2023 Toyota Camry SE Hybrid Nightshade

In a world of pickups and
SUVs, Camry remains the
top-selling family sedan

By Jim Prueter

(January 1, 2023) Last year, the Toyota Camry became available in the Nightshade Edition offered with the hybrid powertrain. Nightshade is a trim only package that includes a black front sport mesh grille borrowed from the Camry TRD trim level. There’s also Bi-LED headlamps with black surround along with the same feature on the LED taillamps along with black trimmed exterior pieces like badges, mirror caps and a slim rear deck spoiler to complete the black theme. 

Nightshade is offered in three paint options, White, Midnight bBack and our test Camry in Reservoir Blue a new color for 2023. Bronze colored 19-inch wheels are also part of the package and larger than the black 18-inch wheels they replaced from last years model. We found the bronze wheels crudely ornate and garishly ornamental at best. It isn’t for everyone.

Camry is part of the growing family of seven different Nightshade models and Toyota says there are more on the way adding to the C-HR, Corolla, Corolla Hatchback, Prius, Tacoma and Venza.

For Camry, Nightshade is now the 18th distinct trim/powertrain combination with total sales of around 300,000 each year. Camry has been the best-selling passenger car in the U.S. for decades and unlike Ford, Chevrolet and Chrysler, Toyota has no intentions of killing off the sedan.

The 2023 Nightshade is available on the sportier SE trim grade in either front-wheel or all-wheel-drive for the gas-powered models as well as a hybrid (tested here) as front-wheel-drive only. The hybrid is powered by a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine rated at 208 horsepower and paired with a Continuously Variable automatic transmission. During my week of testing, I averaged an impressive 42.3 miles per gallon of combined city and highway driving. The EPA fuel economy average tested at 46 miles per gallon average.

While certainly not a sports sedan, we thought engine power was both adequate and acceptable with sufficient acceleration getting up to interstate speeds from the on ramp and when passing on two-lane highways. Handling with the SE trim level affords a bit firmer suspension and the SE sits lower than your standard issue Camry. The 19-inch tire and wheel combination also added to the better-than-expected handling but know that the Camry is much closer to a rental car feel than a sports sedan. Overall, our Camry tester hammocks somewhere between ho and hum.

Still, we felt the SE delivered exactly what we expected, and most Toyota loyalists will be pleased with what it delivers on the road. Where the Camry needs work is in road isolation, which was also an issue for the previous generation. Camry needs more sound-deadening material since there is a decent amount of road noise and vibration that still filters in.

Inside, the cabin lacks inspiration. Seating material was Toyota’s SofTex vinyl with an unusual looking striped cloth insert accent. There’s more than adequate room and seat adjustments for up-front occupants. Driver’s seat is power with a manual adjusting lumbar support, passengers is manually operated. Seats were generally comfortable but heated seats are not a choice at this trim level and that alone might be a deal breaker for those especially in colder climes.

The SE sets in the middle of the Camry trim offering lineup ranging from the base LE model all the way up to the nicely equipped XSE V6. The SE results in a vehicle that comes with most of the equipment new car buyers find necessary including power windows, seats and mirrors, dual zone automatic climate control, pushbutton start with a smart key system, infotainment system that includes SiriusXM, Android Auto & Apple CarPlay, hands-free Bluetooth Phone/Music all operated via a 7-inch touchscreen and 6 speakers, USB media port and 2 USB charge ports.

Standard drivers assist and safety features includes Toyota’s Safety Sense 2.5+ that includes pre-collision system with pedestrian detection and intersection support, road sign assist, dynamic radar cruise control (LE and SE gas grades), full-speed range dynamic radar cruise control, lane keeping technology with lane departure alert and steering assist, lane tracing assist and sway warning system and automatic high beams.

All 2023 Camry models have 10 standard airbags and Toyota’s Star Safety System, which includes enhanced vehicle stability control, traction control, electronic brake-force distribution, brake assist, anti-lock braking, and smart stop technology. All come equipped with a standard backup camera. There’s also a rear seat reminder that detects whether a rear door was opened within 10 minutes of the vehicle being turned on, or at any time after the vehicle has been turned on. If so, it flashes a reminder message in the instrument cluster after the engine is turned off, accompanied by multi-tone chimes.

Overall, there’s been eight generations of the Toyota Camry (the current version debuted for the 2018 model year), and sales reman just as strong as ever. Camry is a reliable, commuter and family friendly vehicle. There’s stiff and competent competition in Camry’s class like the excellent driving and class leading vehicle technology Honda Accord, smartly designed Hyundai Sonata and Kia K5.

We concluded that the 2023 Toyota Camry neither thrills nor offends nor will anyone follow you home to ask what it is you’re driving. But it is easy to live with, rarely breaks, has an excellent resale value and won’t knock your socks off with sticker shock. It’s easy to see why they sell so many of them. For what it’s worth, an all-new Toyota Camry is due for the 2024 model year.

Vital Stats

Base Price: $29,615
Price as Tested: $32,839
Engine/Transmission: 2.5-liter 208 horsepower 4-cylinder with Toyota’s hybrid synergy drive system, paired with a CVT automatic transmission.
EPA Fuel Economy: 44/47/47 MPG City/Highway/Combined
Seating: 5

Crash Rest Safety Ratings: Highest possible overall 5 star from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Where Built: Georgetown, Kentucky

Competes With:
Chevrolet Malibu
Honda Accord
Hyundai Sonata
Kia K5
Nissan Altima
Subaru Legacy
Volkswagen Passat

Excellent fuel economy
High resale value and reliability scores
Standard driver assist/safety features and crash test scores

Noisy cabin
Bronze colored wheels on Nightshade Edition
Ho-hum driving experience