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,000 - ,000 Hybrid Mid-Size Sedan
Who should buy this car:
Someone who wants a stylish, roomy, reliable and comfortable sedan with great gas mileage and still remain socially conscious.
Comparable models in this class:
Honda Accord Hybrid
2007 Toyota Camry Hybrid Road Test
There I was, stuck in traffic again, a situation that occurs almost every weekday in urban areas if one needs to venture out during the morning or evening rush hours.
The holdup on this occasion wasnt any less time-consuming than any other, but I felt a little better about it. At least, I wasnt idling away my expensive gasoline while listening to a news station telling me about the thousands of commuters who also were going nowhere fast.
Thats because I was behind the wheel of the all-new 2007 Toyota Camry Hybrid sedan. If you have been paying attention to the emerging technology, you already are aware that power is supplied by a gasoline engine working in combination with an electric motor.
The engine shuts off automatically whenever the car comes to a halt in traffic or at a signal. When the driver moves the right foot from the brake to the accelerator the Camry will generally accelerate to about 15 mph under electric power alone before the gasoline engine kicks in automatically.
One thing that separates the new Camry from previous hybrids is its ability, under certain circumstances, to travel for extended distances using only the electric motor. At one point in my travels, the gasoline engine was off for more than a mile as I cruised along a nearly level stretch of 25-mph asphalt.
There is no inconvenience to the passengers when the gasoline engine is off because the climate control and sound systems continue to operate uninterrupted on electricity supplied by the vehicles high-powered battery pack.
As I looked at the long line of cars in front of me and a longer line in the rear-view mirror, an interesting thought crossed my mind. What if all cars could do just that one thing shut off at traffic stops?
Think how many millions of gallons of gasoline would not be used each day, how many tons of pollution would not be shot out the tailpipe and into the atmosphere. Its mind boggling.
Of course, thats just one way this new Camry and other hybrids differ from their gasoline-engine-only counterparts. For starters, lets take a look at Toyotas Hybrid Synergy Drive and how it is used in the redesigned 2007 Camry.
The 2.4-liter gasoline engine is similar to the entry-level powerplant in the base model Camry, but it has been modified to run on the less powerful, but more fuel-efficient Atkinson cycle. It generates 147 horsepower, compared to 158 in the standard gasoline.
However, a 40-horsepower electric motor is on hand to give an assist as needed and that raises net horsepower to 187, nearly the output of the 3.3-liter V-6 engine in the 2006 Toyota Camry.
To maximize efficiency, a continuously variable automatic transmission is used to transfer the powerplants output to the Camrys front driving wheels.
As is the case with Toyotas other hybrid vehicles, the car uses regenerative braking to help replenish the powerful nickel-metal hydride battery pack. Heres how it works: When the Camry is coasting or under braking, the gasoline engine shuts off (saving fuel and eliminating pollution) and the vehicles electric motor reverses itself to become a generator which produces electricity that recharges the batteries. If the power demand is high, the gasoline engine will also automatically divert some of its power from moving the car to generating electricity.
While hybrid power can be an important first step toward reducing reliance on fossil fuels, it has not yet gained a significant foothold in the U.S. marketplace. Toyota, the No. 1 seller of hybrid vehicles, has chosen to install it in the Camry, best-selling car in the United States, in the hopes it will attract more mainstream consumers.
As of now, consumers still worry about reliability, driveability and cost. That is why I have chosen a question-and-answer format to describe what I have learned about hybrids through my experience with the new Camry.
Will it really save buyers money?This is a tough one to answer because there are many variables vehicle options, driving style, annual usage, depreciation, maintenance costs.
For the sake of the discussion, well discount depreciation and maintenance because all Toyotas, including hybrids, hold their value well and seldom have significant repair problems.
