The 2018 Toyota Camry Hybrid might actually be the best buy of the all-new Camry bunch. Just like the gas-only models, it’s better to drive, much better to look at and has a high-end interior that corrects the disappointments of past generations. Yet the Hybrid goes further, with a hybrid powertrain that’s so efficient it matches the Prius’ 52 miles per gallon in the base LE trim. Plus, by relocating the battery pack forward of the rear axle, the Hybrid actually has more balanced handling than the gas-only versions.
Frankly, for those who have previously dismissed the Camry as too conservative and boring, or who wrote off the Hybrid in particular for being dreary to drive, it’s time to re-evaluate things. This car is so different it almost deserves a new name. Now, for those who liked the Camry Hybrid just the way it was, perhaps the new one will seem like a radical departure. However, we also think its sharper handling, more composed ride and other improvements equal a car that’s ultimately better for most car shoppers. Besides, its space, reliability, resale value and fuel economy are still excellent — and really, those are the reasons most people ended up with a Camry Hybrid before.
If there’s one thing preventing the Camry Hybrid from being a slam dunk, it’s that Honda also released an all-new Accord Hybrid this year that goes toe-to-toe with its great Toyota foe in most respects. Therefore, if you’re considering a midsize hybrid sedan, both are must-drives.
What’s New for 2018?
The Camry Hybrid has been completely redesigned for 2018. To learn more about what changed, read 2017 vs. 2018 Toyota Camry: What’s the Difference?.
What We Like
Superior safety equipment and ratings; superior fuel economy; higher-quality cabin and sharper driving dynamics than past Camrys; user-friendly tech interface; distinct LE and SE trims
What We Don’t
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto aren’t available; sunroof reduces headroom; most efficient trim rides on steel wheels
Every Camry Hybrid has the same 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine paired to an electric motor and an electronically controlled continuously variable transmission that produce a total output of 208 horsepower. However, differences in battery type and wheel/tire combos result in different trim levels achieving different fuel economy numbers.
The base Hybrid LE trim level has a lithium-ion battery pack and 16-inch wheels, resulting in an eye-popping fuel economy estimate of 51 miles per gallon in the city, 53 mpg on the highway and 52 mpg in combined driving. That effectively matches most Prius trim levels.
The Hybrid SE and XLE have a nickel-metal hydride battery pack and larger 18-in wheels (they’re snazzier but have greater rolling resistance). This results in 44 mpg city/47 mpg hwy/46 mpg combined, which is still better than most other hybrids.
Standard Features & Options
The 2018 Toyota Camry Hybrid is available in LE, SE and XLE trim levels. Read our regular 2018 Camry review for more information on the gas-only models, and watch our 2018 Camry first drive review video to see some of the visual differences between trim levels.
The base Camry Hybrid LE ($27,800) comes standard with 16-in steel wheels, automatic bi-LED headlights, LED running lights, automatic high beams, proximity entry and push-button start, adaptive cruise control, forward-collision warning and automatic emergency braking, lane-keep assist, multiple drive modes (EV, Eco, Normal, Sport), a backup camera, dual-zone automatic climate control, an 8-way power driver’s seat, a manual height-adjustable passenger seat, heated front seats, cloth upholstery, a 60/40-split folding back seat, a 7-in Toyota Entune 3.0 touchscreen, a variety of smartphone-streaming apps (including one for navigation), one USB port, a media player interface, an auxiliary audio jack and a 6-speaker sound system.
The Hybrid SE ($29,500) adds different styling, 18-in wheels, altered suspension and steering tuning, more aggressively bolstered front seats, SofTex simulated leather upholstery and a leather-wrapped steering wheel.
The Hybrid XLE ($32,250) reverts to the LE’s styling, chassis tuning and seat design. It adds its own 18-in wheels, an enhanced climate-control system, an 8-way power passenger seat, leather upholstery, the leather-wrapped steering wheel, a color head-up display, three USB ports and blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert systems (optional on the others). Adaptive LED headlights and a birds-eye parking camera are optional.
