Toyota’s family sedan gets a little greener
To some, hybrid gas/electric vehicles might seem a bad idea. Why pay thousands of dollars extra for a car with brand new technology?
And if we drive more hybrids, fill up less often and pay less in gasoline taxes, will the state of public transit go down? Will transit fares skyrocket? Will the economy fail?
Well, no. Still, the price of hybrids is falling and the technology keeps getting better.
The new Camry Hybrid, Toyota’s first family-sized hybrid sedan, has a base price of $31,900, nearly six grand more than the base Camry LE.
For the premium you get a bunch of extra features, but you’re really paying for the electric motor and Hybrid Synergy Drive system — basically technology that controls when the gasoline motor works, when the electric motor works or when they both work together.
A traditional 4-cylinder, 2.4-litre gasoline engine and electric motor are mated to produce 187 hp. They work in harmony, seamlessly switching on or off to get the car moving along gently or briskly. Don’t think this is a slow car because electricity is involved, it’s actually rabbit quick.
Power goes to the front wheels through a continuously variable transmission (CVT). Acceleration sounds constant, much like a go-kart or a snowmobile that doesn’t have gears. But this fuel-saving transmission isn’t perfect. Sometimes, while highway cruising, the drivetrain would resonate, feeling like a manual transmission lugging in too high a gear. Not very noticeable but still out of the ordinary.
The brakes also produce a mild whine as you slow the car. While this is normal, pedal feel isn’t — feeling dead underfoot as the system converts kinetic energy into electricity for battery storage.
The battery occupies a large part of the trunk area, leaving less room for luggage.
But there’s more than enough living room inside. The cabin is roomy and spacious, especially in the back. Everything feels well made and well constructed. The JBL audio system with MP3 player and 6-disc CD changer in the dash sounds stunning — it’s hard to get bored when you can bring almost 1,200 songs with you on the road.
The stereo can integrate with any Bluetooth phone for hands-free operation.
On the road the steering is well weighted, feeling light in parking lots and firming up at higher speeds for maximum stability. The suspension absorbs bumps and potholes well, making for a comfy ride.
Official government data suggests the Camry Hybrid will use 5.7 L/100 km in combined city/highway driving. Our tester achieved an overall average of 6.3 L/100 km, with 80 per cent highway driving.
Not as impressive, but still exceptionally good for a family sedan. And we did manage to suck out 930 km from a full tank — now that’s impressive.
Toyota Camry Hybrid