How To Almost Double Your Gas Mileage In a Toyota Camry XLE (Hint: Buy The Hybrid)

2013 Toyota Camry Hybrid
The 2013 (and 2014) Toyota Camry Hybrid.
All right, so the headline is a bit of a giveaway.  But here's the simple truth about the Toyota Camry Hybrid XLE we drove recently:

You can take most of what we wrote about the Toyota Camry XLE V6 in early October, change the V6 to a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder, change the six-speed automatic transmission to a continuously variable transmission (CVT), adjust the 0-60 time from 5.8 seconds to 7.3 ( a mere second and a half), change the trunk space spec from 15.3 cubic feet to 13.1 (the batteries of the hybrid live underneath), and cut the base price by $2,800.

And then just about double the EPA city mileage estimate from 21 to 40 (highway goes from 31 to 38).

2013 Toyota Camry Hybrid
2013 (and 2014) Toyota Camry Hybrid.

Regular TireKicker readers know that while we appreciate the hypermiling hybrids like the Prius and Prius C, we've always thought the sweet spot in hybrid technology was in the family sedan arena, where the mileage payoffs can be exponential rather than incremental.  And the Camry Hybrid is an excellent example of just that.

The EPA fuel economy portion of the window sticker also lists how much money you'll spend on fuel over 5 years relative to the "average new vehicle".

The sticker for the Camry XLE V6 reads "You save $850 in fuel costs over 5 years ..."

The sticker for the Camry Hybrid reads "You save $4,850 in fuel costs over 5 years..."

Our biggest knock against hybrids has always been that it would take you anywhere from 9 to 20 years, depending on the car, for the fuel savings to pay for the extra cost of the vehicle.  But Toyota's gone aggressive...pricing the Hybrid lower than the V6.

Interior view of 2014 Toyota Camry Hybrid
2013 (and 2014) Toyota Camry Hybrid interior.

Now, that is the base price, and our Hybrid tester was heavily optioned to bring it more in line with the full-luxe treatment you get with a top-of-the-line XLE V6. $500 for a blind spot monitor.  $695 for the Convenience Package (backup camera, HomeLink, anti-theft alarm).  $515 for SafetyConnect (Toyota's version of OnStar, offering stolen vehicle location, roadside assistance and crash notification.  The price is for a one-year subscription). $1,185 for the leather package which includes heated front seats and gives 4-way power adjustment to the front passenger seat.  $2,670 for the Premium HDD Navigation with Entune and JBL. $915 for a power moonroof.  And $225 for a carpet and trunk mat set.  With $795 delivery processing and handling fee, the bottom line is:

$35,170. Which is only $1,050 more than the as-tested price of the V6 XLE.

Let's be real:  If you're serious about a Camry, it's unlikely that 0-60 times are more important to you than miles per gallon.  And even then, 0-60 in 7.3 isn't shabby. 40 miles per gallon in the city in a car this size is remarkable.  The payoffs are huge in the Camry Hybrid.

UPDATE: Esteemed fellow journalist and TrueDelta founder Michael Karesh pointed out to me on Facebook that the more accurate comparison for this review would be with the 4-cylinder non-hybrid Camry XLE.  He is right.  We haven't driven one, but for perspective, the Hybrid increases that base price by $2,270, the 0-60 time is 0.2 seconds quicker in the Hybrid, and gas mileage improves greatly, from 25 city to 40 city (the highway goes from 35 to 38).