2011 Toyota Camry HybridPosted on February 15th, 2011
Prius technology in a family sedan
By Nina Russin
Shibui is a Japanese adjective used to describe objects with simple, unobtrusive elegance. The term might be used to describe a handmade teacup, or perhaps a mass-produced Toyota Camry.
The Camry has never been the flashiest car on the road, nor the most expensive. Its long-lived popularity stems from reliability. Toyota’s midsized sedan is the Zen master of the automotive world, going about its daily tasks with an endearing lack of presumption.
Buyers who want to leave a better world for their children will find even more to love in the Camry Hybrid. Toyota uses the same hybrid synergy drive system found in the Prius to shrink the Camry’s environmental footprint. Average fuel economy for the Camry Hybrid is 33 miles per gallon. The four and six-cylinder gasoline Camrys average 26 and 23 miles-per-gallon respectively.
Base price for the Camry Hybrid is $26,400, not including a $750 destination fee. The hybrid sedan is considerably more expensive than the base four-cylinder model, which starts at $19,720. Product planners equip the Camry Hybrid with similar comfort and convenience features to a mid-grade gasoline model.
Options on the 2011 test car include leather upholstery ($1295), heated front seats and outside mirrors ($470), front fog lamps ($130) a carpeting and trunk mat set ($200), rear bumper appliqué ($69) and fancier door sills ($179). A navigation package also adds 16-inch alloy wheels, an audio upgrade with satellite radio, USB port, iPod and Bluetooth connectivity, and an integrated backup camera ($2960), bringing the price as tested to $32,453.
Test drive in Phoenix, Arizona
The Camry Hybrid’s premium price offsets any cost benefits resulting from fuel economy gains. None-the-less, gas mileage is one of the car’s major selling points. In my test drive, I wanted to gauge how accurate the EPA estimate was under real-world conditions.
I drove the car as I would any other, occasionally using the air conditioning and other accessories. The 130-mile drive route included surface streets, highways in the Phoenix metropolitan area and a rural road outside of town. Average fuel economy was about 37 miles-per-gallon: two miles-per-gallon better than the EPA’s figure for highway driving.
The other advantage hybrids have over naturally aspirated gasoline cars is better performance at altitude. Since electric motors don’t require oxygen to run, there is less parasitic power loss at altitude. As a result, the four-cylinder engine in the Camry Hybrid has similar power and performance in climbing situations to a six cylinder engine in a conventional gasoline model.
While the Camry Hybrid can’t match the Toyota Prius’ gas mileage, its larger interior makes the sedan more practical for some buyers. Legroom in the second row is significantly better.
The conventional rear glass in the Camry offers better visibility than the two-piece rear glass in the Prius. While it can be difficult to back out of a parking spot in the Prius without a backup camera, doing so is quite easy in the Camry. The same is true for parallel parking.
Handling and performance is similar to the six-cylinder Camry, thanks to the electric motors. The Camry Hybrid doesn’t feel as nose-heavy as other Toyota hybrid models. It seems about as balanced as a front-wheel drive car can be.
Visibility around the perimeter is good. The rear glass is reasonably large, and the B pillars are narrow enough to not obstruct the driver’s view.
The electric power steering system seems well tuned to the chassis, handling very much like a conventional hydraulic setup. Hybrid cars must have electric steering because hydraulic systems won’t function when the gasoline engine isn’t operating.
The electric power steering system has the additional advantage of being lighter and smaller. Fewer mechanical parts save the driver some maintenance procedures during the life of the car.
Because electric motors develop peak torque at very low speeds, acceleration off-the line, and in the 20-to-50 mile-per-hour range, is excellent. Drivers will be pleasantly surprised jockeying out of the toll booth, and merging into high-speed traffic off an entrance ramp.
The four-wheel independent suspension is on the soft side, as it is for all of the Camry models. While I would prefer a stiffer setup on winding rural roads in Phoenix, the compliant ride is a boon for residents of the upper Midwest, who drive on streets with many more potholes.
Four-wheel disc brakes with four-channel antilock braking stop the sedan in a firm, linear fashion.
The Camry Hybrid comes standard with keyless entry and start, saving drivers the inconvenience of fishing for the key fob in a purse or pocket. For drivers who enter their cars at night in congested urban areas, the feature adds a measure of safety.
Toyota engineers excel at interior quiet. Passengers in both rows of the Camry will have no problems conversing on the highway.
I found the power adjustments on the driver’s seat easy to use, with plenty of lower lumbar support. Both the gauge cluster and central navigation screen are easy to read in a variety of lighting conditions. A fuel meter in the gauge cluster helps the driver to coach himself on the most fuel-efficient method of driving.
Redundant audio, Bluetooth and information display controls on the steering wheel minimize driver distraction. The digital information display in the gauge cluster includes driving range, real-time and average fuel economy, ambient temperature, and a mileage meter which zeros out each time the driver turns the ignition off.
Controls for the audio and dual-zone climate controls are logically arranged and easy to use. Power ports are within easy reach of both the driver and front seat passenger. Vents behind the center console circulate air through the back of the cabin.
Because it has a low floor tunnel, the Camry can seat three passengers in the second row.
The rear seats fold flat in a 60/40 pattern to extend the cargo floor for longer items. The Camry trunk is large enough for the weekly groceries, luggage, golf bags, and with the seats folded flat, skis and snowboards. Cyclists will be better served with the Toyota Highlander Hybrid.
The Toyota Camry Hybrid comes standard with front, side, side curtain and driver’s knee airbag, antilock brakes, stability and traction control. Toyota builds the Camry Hybrid at its Georgetown, Kentucky assembly plant.
Likes: A green version of the Camry which will appeal to buyers who want to minimize the car’s environmental footprint.
Model: Camry Hybrid
Base price: $26,400
As tested: $32,453
Horsepower: 147 Hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque: 138 lbs.-ft. @ 4400 rpm
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: No
Fuel economy: 31/35 mpg city/highway
Comment: Toyota recommends 91 octane fuel for best performance.
3 responses to “2011 Toyota Camry Hybrid”
I own a 2009 red camry hybrid with 172,000 miles.
I enjoy the comfortable ride when I am cruising in Wisconsin and the Best of the Upper Midwest.
Thank you for this brilliant article. It is perhaps the best treatment of the subject I have ever read.
Hybrid cars are fricking awesome, saving up for one, so excited.
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