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2015 Toyota Camry XLE V6

As hybrid-powered vehicles become more common it should not be a surprise when it is time to buy your next car, you begin to cross-shop a gas-powered ride with its hybrid-powered sister. For that reason, we asked Toyota to send us one of America’s best-selling models in both iterations. Read on to learn how the 2015 Toyota Camry Hybrid SE stacks up against its combustion-powered family member, the XLE V6.

Exterior & Styling

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2015 Toyota Camry Hybrid SE

On the outside, these vehicles look very similar, with a few aerodynamic bits added on the Hybrid, along with a different set of alloy wheels, which help the four-dour mid-size sedan slice through the wind a little more efficiently on low rolling resistance rubber. Toyota made a big deal in its advertising this past year, hailing this mid-cycle refreshed vehicle as sporty. There is more on the sportiness later in this review. So far in the Looks Department, it’s a draw between both models.

Interior & Tech

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The XLE V6 instrument cluster keeps things traditional with the tachometer on the left and speedometer on the right.

Inside both vehicles, the layout looks no different from one another, save for an Eco/Power gauge next to the speedometer in the Hybrid model. Controls are extremely easy to use as the buttons are decidedly super-sized. A simple set of audio, apps, home, seek, and track buttons is all that you see around the 7-inch touchscreen. The use of hard black plastic is abundant in the center console below, which feels and looks cheap. 

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The hybrid's instrument cluster lets you know how economical you are driving.

The Entune infotainment system is already looking long in the tooth and needs an update compared to the competition. Resolution needs to be higher, the screen needs to be larger, and the interface could use a good scrubbing.

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The XLE trim appears more upscale when compared against the SE trim of the hybrid.

Sitting in the driver’s seat, both models use an abundance of fake leather throughout the dashboard area. With fake stitching on the dash, leatherette seats that have cloth stitched inserts in the middle part (the XLE comes with full leather seating) everything feels a little cheaper in the Hybrid model…almost like you are riding in a small, regional airline―in coach. (Note: leather is available in the Hybrid XLE model if your budget permits.)

Both models have well-wrapped leather helms, which feel athletic and premium.

The XLE inches out in the Interior Department due to its use of real leather seating.

Handling and Drive

Turning the steering wheel results in a somewhat heavy-feeling experience, with very vague response and no sense of where the car is in a corner. If Toyota was trying to make the turning feel sportier by dialing back the electric power steering intensity, they have missed the mark in both models.

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The Camry Hybrid SE has appealing looks. It's a shame it doesn't drive as sporty as it looks.

While testing the hybrid, braking leaves much to desire. When the brake pedal is first pressed, the car does not slow down quickly enough. This forces the driver to press harder on the brakes. Perhaps Toyota has over-boosted the system with its regenerative braking technology. The result is an almost screeching halt (if it were not for the ABS).

The opposite is true when using the Hybrid’s accelerator. The car never seems to deliver enough power when starting from a standstill. The driver is then required to give it a little more gas, resulting in a somewhat jarring acceleration. The four-cylinder, 2.5-liter engine on the Hybrid never over delivers as it can only dish out 200 horsepower (and weighs about 100 pounds more than the XLE V6).

When driving in the gear lever's B Mode, the hybrid immediately starts to brake as soon as you lift off the accelerator. You can hear a whirring sound as it jars once again.

In the XLE V6, the sedan brakes normally, with just enough feel to smoothly inch along in bumper-to-bumper traffic. As things open up on the highway, the 268 horsepower 3.5-liter engine comes alive. While the hybrid feels asthmatic at times, the XLE feels like a four-door rocket. Acceleration is quick and precise, doling out plenty of confidence. Score for the XLE V6.

Fuel Economy & Cargo

If it were not for the excellent gas mileage on the Hybrid SE (40 mpg city, 38 highway, and 40 combined), it would concede full points to the XLE V6 (21 mpg city, 31 highway and 25 combined) as it has more than 2-cubic feet less of storage area in the trunk. With 13.1-cubic feet of cargo room in the Hybrid, its batteries ― which power the 149 kW electric motor ― eat up space in a trunk that is 15.4-cubic feet on combustible models. We’ll call this category a draw.

Price and Summary

Neither of these vehicles is as affordable as previous Camry models. Both the XLE V6 and Hybrid SE have a similar manufacturer suggested sale price: $31,370 and $31,110, respectively. In order to get the 7-inch Entune infotainment system, expect to pay about $800 extra on the XLE V6, and $1,300 on the Hybrid SE. Those prices are before an $825 destination fee. Score for the XLE V6 on price.

So, if you’ve been keeping score, it looks like the XLE V6 squeaks out a win, right? Wrong. While we’re not in the business of recommending what vehicle you should purchase, we know there are several more from other brands you should consider to make an informed decision. For example, the 2015 Hyundai Sonata 2.0 Sport and Kia Optima SX sedans have lower MSRPs than the XLE V6 and get better fuel economy.

To compare other cars you might consider, check out NADAguides.com and use their Compare Cars tool. You can even find out how warranties, purchase incentives and the total cost of ownership for each model stack up.