2009 Toyota Camry Hybrid
The Toyota Camry
has been one of America’s favorite four-door family cars for years, always competing for the top spot against the Honda Accord
. The two go head to head in almost every respect: the Camry bests the Accord in starting price (by $1,800) and interior design, while the Accord squeaks ahead with more power and a sportier exterior. But the Camry has something that the Accord doesn’t, or at least doesn’t anymore: a hybrid
. Opting to go green means the Toyota becomes a much pricier proposition, as the base price shoots up $7000 to $26,150. However, a number of positives present themselves in the process. The Camry hybrid nets 187 hp, almost 30 hp more than the regular Camry, while getting 33 mpg in the city and 34 on the highway – a substantial gain in mpg too. But what about that extra $7000 over the base model? It all comes out in the wash considering the hybrid is chockablock with standard features and luxuries, putting it on par with similarly priced XLE
. Affordable, well-appointed and good for the planet? Take that, Honda.
What's to Like
The hybrid’s fuel savings will make a big difference in the price of the weekly top-up, and the handy hybrid display system lets drivers know when the gas engine kicks in or the regenerative brakes start engaging. Toyota’s nicely designed cabin features a pared-down instrument panel and center stack, meaning you can easily find HVAC controls or make volume adjustments without looking away from the road.
What's Not to Like
We’d love to see a base Camry hybrid on offer, so that buyers could go green without spending extra on luxuries they may not want or need. Also, the hood bump and bulbous rear end of the exterior don’t do it any favors – think slimming lines, Toyota. You want the car to appear as if it may actually be aerodynamic.
DriverSide Driving Impressions
Many hybrids offer only gas savings as a bonus to buying into the technology, but the Camry also offers a punchier ride as part of the deal. By upping the horsepower to 187 with the hybrid motor, this four-door delivers a more appropriate amount of power for the size of the car. The cabin is very quiet, thanks to the electric start and off at idle feature. Toyota’s abundance of sound deadening materials help too. It is not what you could call a driver’s car, however. The Camry doesn’t provide much in terms of feedback, via either the road or steering. Cornering is mushy and transmission shifts are gentle, meaning you’ll hardly notice you’re even driving. This is all fine for some buyers who want a mode of transportation with the least amount of fuss. To make use of battery power only mode – the way to get the most mpgs out of your hybrid – your foot must act as a feather on the throttle. More than the lightest of touches will cause the gas engine to kick in, negating the reason you bought a hybrid in the first place.
Engine and Drivetrain
Like all of Toyota’s hybrids, two systems drive the front wheels. The first is a 2.4-liter DOHC four-cylinder engine that delivers 147 horsepower and 138 lb-ft of torque. This is coupled with the electric motor, which outputs 199 lb-ft of low-end torque, and the battery, which adds 40 horsepower. The only available transmission is in the form of a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) with manual override.
Interesting Vehicle Features and Options
As a way for you to keep tabs on the hybrid system, a standard hybrid information display centered within the speedometer shows the driver which system is powering the Camry at any given moment. It may look basic with digital arrows connecting simple pictures of the working parts, but it does a great job reminding you how best to keep fuel consumption in check.
Key Technology Evaluation
In this high-end version of the Camry, a JBL audio system is available as an option with satellite radio capability and hands-free Bluetooth capability. If that’s not enough, opt for the voice-activated DVD navigation system, which adds GPS on top of all the audio extras. Considering all of the tech features loaded in, we’d have loved to see a rearview camera to boot.
Green Evaluation/Gas Mileage
With the hybrid system reducing the constant necessity of the engine, the SULEV rated Camry hybrid receives 33 mpg in the city and 34 on the highway, much improved over the standard Camry’s 21/31. These numbers are on par with the similarly powered Nissan Altima
hybrid, which gets 35 and 33 out of a borrowed version of Toyota’s own hybrid system.
A Closer Look: Vehicle Details
Many of its competitors have fallen victim to a button-heavy instrument cluster, something the Camry manages to avoid by favoring clean lines and an easy combination of buttons and dials. Leather and heated seats can be obtained through a package, but be warned that the seat heaters have only one setting and it can get a wee bit toasty.
The sedan’s exterior design takes the shape of something more amphibious than car-like. Wiggly headlamps and a massive hood bump set the tone of the rest of the rounded body. Its only footwear comes in the form of 16-inch wheels.
What We Think
Pairing a hybrid drivetrain with the tried and true Camry formula is a smart move. Those wanting more fuel economy out of their four-door without sacrificing a roomy interior and plenty of standard features will mesh well with the Camry’s hybrid setup. However, driving enthusiasts open to spending some more money might want to browse the Ford and Nissan showrooms instead.