THREE months ago Toyota boss Akio Toyoda promised to put the fun factor back into future models and the latest Camry Hybrid has fulfilled that.
It's a ripper, with a whopping 151kW under its bonnet, tuned suspension, top economy, extra features, improved safety and refinement – and a lower price.
The Australian-built sedan is also the first hybrid to boast towing ability, its battery will last the life of the vehicle and it has a bigger boot and interior.
Camry Hybrid comes in two hi-spec models, the H (for hybrid) and HL (luxury), and can be identified by a chromed grille with a blue-ringed badge, blue accents on the headlights and alloy wheels.
Prices start at $34,990, which is $2000 cheaper than last year's model, and the HL is $41,490.
It's $1500 more than the one it replaces, but gets $4500 worth of additional gear.
Both cars have a new, belt-free, Atkinson-cycle, 2.5-litre petrol engine, a tad up on the earlier 2.4-litre. It produces 118kW and 213Nm and is backed by a 105kW/270Nm650v electric motor.
The combined effect is 151kW with an undisclosed, but substantial, torque figure.
The 2.4's combined power was 140kW.
Electric motors now power all previously belt-driven components and there are subtle aerodynamic improvements that help the car achieve a very impressive 0.27 drag factor.
Paired with the CVT, fuel use is down to an average 5.2litres/100km, which is better than most diesel rivals.
The car also has a new EV Drive system, which lets it run on electric power alone for a couple of kilometres at up to about 45km/h. Handy for coming up the driveway after midnight.
The suspension has been given a thorough going-over by Toyota Technical Centre and the car now has a flat ride, more comfort and stability, and excellent road manners.
Inside, both cars feature the clear three-dial Optitron dash panel, with a six-speaker audio system and a 6.1-inch touch-screen display, an eco driving indicator, dual-zone auto climate control aircon, smart entry wireless door lock, smart start, acoustic windscreen and a reversing camera.
A hybrid system indicator in the multi-info display shows energy flow and cruising range.
The classy finishes include brushed silver inserts and switches, attractive stitching and soft-touch padding.
Spacewise, repositioning of the battery has freed up more space in the boot, which will now hold 421 litres, up from 389. And new seat design and door trims have given greater comfort and extra space in the back.
If ever there was a Camry to shed its 'whitegoods' image, it's the new Hybrid.
It's the new flagship of the range – and the sportiest.
It quietly zooms to 100km/h in 8.0 seconds, about a second quicker than the outgoing model and has the handling qualities of a sports saloon.
We swished through Tasmania's winding Tamar Valley with aplomb and marvelled at the car's agility, a word not normally attributed to a Camry.
The electro steering was a tad light, but gave good feedback and increased body rigidity, and low-rolling resistance tyres added to the handling benefits.
The car's finish has also been lifted, with shutlines of 3 to 3.5mm, as opposed to the previous 5mm, making it comparable to a Lexus in that regard.
It's also commendably quiet inside, thanks to the acoustic glass windscreen and other noise-absorbing materials.
Australia is the only country that expects its family sedans to be able to tow things, so Toyota has put a 300kg capacity on Camry Hybrid.
The seven-airbag cars have a five-star safety rating, all the electronic driving aids, hill-start assist and powered driver's seat.
The HL gets 17-inch alloys, front foglights, rear lip spoiler, more chrome, leather accents and premium door trims, premium steering wheel, electro-chromatic rear-view mirror and a rear electric sunshade.
The audio system is upgraded to a JBL 10-speaker system with a seven-inch display, Satnav live traffic updates and digital radio.
The reversing camera has a back-guide monitor and there's blind-spot monitoring and automatic high beam.
Verdict: Yes, please!