2023 Toyota Camry SE Hybrid Nightshade Review: Calmly competent

Steven Cole Smith

This is a standard, everyday review about a standard, everyday car: The Toyota Camry. The photos are unlikely to widen your eyes. Just garden-variety snaps that show what you need to know about the 2023 Camry, a garden-variety car.

The words won’t be fancy. No thesaurus needed. Just the facts, ma’am.

With three exceptions.

First: Though Camrys are common as personal injury attorney ads during Jeopardy!, this one is pretty. Dark Blue—that’s Toyota’s no-nonsense, to-the-point name on the window sticker, but it’s really Reservoir Blue if you order one—with 19-inch matte bronze TRD alloy wheels, part of the Nightshade package. As Camrys go, it isn’t the fanciest, yet you wouldn’t at all mind being seen in it.

Second: This is a Camry SE Hybrid. With the ultra-high compression 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, plus the Hybrid Synergy Drive system, total horsepower is a fair-to-middling 208, connected to a continuously variable transmission (CVT) with shift paddles and programming that mimics the behavior of a six-speed automatic. There’s enough shove for merging into traffic, but you won’t be winning drag races.

Steven Cole Smith

You will win with infrequent visits to the pump, however, thanks to an EPA-rating of 44 mpg city, 47 highway, 46 overall. Even more victorious: In about 400 miles of driving, in city traffic and on the highway, we averaged a downright-remarkable 47.2 mpg, and we were by no means hypermiling. The Camry LE Hybrid is even more of a mileage champ, with a manufacturer-estimated 51/53/52 mpg city/highway/combined rating. If you really need all-wheel drive, Toyota has a Camry with that, too.

Third: With a full roster of equipment, including a blind-spot monitor with cross-traffic alert ($600 and worth every penny), Sirius/XM radio with a serviceable six-speaker stereo, radar-connected cruise control with lane-departure alert, a power driver’s seat with lumbar support, and pretty much everything you need but a navigation system (remember, your phone has one), the list price is $32,909, including $1095 shipping.

Toyota Camry Nightshade interior front

Specs: 2023 Toyota Camry SE Hybrid Nightshade Edition

Price: $30,615 / $32,909 (base / as-tested)
Powertrain: 2.5-liter four-cylinder with Hybrid Synergy Drive
Horsepower: 176 hp engine alone, 208 hp combined with hybrid boost
Torque: 163 lb-ft
Layout: Front-wheel-drive, four-door, five-passenger sedan
Weight: 3535 lbs
EPA-Rated Fuel Economy: 44/47/46 mpg (city/hwy/combined)
0-60 mph: 7.3 seconds
Competitors: Hyundai Sonata, Honda Accord, Nissan Altima, Kia K5

As you have likely heard, the average price of a new car, said Kelly Blue Book in January, is $49,507. For $16,598 less, this Camry SE Hybrid Nightshade gives you plenty of room for four six-footers, a cavernous trunk and—if you’re into this sort of thing—a respectable-looking rear spoiler.

Steven Cole Smith

Inside, the cloth interior is handsome and feels durable. If you want leather, it’s available, but we respect the a low-price theme here (the steering wheel is leather-wrapped, however). The front seats are adequate: After a quick 300-mile trip, the Camry and I were still friends. Instruments and controls are easy to figure out. There’s a 7-inch touchscreen in the center of the dashboard that handles most functions. Ten airbags are standard. It’s a safe, unpretentious car.

Rear seat room is plentiful for two, passable for three. There aren’t many amenities back there, but it is a comfortable place to sit. There’s a lot of plastic inside, especially in the doors, and way up front, a manual prop rod holds up the hood. No expensive gas struts here. There are a few cost-cutting areas like this, but not many. The ride is very quiet, and wind noise is minimal; Toyota did not skimp on sound deadening.

On the road, the Camry SE Nightshade handles better than you’d expect, given the cushy ride. Enter a corner too quickly and there’s a mild and predictable push in the front end from the conventional “sport-tuned suspension” and the P235/45 all-season Bridgestone tires, just what you’d expect. The electric power steering is light and linear, nicely balanced. Brakes are good enough, maybe a little better, even. There are more spirited Camry models, including with a 301-horsepower V-6, but, of course, you’ll pay more.

The bottom line is the bottom line: $32,909 for an attractive, well-equipped, four-adults-and-five-in-a-pinch family car that should average 46 mpg and last as long as a typical Toyota. The EPA helpfully points out on the window sticker that at an optimistic $2.95 a gallon, you’d save $3250 in fuel over the next five years, and that it’s rated an 8 out of 10 (10 being the best) on greenhouse gas emissions, and a 7 out of 10 in the smog rating.

A number of political and activist organizations are fond of calling out Toyota for supposedly not doing enough to conserve natural resources. The future is increasingly all-electric, and Toyota has been slower than most to embrace this transition, but if you are a public citizen who lives in the present and aren’t quite ready for a Tesla, this hybrid Toyota Camry SE Nightshade is a commendable placeholder. And that’s the plain truth.

2023 Toyota Camry SE Hybrid Nightshade Edition

Price: $30,615 / $32,909 (base / as-tested)

Highs: Functional performance, remarkable mileage, roomy and comfortable inside. Handsome outside, too.

Lows: Honda Accord is a more capable performer. Some evidence of cost-cutting.

Takeaway: All you need and more, with effortless 46 mpg. As commuters go, what’s not to like?




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