2025 Toyota Camry First Drive Review: Hybrid-only overhaul is a hit

2025 Toyota Camry First Drive Review: Hybrid-only overhaul is a hit

BARRETT JUNCTION, Calif. – It’s been common for multiple Camry generations to share a platform, so it shouldn’t be surprising or disappointing that the 2025 Toyota Camry shares the same TNGA set of platform components as its predecessor. It definitely shouldn’t be surprising considering how similar they look, apart from its attractive new face that boasts a sleek LED headlight arrangement and a grille area below filled with a selection of different mesh patterns depending on trim level. There are other, more subtle design updates throughout (the rear quarter area actually has been changed), but you have to compare them side-by-side to see the differences.

Despite this, substantial improvements have been made under the skin. First, every 2025 Camry is a hybrid. Not only that, but it features the next, fifth-generation hybrid system Toyota debuted in the new Prius – albeit with a bigger 2.5-liter inline-four. While the 2025 Camry system produces more power at 225 horsepower with front-wheel drive and 232 hp with all-wheel drive (more on that soon), the big gain is that the system is smoother, quieter and just makes for better driving. Engineers increased the amount of energy provided by the lighter and more compact motor-generator to delay engine engagement while accelerating, make that engagement smoother when it does happen, and then lessen engine load.

The upgraded hybrid powertrain is a lot quieter, too, and the noises it does make are far more pleasant. The electronically controlled continuously variable transmission no longer yo-yos revs up and down so severely when you momentarily lift off the throttle – it does an even better job of keeping engine revs where they should be in Sport mode – with the added benefit of an engine note that sounds less like a droning leaf blower. There’s actually quite a nice four-cylinder thrum now indicative of a car. I had an opportunity to drive a Toyota with the previous-generation hybrid system the day after my time with the Camry, and the improvement really is significant.


Fuel economy is an eye-popping 51 miles per gallon combined for the base LE and its balloony high-profile tires. The other trim levels get 47 mpg combined, while all-wheel drive drops each trim’s estimate by 1 mpg combined. OK, so the XSE drops to 44 mpg combined, but that’s still crazy good.

As mentioned, there will once again be an all-wheel-drive Camry available. The previous one was a mechanical system exclusively paired to the base, non-hybrid 2.5-liter. The new system is the same concept as other all-wheel-drive Toyota hybrids, including the new Prius: An extra motor added to the rear axle is engaged when the car deems the road slippery or detects front wheel slippage. There’s no proactive engagement to improve performance and handling.

You can see comparison pictures of the XSE, XLE and SE in the gallery above.

On the subject of handling, though, the Camry once again offers two distinctive dynamic flavors: the cushy LE and sporty SE, with those with an X at the beginning signifying more equipment and fancier finishings. Although the LE became far less of a marshmallow last generation, it sure seems like Toyota widened the ride/handling gap between the LE and SE this time around when it re-tuned the chassis. The SE and XSE’s sport-tuned suspension got new shock absorbers at all corners plus a larger-diameter front stabilizer bar, which definitely has something to do with how much flatter and controlled the SE stayed around long, high-speed sweepers than the LE, which heave-ho’d and bounded about. Grip was also reduced, but the LE has balloony tires wrapping 16-inch wheels rather than the tidy 18-inchers on the SE and XLE. The XSE gets 19s.

Steering differences are also quite obvious between LE and SE. Sport mode is especially well done in the SE, dialing in a small but just-right amount of effort, especially when turning in, to increase engagement that should please anyone who counts “good steering” as a priority. I was also fine with Normal in more mundane driving scenarios. After switching to the LE, though, oh boy do things change. The difference between drive modes is negligible, as Sport just adds some elastic mush to a numb turn-in and a nebulous on-center feel. It drives exactly how most people think a Camry drives; the SE feels more like … um, this seems wrong to say, but a sport sedan. A well-damped one, it should be said, because the ride remains comfortable.

Toyota also upgraded the braking system with an electronically controlled one, and it’s noticeable. Never mind improvement, these noticeably feel like great brakes. And I usually don’t notice brakes. The pedal is firm and progressive, and there’s actual feel to them. “It feels natural,” says my notebook, which is particularly impressive considering this is a hybrid that needs to blend regenerative and mechanical braking.