Lets consider cost: The hybrid Camry, with a base price of ,900, costs approximately ,200 to ,500 more than a comparably equipped conventional Camry. As of Oct. 1, the Internal Revenue Service has authorized a ,300 tax credit for the Camry Hybrid, so that should just about even the score. However, as of April 1, 2007, that credit will be reduced to 0. The credit, if any, will be revised again as of Oct. 1, 2007. It would seem that initial cost is not much of a factor now for folks who are planning to buy a well equipped car. But, that doesnt take into consideration buyers who want a Camry with a four-cylinder engine, manual transmission and no options. The price of that Camry CE is ,270, a full ,630 less than the hybrid. The slightly better equipped Toyota Camry LE with automatic transmission, has a base price of just ,500. It would take a whole lot of driving to overcome those differences just from the hybrids expected fuel savings.
But, does the Camry Hybrid really get better gas mileage? Yes. The EPA estimates the hybrids mileage at 40 miles per gallon around town and 38 on the highway. Both of those figures were reasonably close to the 37 mpg I averaged on the open road and the 38 mpg I averaged in normal urban traffic. However, the hybrids mileage slipped to 30 mpg in the hilly, traffic-clogged roads around my home. The four-cylinder Camry LE with automatic transmission is EPA-rated at 24 mpg city/33 mpg highway. I did not drive this model, but experience tells me that the in-town figure will generally be hard to match but the highway mileage will come close for most drivers. Of course, all of those figures will drop significantly if the cars are subjected to repeated cold-weather starts, or if the driver is an unrepentant lead foot. To see how the increased fuel efficiency would affect you, youll need to determine how far you drive a year, how much gasoline costs per gallon and then do the math.
How does the Camry Hybrid drive? Lets face it, nimble, agile, responsive and captivating are not the words to describe this Camry (or any other). But, then again, nor are anemic, lumbering, plodding or lackadaisical. Were talking about a mainstream family sedan, and the Camry behaves pretty much like the rest of the pack. It handles competently, has sufficient acceleration, stops well, rides comfortably except when it encounters potholes and other road acne, and will cruise quietly at legal speeds and above. If you are looking for excitement, look elsewhere. If youre looking for practicality, this might just be the right car.
Are there any automatic disadvantages? For one, the trunk is small by family-car standards. Because of the battery pack, cargo space shrinks from 15 to 10.4 cubic feet. Also, its shape will not accept a lot of odd-shaped packages. A split, fold-down rear seatback offsets the cargo limitation if the driver is traveling with only one companion. The battery intrusion also reduces gas tank capacity from 18.5 to 17.2 gallons. Finally, the continuously variable transmission, with its infinite number of gear ratios, emits a raucous sound under full acceleration.
On the outside, the Camry Hybrid looks pretty much like the rest of the redesigned Camry family not stunning but a big improvement over the last generation. About the only things that set it apart are a couple of hybrid badges, a silver grille with chrome-plated molding and different taillight lenses.
Oh, yes, the paint. Lets not forget the paint The car I tested announced its greenness in a color officially known as jasper pearl. Think of a slightly under-ripe Granny Smith apple that has been growing next to a nuclear powerplant. Surprisingly, to me, it got a lot of compliments. However, I have not seen it on any other Camrys.
Inside, the instrumentation is considerably different to allow the driver to observe the interaction of the gasoline engine and electric motor. Also, the tachometer is replaced by an instant fuel-mileage monitor.
Safety features, basically the same in all Camrys, include all-wheel antilock disc brakes, front and side-mounted airbags for front-seat passengers, front and rear side-curtain airbags and drivers knee airbag.
Standard equipment includes dual-zone climate control; 440-watt, eight-speaker sound system; smart key system which allows the operator to start, stop, lock and unlock the car without taking the key out of pocket or purse; cruise control; and power windows, doors and drivers seat
Options included on the test car were a voice-activated navigation system (,200) carpeted mats (9) and heated power outside mirrors (). Add the 0 delivery charge and the total is ,909.
Will Toyotas Camry, best selling car in the United States for most of the last decade, bring more buyers into the hybrid fold? That could very well be the case with people who put practicality at the top of their shopping list.