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The current iteration of the Toyota Camry has been around since 2018 and not much has changed for the 2021 model year, save for a new trim level: the XSE Hybrid. I get to spend a week in the 2021 Toyota Camry XSE Hybrid and so far, I’m thoroughly impressed. In fact, I’m having a really hard time finding anything wrong with it.

The 2021 Toyota Camry Hybrid XSE is a hodgepodge of trim levels

A 2021 Toyota Camry Hybrid XSE in silver sitting in front a nice futuristic building.
2021 Toyota Camry Hybrid XSE | Toyota

What do you get when you combine the sporty and aggressive look of the gas-powered Camry XSE with the fuel-efficient powertrain of the Camry Hybrid? You get the 2021 Camry XSE Hybrid. It’s a pretty simple formula that works oddly well together, like fried chicken and waffles.

Just like eating that unique culinary combination for the first time, I wasn’t sure what to think about the Camry XSE Hybrid, until I took a minute to let it soak in. On the outside of the car, Toyota tacked on a set of black 19-inch wheels, a black front grille, black-trimmed head and taillights, and a single exhaust with dual chrome tips for a sportier look. The Japanese automaker even threw on a sport-tuned suspension for slightly better handling.

Under the hood lies the Camry Hybrid’s standard powertrain, which consists of a 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine mated to an electric motor and matched to a CVT. Altogether, the combination is good for 208 hp and up to an EPA-estimated 46 mpg in combined driving. It’s an interesting combination of trim levels, but I realized that it just works. With the XSE Hybrid trim, you’ll get a sporty-looking Camry that doesn’t look boring but gets better fuel economy than its gas counterparts. It’s the best of both worlds.

How does this unique Camry drive?

A close up shot of a 2021 Toyota Camry Hybrid XSE black 19-inch wheel
2021 Toyota Camry Hybrid XSE | Toyota

Like a Camry. More specifically, despite the Camry XSE’s sportier suspension, it still soaks up bumps and imperfections well when cruising around, but it can also handle sharp turns really well. This might not mean much for most people shopping for a hybrid sedan, but if you’re the type that doesn’t want to lose their sense of uniqueness (or sanity) when driving a sedate sedan like a Camry, then the XSE treatment is for you.

As far as the power goes, the hybrid powertrain is really smooth off the line and the switch between the electric motor and gas engine is seamless. Getting onto the freeway is pretty easy as there’s plenty of mid-range torque to help the car along, but you can expect a little lag when getting the CVT to kick up the RPMs. Otherwise, I found that the powertrain was more than sufficient for going up hills and getting the car going, even at a mile-high elevation.

It’s hard to find anything wrong with the Camry XSE Hybrid

a black interior on the 2021 Toyota Camry Hybrid XSE
2021 Toyota Camry Hybrid XSE | Toyota

Is the Toyota Camry Hybrid a Reliable Car?

From what I have experienced with the 2021 Camry XSE Hybrid thus far, I must say that it’s hard to find anything wrong with it. My tester came with the Driver Assist package, which includes features like ventilated front seats, a head-up display, and a bird’s eye view camera. It also came equipped with the Navigation package that includes a 9-inch touchscreen infotainment system, a JBL premium audio system, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. Needless to say, it has everything that I would want in a mid-size sedan. 

The only thing that the Camry XSE Hybrid doesn’t have is an all-wheel-drivetrain, but that can always be rectified with a good set of winter tires if you live in a snow state. Otherwise, I can’t say that there’s anything “wrong” with this version of the Camry since Toyota dialed in the sportiness that any prospective Camry owner would want and mixed it with the hybrid efficiency that just about every driver needs.

Just like chicken and waffles, the 2021 Toyota Camry XSE Hybrid is a unique combination that sounds weird at first, but soon enough, you’ll find that it just works so well.