No problems with the way the transmission is programmed; both 5th and 6th gears are overdrives, with 6th being super overdrive at 0.608:1, for highway fuel mileage. There's a big leap between 1st and 2nd gears, which is more seamlessly handled by the 248 foot-pounds of torque from the V6.

The Camry SE suspension might be too firm for some; we didn't find it uncomfortable, but did find the softer Camry XLE more relaxing around town. We preferred the SE's tighter steering and more even keel in all circumstances.

Camry's brakes felt good to us, sensitive with good feel.

Camry Hybrid uses a 2.5-liter Atkinson Cycle engine and continuously variable transmission (CVT), and feels like a totally different car than the I4 or V6. It slows everything down and it feels bigger; even the seats feel wider. Toyota claims a 0-60mph time of 7.6 seconds, which makes the Hybrid quicker than the standard four-cylinder; it just doesn't feel that way. Braking is regenerative and sensitive, sometimes diving the nose of the Hybrid. It's quieter, when you're not straining at the throttle, but the tire noise on a rough freeway is still there.

Eco mode reduces the throttle opening, slowing the car way down, although Eco defaults to Power mode when you need more speed. EV mode with a good charge couldn't get us out of the parking lot. It wouldn't even run the air conditioner with the car at a standstill.

The Hybrid is slightly more slippery in the wind, with underbody fairing panels lowering the Cd to 0.27, but a small blue badge is the only visible difference.

The Camry XLE Hybrid is EPA-rated at 40 mpg Combined city and highway, and even with 12.5:1 compression the Atkinson cycle allows the use of Regular gasoline. We actually saw 45 mpg on our test run, probably because we were aghast at the idea of booting it. We routinely achieved more than 50 mpg while driving 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid models.

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