2007 Toyota Camry Hybrid Review


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THE AUTO PAGE
By
JOHN HEILIG

SPECIFICATIONS
Model: 2007 Toyota Camry Hybrid
Engine: 2.4-liter inline 4/105kW permanent magnet synchronous motor
Horsepower/Torque: 147 hp @ 6,000 rpm/137 lb.-ft. @ 4,000 rpm (combined 192 hp)
Transmission: Continuously variable
Wheelbase: 109.3 in.
Length x Width x Height: 189.2 x 71.7 x 57.5 in.
Tires: P215/60R16
Cargo volume: 13 cu. ft. (est.)
Economy: 43 mpg city/37 mpg highway 34.1 mpg test
Price: $30,225 (est., plus $540 destination charge)

Since the Toyota Camry is the best-selling mid-size sedan in the United States, and has sold more than 10 million worldwide, great interest was naturally piqued when Toyota announced there would be a hybrid version of the car. That car, or at least a prototype version of the Camry Hybrid, became available recently for an extended test.

I like the Hybrid concept, no matter who the manufacturer is. Toyota seems to have jumped onto the Hybrid bandwagon and offers Hybrid technology in the Camry, Highlander, Lexus RX and a couple of others to come in the near future. As such, it is probably one of the most experienced manufacturers of Hybrid cars and SUVs.

The 2007 Toyota Camry Hybrid is, in my estimation the best Hybrid vehicle available to date.

Now that’s a big statement. What makes it so superior to some of the others (and I’ll grant I haven’t driven EVERY hybrid out there)? There are a lot of reasons over and above the choice of technology.

I’ll start with the styling, which is standard for all 2007 Camrys, no matter if it has Hybrid, I4 or V6 power. Styling has been freshened for `07 with a sleeker, more aerodynamic body and an interesting bustle back tail, reminiscent of the BMW 5-Series. This tail design was soundly criticized by some of the media when it was introduced by BMW, but I have seen similar designs from several manufacturers since, proving the veracity of the design. Frankly, I like it.

Unfortunately, in the Hybrid this taller trunk lid doesn’t mean increased trunk capacity, since the battery pack and some of the Hybrid Synergy hardware is stowed in the trunk, rather than under the seat as in some Hybrids. My guess is that the 2006 Camry’s trunk capacity of 16.7 cubic feet drops to something like 13 or 14 cubic feet in the Hybrid. It’s still pretty good.

Interior styling is cleaner as well, with a nice instrument panel dominated by a speedometer with an insert battery/engine power guide. To the left, where “normal” cars have a tachometer, is a dynamic fuel economy gauge that shows instant economy and whether you’re using excessive gasoline engine power. The two gauges provide something like a video game atmosphere when you first get in the car, but the game aspect goes away rapidly. There are also fuel level and water temperature gauges.

The navigation system screen in the middle of the dash also appears to be redesigned to be more informative. It did a great job of helping me find a local high school for a basketball game.

Passenger comfort for the front passengers is excellent. One of the assets of the Camry is its people-friendliness. The front seats offer excellent leg and hip room, and there’s no threat of clobbering your head, even with the sunroof installed. I liked the excellent side support. You don’t necessarily want to go racing in a Camry, but it’s comforting to know there is good side support. The front seats were also heated in our tester.

Rear seat legroom is excellent. Knee room is improved by indents in the backs of the front seats.

But the ultimate test is passenger comfort when the car is on the road, and here the Camry excels. Ride quality was excellent, both over rough roads and on Interstates. The suspension is compliant, but it isn’t too soft and mushy to make the ride miserable. In addition, the Camry handles curves like a sports car (okay, maybe not that great), and it’s a pleasure to seek out winding roads to explore.

On one road I was following a car that was going along at a pretty good clip. I kept having to hit the brakes and drop back about 50 yards before I could make the most of the ride again. I’m certain the other driver was getting upset by the guy behind him who kept creeping up and then dropping back all the time, but I didn’t want to tailgate him all the way home.

The Camry has electronic power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering that makes the wheel a friend. The steering wheel is also a smart one, with audio, display and HVAC control switches on it. The cruise control switch is a standard Toyota-issue stalk to the lower right.

Storage areas include a nice cubby in front of the shifter, a small drawer to the left of the steering wheel for the driver, a small square cubby in the center of the console ahead of the armrest, and a deep storage area in the center armrest. There are pockets in all the doors, as well.

Our tester was fully loaded, an XLE model. I estimated the base price to be around $30,000, based on 2006 prices and the markup on the Highlander for the Hybrid. Options can move that price all over the board. Toyota will make a lot of friends if it includes Hybrid Synergy in all Toyota Camry models, from the least expensive to the most.

2006 The Auto Page Syndicate

Complete specifications on the 2007 Toyota Camry Hybrid 4-Door Sedan and other vehicles are available at the New Car Buyers Guide!

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