2020 Toyota Camry Ascent Sport Hybrid: Car Review.

This Car Review Is About: One of the increasing range of hybrids from Toyota. In this case, their large sedan range and the Camry Ascent Sport Hybrid, which, because the petrol engine is a four cylinder, is classified as a medium category vehicle.Under The Bonnet Is: The aforementioned four cylinder, at 2.5L in capacity, and a battery & electric motor. The petrol engine produces 131kW and 234Nm of torque, and with the electric engine, together they make for a total of 160kW and a slightly detuned 221Nm. Fuel is 95RON minimum. Transmission is Toyota’s e-CVT.

Economy is superb. We loaded up and went on a socially distanced sanctioned drive to the NSW south coast and back. The average was a wonderful 5.0L/100km, with a best at one point of 4.8L/100km. That’s with four humans, a mid sized pooch, and luggage for two days.How Much Does It Cost?: The Camry range has 4 variants, starting with the Ascent, Ascent Sport, the SX (V6 only) and topping out with the SL. The entry price for a Camry Ascent Sport Hybrid is region dependent; for our area it’s $34,435 with plain white colouring. $34,950 is what the bank balance will lose with any of the seven metallic colours including the Steel Blonde shade our test car had.

On The Outside It’s: Really a big car. Total length is knocking on the door of five metres overall. It’s also more a shortened bootlid, longer bonnet, and sits or at least looks as if it sits lower in roof height than Camrys of the last fifteen years. This measures 1,445mm. It looks sporty and aero simultaneously. It definitely has a lower clearance and combined with the softer, comfort oriented suspension tune, would invariably scrape the black polyurethane protective material exiting some very gently sloped tarmac. All due care was taken to avoid this but it was unavoidable.

The wheel and tyre combo are ten spoke alloys and Michelin Premia 215/55/17.With the redesign that the Camry received a couple of years ago, the front end became noticeably slimmer and allowed for a more assertive look. The headlights in the Camry Ascent Sport aren’t full LED but do have the LED driving lights integrated. They try to minimise the somewhat heavy handed look for the grille and bumper. The rear is taut and tight in comparison.

On The Inside It’s: Benefited from the extension in body and wheelbase (2,825mm). There’s ample legroom for the rear seat passengers even with the seats moved back to accommodate 180cm front seat occupants. Cargo space isn’t an issue, with a boot capacity of 524L belying the rear window line making it seem the boot is smaller.We’ve bemoaned the heavy nose styling, and we’ve bemoaned the heavy dash styling inside. The passenger faces a multiple of folds, four in number, and it looks horrible. The driver doesn’t quite have the same issue. There’s been a clear effort to provide a cockpit feeling, complete with chrome line that wraps a slab of black and falls away at an angle from the top, This then arrows towards the passenger. This line and angle are mirrored in the driver’s display. The two dials on either side have miniaturised versions of this hook motif.Otherwise it’s standard user friendly Toyota. The audio is app connected, there’s a DAB tuner with strong reception via the 8.0 inch screen, and the typically clean, ergonomic, layout expected from Toyota…except for that messy section the front seat passenger sees.

The driver has a powered, eight way adjustable, pew. No need for heating or cooling thanks to the cloth covering. This, by the way, is a tasteful shade of black-grey. Only the front seats have access to a USB port, and one only at that.On The Road It’s: Simple to drive. It’s a push button start after entering the cabin and being greeted with muted whiners and clicks as the computer system awakens from its slumber. Foot on the brake, hit the starter, and in typical electric hybrid mode there’s nothing to indicate anything is happening. Hit the go pedal and it’s battery power up to 20kph before the petrol cuts in. And that’s irrespective of pressing the superfluous EV MODE button in the centre console. Use that and press the accelerator as normal and the system automatically disengages the EV. Try it at speed and you’re going too fast…

Under way the system will automatically kick the petrol engine in and out of the room as driving conditions see fit. There’s only a hint of vibration from the Priceline when the petrol engine is engaged, making the transitions smooth and seamless. There is a Sport mode for the engine but that also really is superfluous.

Ride quality is on the plush side, and this isn’t entirely a bad thing. Some of the NSW back roads are on the, ahem, rough side, yet the Camry Ascent Sport tended to glide over these with only the truly coarse surfaces intruding and upsetting the suspension. There were occasional rear end skips, one or two front end bump steers, otherwise the ride was smooth and luxurious. Certainly not a sporting oriented ride.

The steering goes the other way. Driven at highway legal speeds the steering is well and truly en pointe. There’s no need for constant adjustment in corners, even in the tightening radius turns. The nose simply goes where the wheel says it wants to. It’s light enough for easy pedaling in tight areas, heavy enough to have minimal input on the road. We drove back to Sydney via Cobargo, the NSW town devastated by bushfire in the early part of 2020. Either side of this heartbreaking sight are some truly magnificent driving roads, and suitable for exploring the dynamics of a car such as the Camry. There’s ample urge from the hybrid drivetrain, the transmission is sweet and smooth, and the occasional “backlash” is when the car is at low speed and the e-CVT is a little confused as to where it needs to be, providing a small “bump” as it sorts itself out.

What is also sorting itself out is nature. The regrowth in some areas is nothing short of spectacular. The touchscreen has a display that shows energy distribution on the fly. At rest there’s no movement, naturally. Accelerate hard and the flow is from the petrol engine to the electric and battery system. Ease off as the car comes to a set of traffic lights or downhill, and the flow shows energy going into the battery. There’s also a graphic that shows the level of battery charge. What About Safety?: There’s the basic but for the Rear Cross Traffic Alert and Blind Spot Alert, you’d need to upshift to the SL. Otherwise there’s the Toyota SafetySense package. Lane Departure Alert, Pre-Collision Safety System with pedestrian detection, Automatic High Beam and All-Speed Active Cruise Control. is what you’ll find. Seven airbags are also standard.

What About Service And Warranty? Toyota says: “We’ll increase the standard guarantee on your new Hybrid battery to up to 10 years as long as you undertake your annual inspection as part of routine maintenance according to the vehicle logbook.” Check with your dealer for conditions. For the driveline: “Stick to your annual service schedule, and we’ll extend your engine and driveline warranty from five to seven years, so you can drive stress-free for longer.” Standard warranty is five years.

At The End Of The Drive. Toyota is the leader when it comes to getting the hybrid message out there. With strong rumours swirling the next LandCruiser will pack a hybrid, and the update to the fuel-thirsty Kluger will include hybrid, the Japanese company is spreading the message far and wide. The Camry Hybrid offers a a rare chance to get into an easily accessible hybrid and by being a sedan, rather than a SUV, it continues to offer that alternative. Find out more here.

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