QOTD: Who Buys a Mainstream 'Sport' Hybrid?

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
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qotd who buys a mainstream sport hybrid

I spent a good chunk of Monday evening tooling around the city in a new, mainstream midsize sedan, but let’s park that jealousy at the door right now, folks.

This car was a modern twist on the “sensible sedan with a sport package that’s nearly all appearance flourishes” we’ve all become used to. The Camry SE Hybrid takes most of the standard SE’s looks — spoiler, side sills, complex grille and all — then throws in a few optional goodies as standard kit for good measure. It also makes the “sporty” Camry arguably sportier.

A Twitter discussion broke out later that night, centered around a question that nagged me my entire time behind the wheel. Who buys this particular trim?

Not this former Camry owner, that’s for sure. It’s no secret I’m drawn to sedans that fall on the conservative side of the styling spectrum, and would happily choose a compliant ride over a sport-tuned experience in anotherwise mainstream car. We’re not talking Lexus IS or Audi A4 here. It’s Camry Time.

While the SE Hybrid allows Toyota to carve out a new Camry trim level in the midst of its hybrid range, the car’s drivetrain and its image remain at odds with each other. At its very core, a mainstream hybrid’s role is saving the owner money at the pumps, thus rationalizing a pricier window sticker. In this case, it’s quite a jump — a 14 mpg improvement on the combined cycle, according to the EPA.

Cool, fantastic. Achieving 46 mpg in a 3,500-pound car sounds like a good tradeoff for the $4,300 price bump. And there’s extra convenience and comfort features to sweeten the pot. The issue is this: the standard quartet of drive modes (unavailable on the SE) contains a Sport setting, encouraging sudden weight gain in the driver’s right foot.

Suddenly, this model becomes much thirstier than the cheaper LE Hybrid, retailing for 1,700 fewer dollars. Of course, that’s if buyers actually choose to leave a fingerprint on the Sport button. Maybe it’s a big if.

I’m not sure about you, B&B, but I have a hard time imagining a speed-obsessed buyer lying awake in bed, driving gloves on, Dramamine tablets ready to go, counting down the hours until his four-cylinder, CVT-equipped Camry hybrid arrives. Is this a sedan for faux environmentalists who love the tree-hugging social capital a hybrid bestows on its driver but hate garnering attention from suspicious cops? Or, is this a commuter carriage for timid motorists looking for a smidge of visual aggression and a few added luxuries from their economy car? Does the first buyer even exist?

Would you shell out for one?

[Image: Toyota]

Steph Willems
Steph Willems

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  • Brandloyalty Brandloyalty on Mar 13, 2018

    Odd that bemoaning "appliance" cars is typical for motorheads, and then they lose sleep over a sporty hybrid. But they don't seem to fret about whole lines of sporty performance cars like Porsche's hybrids, or F1 cars being hybrids. Nor do they seem concerned about all the performance suv's, which even with their conflicted low profile tires and lowered suspension can never have the handling of performance cars.

    • 9Exponent 9Exponent on Mar 14, 2018

      The truth behind it all is that they’re an old boy’s club, and not accepting applications for membership.

  • Ricky Spanish Ricky Spanish on Mar 14, 2018

    14 mpg for $4,500 So I'm saving what, $350/year in gas? Only 13 years to break even!

    • Vulpine Vulpine on Mar 14, 2018

      That depends. How much do you drive? If you only drive 10K - 12K miles per year, you're right. There are others who drive 4x that much and will break even in roughly 3 years.

  • Ernesto Perez There's a line in the movie Armageddon where Bruce Willis says " is this the best idea NASA came up with?". Don't quote me. I'm asking is this the best idea NY came up with? What's next? Charging pedestrians to walk in certain parts of the city? Every year the price for everything gets more expensive and most of the services we pay for gets worse. Obviously more money is not the solution. What we need are better ideas, strategies and inventions. You want to charge drivers in the city - then put tolls on the free bridges like the Brooklyn, Manhattan and Williamsburg bridges. There's always a better way or product. It's just the idiots on top think they know best.
  • Carsofchaos The bike lanes aren't even close to carrying "more than the car lanes replaced". You clearly don't drive in Midtown Manhattan on a daily like I do.
  • Carsofchaos The problem with congestion, dear friends, is not the cars per se. I drive into the city daily and the problem is this:Your average street in the area used to be 4 lanes. Now it is a bus lane, a bike lane (now you're down to two lanes), then you have delivery trucks double parking, along with the Uber and Lyft drivers also double parking. So your 4 lane avenue is now a 1.5 lane avenue. Do you now see the problem? Congestion pricing will fix none of these things....what it WILL do is fund persion plans.
  • FreedMike Many F150s I encounter are autonomously driven...and by that I mean they're driving themselves because the dips**ts at the wheel are paying attention to everything else but the road.
  • Tassos A "small car", TIM????????????This is the GLE. Have you even ever SEEN the huge thing at a dealer's??? NOT even the GLC,and Merc has TWO classes even SMALLER than the C (The A and the B, you guessed it? You must be a GENIUS!).THe E is a "MIDSIZED" crossover, NOT A SMALL ONE BY ANY STRETCH OF THE IMAGINATION, oh CLUELESS one.I AM SICK AND TIRED OF THE NONSENSE you post here every god damned day.And I BET you will never even CORRECT your NONSENSE, much less APOLOGIZE for your cluelessness and unprofessionalism.