Available on all, the Audio Package adds an 8-in touchscreen, wireless smartphone charging, a CD player, HD Radio, satellite radio, Safety Connect emergency communications, Remote Connect remote vehicle control services and in-car Wi-Fi. In the XLE, this package also includes a 9-speaker JBL sound system. A sunroof is also optional on every trim.
Every Camry Hybrid comes standard with an impressive array of standard safety equipment beyond the usual allotment of airbags and vehicle control aids. Forward-collision warning and automatic emergency braking, lane-keeping assist and adaptive cruise control are all standard — they’re options on most competitors. Blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert are standard on the XLE and optional on the other trims. Safety Connect emergency communications are optional on all trims.
In government testing, the Camry got a perfect five stars in every category. The nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety named the 2018 Camry a Top Safety Pick+ for its best possible performance in crash protection, crash prevention, headlights and child-seat anchor ease of use. You really can’t do any better than those results.
Behind the Wheel
The 2018 Camry feels like a totally different car behind the wheel, showcasing a degree of poise, precision and composure that this nameplate has never approached before. Though it still has its LE and SE trim lines, which differ in steering and suspension tuning, their dynamic differences are less than before, with both maintaining a fairly comparable balance between comfort and handling precision. Some may lament the loss of the old Camry LE’s looser steering and pillow-like ride, but we think the majority of buyers in the midsize segment will like this change to a more modern car feel while still appreciating the ability to choose which variation they like better.
All of that applies to the Hybrid as much as the gas-only versions, and in fact, if you ask Toyota’s engineers, they’ll say the hybrid may actually be the best of the bunch to drive. This is due to its battery pack being moved from under the trunk to under the back seat. This moves the weight between the axles, lowers the center of gravity and balances the car. We’re not sure if it’s really the most enjoyable Camry to drive, but we also wouldn’t say there’s a vehicle-dynamics penalty for going with the fuel-efficient choice.
Literally sitting behind the wheel feels different for 2018 as well, as a lower seating position with a more thoughtfully placed wheel, shifter and other controls results in a more driver-oriented cabin. You sit in the Camry now, rather than on it. Everything else inside is better as well, as the quality of materials has been elevated greatly to enhance a more stylish design. The materials look and feel richer, are softer to the touch, and the stitched leather-like material on the dash lends a luxurious look to every trim level. Indeed, there isn’t that much of a difference between the LE and XLE beyond leather seats and extra features.
Other Cars to Consider
2018 Honda Accord Hybrid — The Accord Hybrid is also all-new, and definitely gives the Camry Hybrid a run for its money. It has its own attractive new styling and standard allotment of safety tech. Its 47-mpg estimate falls in between the LE and the SE/XLE figures.
2018 Honda Clarity PHEV — With its hefty tax credits, the Clarity Plug-In Hybrid should actually end up costing as much or less than a Camry Hybrid while being capable of going 47 miles on electricity alone. Its cabin quality, space and overall refinement are also more in keeping with the Camry than plug-in hybrids like the Prius Prime.
2018 Toyota Prius Prime — If you’re willing to sacrifice refinement for even greater fuel efficiency, the Prius Prime gets one of the highest miles-per-gallon-equivalent ratings of anything that’s not completely electric.
2019 Toyota Avalon Hybrid — If you’re interested in the top Camry Hybrid XLE trim level, it’s definitely worth checking out the all-new Avalon Hybrid. It ups the ante in terms of luxury and space. It could also be worth checking out the outgoing Avalon Hybrid.
Used Lexus ES 300h — For a used car alternative, this Lexus is mechanically related to the last-generation Camry Hybrid, and provides similar fuel economy to that car. Not surprisingly, its cabin quality is superior to that of the Camry.
The base Camry LE gets the best fuel economy of the group and is far from a stripped-down model. OK, so the steel wheels are unfortunate, but there’s still plenty of standard equipment, especially in the safety realm. With the LE, you get the same fuel economy as a Prius but with a larger, more comfortable cabin, higher-quality interior trappings and a more refined driving experience. It’s also not that much of a letdown from the higher, pricier trims. Don’t write it off.