2007 Toyota Camry HybridPosted on July 20th, 2007
Toyota’s best-selling midsize sedan goes green
By Nina Russin
For years, the mid-sized Toyota Camry has been the go-to car for families seeking reliable, affordable transportation. The newest Camry, that debuts this year, adds a twist: availability of the same hybrid technology used in the Prius hatchback.
However unlike the Prius, engineers focused on improved performance, particularly acceleration, by using the electric motor to enhance the Camry’s low-end torque. The four-cylinder engine in the hybrid, paired up with an electric motor, has similar power and performance to the 3.5-liter V6, with about thirty percent better fuel economy.
While previous generations have been compared to the perfect breadbox, the newest Camry is a spirited performer, able to hold its own in the race from the entrance ramp to the left lane of the freeway.
Pretty enough for Ojai, but tough enough for Phoenix
I first drove the Camry hybrid last fall on the two-lane rural roads around Ojai, California. Those roads did a good job of showcasing the car’s nimble steering and refined suspension, which held the tight turns through the canyons.
The 2007 models ride on bigger wheels and tires than the models they replace: the larger footprint translates to better traction and improved cornering. Engineers balanced off the package with larger disc brakes and a refined, independent suspension. While the new car rides on a longer wheelbase, engineers shortened the front and rear overhangs to reduce the car’s turning radius.
Because the electric motor develops maximum torque at very low speeds, the hybrid has exceptional acceleration, which is most obvious climbing hills and merging into high speed traffic. Fuel economy is 43 miles-per-gallon in the city, and 37 on the highway, as opposed to the 22/31 mile-per-gallon ratings for the V6.
The fuel economy improvement is greatest for those who commute through urban traffic, since the gas engine shuts off when the vehicle is idling. Heat from the brakes is used to recharge the vehicle’s nickel-metal hydride battery.
Driving a car on rural roads for an hour is one thing: living in it for a week is another. I got back into the Camry in the middle of a particularly hot Phoenix summer.
While summer used to be the time when Phoenix snowbirds flew the coop, the city’s year round population has made traffic a year-round problem. In the summer, the combination of congestion and scorching heat tests everybody’s patience.
One of the things I love best about Toyota’s hybrid cars is that the air conditioning compressor is electrically controlled, so it works with the gas engine turned off. It doesn’t take long for heat inside a car to build up when the ambient temperature is 118 degrees. That’s why some hybrids don’t work here. The minute the car pulls up to a traffic light, the passenger compartment turns into an oven.
The Camry’s cockpit maintains a constant temperature no matter how hot the sun is, or how long the car is stuck idling in rush-hour traffic.
While the Camry’s styling is still conservative, it’s new exterior is more elegant than it is plain vanilla. A sweeping front grille rides between two long, swoopy headlamps. The profile is low and lean Although the car is still geared towards value-conscious customers, designers have given them the impression of luxury, inside and out.
A more spacious, versatile interior.
The Camry’s interior seems almost as spacious as the larger Toyota Avalon. The front seats are comfortable and ergonomic. They incorporate the same whiplash lessening design as the seats in the Toyota Prius.
Designers pushed the cowl forward to increase the size if the windshield. It adds to the air of spaciousness to the interior. The instrument panel wraps around the driver and front passenger.
All models come with a tilt and telescoping steering wheel to make it easier for drivers of all sizes to feel comfortable. The center console incorporates a large storage console and good-sized cupholders.
The temperature controls on the hybrid model allow the driver and front passenger to have separate settings. Temperature and audio controls are easy to reach from both front seating positions. An optional navigational system adds an upgraded audio system that is Bluetooth compatible.
The rear seats comfortably accommodate two adults, with plenty of shoulder, hip and legroom. The seats fold flat to increase the cargo floor length, making it large enough to hold a bicycle. While sedans aren’t as practical as station wagons and sport-utility vehicles for those who regularly haul large cargo, the Camry’s pass-through is uncomplicated and easy to use.
The hybrid comes full-loaded with safety features, including antilock brakes, front, side and side curtain airbags. Daytime running lamps are a handy feature for those who live in climates with poor winter light. Other standard features include a tire pressure monitoring system and heated side mirrors. The integrated vehicle dynamics management maintains directional control through the use of traction and stability control.
A new sweet spot in the Toyota lineup
The Camry hybrid is a reminder for those of us that get nostalgic for simpler times that technology, in the right hands, can dramatically improve our quality of life. Who would have dreamed of a car forty years ago that could go faster, and transport us more comfortably, using less fuel, and requiring no more maintenance than a traditional gas engine?
The newest generation of Camrys are more stylish, more luxurious and perform better than the models they replaced. They’re not just a variation on an overplayed theme.
Toyota’s hybrid synergy drive, continues to set the industry standard for efficiency and performance. The new hybrid is not your father’s Camry and that’s a good thing. Your father would have been jealous.
The Camry hybrid is one of four available grades for 2007. Models include four and six-cylinder versions of the sedan: a sporty SE grade features specially tuned suspension and a lower center of gravity for enhanced handling at speed. All four models are currently available for test drives at area Toyota dealerships.
Likes: Exceptional low-end power and fuel economy, stylish exterior, comfortable and ergonomic interior.
Dislikes: Buyers pay about a $1500 premium for the hybrid model. Base price is $25,900, as opposed to $24,315 for the SE V6.
Base price: $25,900
Price as tested: $26,709
Horsepower: 147 Hp @ 6000 r.p.m.*
Torque: 137 lbs.-ft. @ 4,000 r.p.m.*
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: No
Bicycle friendly: No
Fuel economy: 40/38 m.p.g. city/highway
Comments: Horsepower and torque ratings are for the gas engine only. Toyota estimates net horsepower for the gas and electric motor combined at 192. Torque for the electric motor is 203 lbs.-ft. @ 1500 r.p.m. Base price does not include a $580 destination and delivery fee.
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