Usually the second model year for a car doesn’t mean much has changed. But for 2019, the Camry finally gets Apple CarPlay which brings features of the phone to the car’s central screen. Sorry, Android users still nothing for you yet. Radio and climate controls are large and easy to use. Even the NAV screen is straight forward.
The rest of the interior is nicely done and has some style, courtesy of the SE, the sportier model I drove. The heated seats are finished in something called Softex with cloth inserts and they look the part of something you’d find in a sports sedan.
Space is plentiful with room for adults front and back. This Camry seems to have more room than most sedans in its class. Usually with a hybrid you have to sacrifice trunk space; not with this Camry. You have a full large trunk with rear seats that fold down allowing longer items to be accommodated.
You buy a hybrid to be stingy on gas and the credentials of the Camry Hybrid should deliver some big MPG. The Camry Hybrid SE trim level isn’t the fuel efficient version in the Camry hybrid family. But the sticker says that 46 mpg should be doable. I only managed 41 mpg for week of driving, a bit disappointing but my test car had very low mileage on it.
The Camry would run on electric power for short bursts or in slow stop-and-go traffic. A 2.5L four-cylinder engine and electric motor combine for about 205hp or so. There’s enough power for most drivers. I could keep up with traffic without much issue.
The engine can be a little coarse with full throttle acceleration but it seems more hushed than in the previous Camry Hybrid. The CVT transmission is smoother than before also with sequential shifts, it acts more like a normal automatic.
The Camry Hybrid SE is the sporty version and this one handles the normal driving duty with comfort. Soaking up the bumps large and small with ease and providing a nice ride. What I wasn’t expecting is the competent handling especially when some Camry models are a bit soft when you hit the corners. The SE version has much less body lean when straight roads end and curves begin.
The looks of the Camry Hybrid SE are pretty dramatic for the once conservative sedan. I know that might be hard to believe but the new Camry is a stylish ride. Some might find it a little over-the-top, but the SE trim level is the most dramatic version of the once plain sedans. Out front the grill is huge and aggressive with blacked-out trim it looks a bit menacing and angry. The angles are extreme compared to Camry models from the past. The long body has interesting curves and lines that hold your attention and it looks a bit more like a Lexus than a $33,000 Toyota sedan. Large 18-inch wheels are some of the more stylish rims I can remember from a Toyota sedan especially on a hybrid model. Even the Blue Streak metallic paint is flashy and distinctive. But for some reason Toyota doesn’t offer many in this color as I couldn’t find one when searched for it.
The 2019 Camry Hybrid SE is the mid-size sedan that stands out with style and is surprisingly fun to drive. No longer hiding in anonymity, the new Camry pushes style to stand out in the market that needs all the help to make a statement in the new crossover-crazed market.
Mike Parris is a member of the Washington Automotive Press Association. The vehicles are provided by DriveShop, FMI or Motus One for the purpose of this review.