Auto review: The new Camry Hybrid

By Bill Heald - ReminderNews
Featured Article - posted Thu., Aug. 2, 2012
- Contributed Photo

Toyota has done a lot of creative engineering to ultimately make themselves one of the most innovative auto manufacturers in the world. Chief among these advancements has been hybrid technology, where an electric motor works in concert with a gasoline engine to both increase fuel economy and lower exhaust emissions. This started (in the U.S. market) with the introduction of the Prius sedan in 2000, and hybrid technology as an available drivetrain has expanded to a number of models, including the extremely popular Camry midsize sedan.

The Camry line is extensively redesigned for 2012, and offers Four Cylinder, V6 and Hybrid models. All Camrys are improved over their already impressive previous versions; especially the Hybrid tested this week, as it boasts improved refinement, comfort and a whopping 30+ percent increase in EPA fuel economy ratings. It does this while increasing performance, too, making it a smart choice for an all-around family sedan.

The new Camry Hybrid is powered by a revised version of Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive, consisting of a new 2.5-liter Inline Four engine combined with a 105 kW electric motor that’s fed by a nickel-metal-hydride battery pack. As is Hybrid Synergy Drive practice, depending on conditions, the car runs off the engine, the engine and the electric motor together, or the electric motor alone. Electricity powers the water pump, air conditioning compressor and power steering, among other things, so the engine has to run as little as possible, especially in heavy traffic. With a total system output of 200 horsepower, the Camry Hybrid accelerates briskly and the changing engine/electric motor integration takes place in very smooth fashion. Ride quality (as with all ’12 Camrys) is firmer compared with the past, and ultimately delivers better control without harshness. The steering is a bit light, but the turning radius is a tight 36.7 feet. Braking performance was excellent, and the transition to regenerative braking (when the electric motor switches to a generator mode during coasting and braking to recharge the battery pack) is smoother than ever.

The renewed interior of the Camry Hybrid is spacious, quiet and well-finished, especially when dressed with the optional Leather Package, which includes Ultrasuede seats. The driver gets clear, concise instrumentation and a trip computer that allows you to keep tabs on what the hybrid system is up to if you desire. Room is plentiful and the rear seat is especially commodious, with big doors making access easy, even for those with limited mobility. The optional HDD Navigation system includes a very crisp display and integration with a premium JBL sound system with Toyota’s Entune telemetrics (voice recognition, customized text recognition, music streaming, you name it). Clearly, this latest Hybrid from Toyota is cutting edge in every way, yet the company is smart enough to make the car familiar and easy to manage right off the bat.

The 2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid is EPA rated 40 MPG city/38 highway and we experienced 42.9 MPG in our week with the vehicle. Loaded with options, our sticker came to $34,598.


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