Toyota corners the market on hybrids

2021 Toyota Camry Hybrid XSE. Metro Creative Service photo

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2021 Toyota Camry Hybrid XSE. Metro Creative Service photo

Hybrid version of Camry and Avalon show they’re more than just fuel sippers

When it comes to hybrid technology there’s on automaker that stands out amongst all the others. Toyota has truly mastered hybrid technology. It all started with Prius, obviously, but now they offer hybrid technology across their entire car line which includes the midsize Camry and the full-size Avalon.

I was fortunate to get to drive both hybrid variants of these cars. If consistency is boring then Toyota can hang their hat proudly on being boring. Because while neither the Camry hybrid nor the Avalon hybrid is overly exciting it is consistent and solid and lacks very few flaws.

As people movers that are focused on fuel economy, the Camry Hybrid and Avalon Hybrid hit the mark.

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On looks, both cars have distinction but yet while there is a “family resemblance” (which is called consistency) both the Camry and Avalon have their own personality too. The Camry is more stylized and therefore a little more exciting. The grille has several design features that all come together over the Blue (for hybrid) Toyota logo on the very center. The slope of the back window is rather stubby but also gives the Camry a modern look. Gone are the days of the boxier back end of the Camry that was oh-so-boring.

The Avalon’s grille is elegant and has a Lexus vibe. That suits the Avalon well as it’s meant to be teetering on the brink of luxury as it is. And on looks it accomplishes that. Like the Camry, the Avalon’s Toyota logo is blue, but is less prominent than the Camry’s.

The powertrain of these two hybrids is nearly identical with both having a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine with electric motor assist. The Avalon has two electric motors that propel it while the Camry has just one. New for the Avalon hybrid this year is a lithium-ion battery that replaces a nickel version. That means very little to the average consumer.

The Avalon has slightly more power with 215 horsepower to the Camry’s 208. But the Camry also weighs less so it feels agile and spry while the Avalon feels sluggish. A continuously variable transmission (CVT) works efficiently in both cars. I understand the merit of a CVT especially in concert with a hybrid powertrain, but I still don’t find this transmission to be overly impressive with quirky shifts in both cars.

As you’d expect, the Avalon’s interior is high quality. The Avalon is aimed at a more high-end customer than the Camry and caters well to that base. But the Camry’s interior is good but falls under the “consistency is boring” mantra I referenced early. There is no wow factor or impressive touchpoints throughout the Camry, but there’s also nothing that feels cheap either. Ditto for the Avalon which even has some nicer touchpoints than the Camry and obviously a bigger back seat.

The most impressive features of the Camry hybrid is the 15.1-cubic foot trunk which is the same as the non-hybrid version. Often hybrids lose cargo room to make way for the battery. Also, new for the 2021 model year is a larger touchscreen for Toyota’s easy-to-use infotainment system. The 9-inch touchscreen is responsive and intuitive.

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The Avalon hybrid has Android Auto standard for the 2021 model year. How it wasn’t standard before confounds me, but also doesn’t matter to me as an Apple CarPlay user. As is its reputation, the Avalon’s cabin is incredibly quiet and as a hybrid it’s even quieter and more refined from a comfort level.

Fuel economy is what both of these cars should brag about. The Camry Hybrid is rated at 44 mpg/city and 47 mpg/highway. The Avalon Hybrid is almost identical with an EPA rating of 43 mpg/city and 43/highway. The slightly bigger size and more weight keep the Avalon from hitting 50 mpg, but otherwise it’s quite efficient for a full-size sedan.

Believe it or not, but the pricing is pretty comparable too with the smaller Camry costing around $8,000 less than the larger Avalon. The MSRP of my Camry Hybrid tester was $38,515 for the XSE trim. My Avalon Hybrid tester had an MSRP of $46,717 for the Limited trim.

If you think of Toyota Hybrid and automatically think of the unhip/pokey Prius, you are missing out on two incredible sedans from Toyota in the Camry and Avalon. With gas prices rising, these are both viable, consistent sedans that will mean fewer trips to the gas station.

Jimmy Dinsmore is a freelance automotive journalist. Email him at jimmydinsmore73@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @driversside

2021 Toyota Camry Hybrid XSE

  • Price/As tested price................................................ $32,720/$38,515
  • Mileage.......................................... 44 mpg/city; 47 mpg/hwy
  • Engine............................................. 3.5-liter four-cylinder hybrid
  • Horsepower................................. 208 hp/163 lbs./ft.
  • Transmission................................. CVT
  • Drive wheels................ Front-wheel drive
  • Final assembly point................ Georgetown, Kentucky

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