AGING GRACEFULLY: 2023 TOYOTA CAMRY SE HYBRID NIGHTSHADE
Five years doesn’t feel like it was that long ago. And it is not like the year 2020 didn’t help as we all tend to forget that was an actual year and pretend that time just stood still. Now, in car years, five years might as well be a decade, especially given how fast technology moves. So, it is hard to believe that this current generation Toyota Camry has only been around since 2018. But with a new Nissan Altima already on the streets and an all-new Honda Accord on its way, is the Toyota Camry already starting to age out?
Toyota is quite known for their special editions as a way to keep things fresh, and as such a new special edition has been introduced to the Camry, calling this one the Nightshade Edition. Being only available on the SE models of both the gas and hybrid versions in either front-wheel or all-wheel drive, opting for the Nightshade costs a mere $1000 more than the SE’s base $27,485 and the SE Hybrid $29,615. For that extra lump of cash, the Nightshade edition adds a nice little appearance package with special 19-inch bronze wheels and a new Reservoir Blue metallic paint.
Aside from this special edition packaging, everything we know and love about the Camry is practically the same underneath. With my example being the hybrid version, it carried the 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine paired with an electric motor and a series of batteries that gives it a plentiful 208-combined horsepower, all managed through a continuous variable transmission. From the yesteryears of hybrids, this Camry feels nothing like the yuppie hipster of 2007. Instead, it is confident and fluid. The hybrid system is incredibly smooth with unnoticeable changes between the gas and electric motors. And with my foot down, there is enough assurance that this thing is quick enough not to be in the way when pulling out of a junction.
Traveling down the road and there are several things to like about the Camry from its decently accommodating ride quality, to the quiet cabin at higher speeds. Even the brakes feel well connected and easy to manage – and if you’re familiar with hybrid systems, the brake pedal can tend to have a mind of its own. Now, despite the badging and styling representing something a little more sporty or agile, the Camry after all is a family car and handling isn’t exactly its strong suit. The steering has some electrically assisted weight giving a tighter feel, but in the bends of twisty road it feels more like a video game controller, lacking a certain connected sensation.
As a hybrid, performance is half the equation, it also comes down to fuel economy. With the hybrid system capable of maintaining up to 20-mph in EV mode only and with the system using regenerative braking and deceleration in EV operation, the Camry has the capability of seeing nearly 50-mpg. Unfortunately for me, that was not quite the case. Nor was it really the car’s fault either. Due to a very busy schedule, I couldn’t do my usual test routes and this Camry barely saw 200-miles on its odometer before having to depart, leaving me with an average of 37-mpg.
Inside, the SE is seen more as the entry-level Camry that incorporates relaxing seats that carry a combination of leatherette and cloth materials, a 7-inch touch screen infotainment and dual-zone climate control. Given the basicness of the cabin, it doesn’t feel particularly entry-level. The materials throughout are decent, the design of the dash and its 3D suave moves continues to present a modern panache and even though the screen is only 7-inches, last heard that’s quite an average accommodating size that features Apple CarPlay & Android Auto; unfortunately, not wireless. Also, the Camry features one of Toyota latest safety sense system that comes equipped with Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop n Go, forward collision assist, lane following assist, and a few more assists and, plus blind spot monitoring was an added option for $1200.
Seeing how the Camry is hitting the five-year mark, styling is still on point with today’s standard carrying a mix of conservativeness with a flashy influence while the interior continues to feel every bit as modern. On the performance aspect, with the ability to achieve 50-mpg’s and still carry enough power to take on a Honda Civic Si, there is still a lot of spry in its young age. If there was something that started to show its aging bones would fault to the backup camera and its grainy display.
Vehicle: 2023 Toyota Camry SE Hybrid Nightshade
Base Price: $30,615
As-Tested Price: $32,839
Engine: 2.5-liter Four-Cylinder Engine and Hybrid Electric
Horsepower: 2308-Combined HP
Drivetrain: Front-Wheel Drive
MPG: 44 | 47 | 46 (City | Highway | Combined)
As-Tested MPG: 36.9-MPG Combined