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This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Mon, Mar 9, 2009

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

Toyota Camry Hybrid

HIGH BRED CAMRY By Paul Robinson

Hybrids are a regular sight on the LA freeways as they go flying by in the carpool lane as the rest of us are stuck in the "fast" lane doing everything but going fast. These hybrids are usually very identifiable and that is not meant as a compliment. The Camry however is not recognizable as a hybrid without the badging or unless one passed you in a parking lot running on full electric, nearly silent and borderline stealthy. The new 2008 Camry Hybrid is the flagship of the Toyota hybrid fleet and there's no question as to why. The Camry has been the best selling car 9 of the past 10 years, partnered here with the Toyota Prius, the best-selling gasoline electric hybrid system on the market, and Highlander Hybrid model. With gas prices fluctuating between two and five dollars a gallon, and most families tightening up their spending, hybrids have been the hit of the year.

When it comes to new hybrid vehicles, and what I want to see in this Camry, is performance. Will this car do more than save at the pump? The hybrid version of the Camry has the same great body styling, interior and features as the non-hybrid version. Sitting down in the Camry the noticeable differences are the instrument panel having a large MPG gage, a digital display with ECO drive statistics and the push to start button located on the dash. With the key fob still in my pocket and a push of the start button the instrument panel illuminates without a sound from the engine and we are ready to go. It is not one hundred feet from the parking spot that the 2.4 liter engine comes to life, which was surprising how quickly it turned on. Only at very low speeds and on a (level or slightly downhill) freeway did the Camry run exclusively on the electric motor. The Synergy drive system is a parallel hybrid system which incorporates a gasoline engine and electric motor both feeding into a continuously variable transmission allowing power to come from either or both sources. This system allows for the vehicle to run on purely electric power in low torque situations and distribute the power between the sources. While on the highway the Camry is quiet and often switches between full electric and gasoline, it is however a seamless switch and with the stereo on it is difficult to know the difference.

Because there are two separate power sources with the parallel system the drivers feel is much different than a conventional drive system. Under heavy acceleration both the 147 horsepower 2.4 liter gasoline engine and the 40 horsepower electric motor rev to near redline and as the clutches begin to disengage, acceleration is impressive. The sound of the car under acceleration however is very different than a traditional drive train and this makes it difficult to gauge speed without looking at the speedometer. This small change of sound takes some getting accustomed to as most drivers in traditional vehicles use the sound of the engine to subconsciously gauge their speed. For the nearly $6,000 extra the hybrid will cost, one may ask where is the added value? Even at $5.00 per gallon it would take 115,000 miles to make up the cost difference or 228,000 miles at the current rate of $2.50 per gallon. With hybrid technology and fuel economy and performance in conventional vehicles getting better with every model, it's debatable whether the hybrid model will help the bottom line. But more economical or not, the Camry hybrid is a fun drive and by no means disappoints. - Paul Robinson

SIDEBAR COMMENT There is a great temptation to measure the value of a hybrid by how much one saves in gas versus the added cost over its non-hybrid counterpart. But hybrid ownership is also about lessening our dependence on petroleum, promoting clean air, and enjoying the silence of its operation - things that have less to do with monetary returns and more about the type of intangibles that might motivate others to buy a high performance version of a sedan over a base model. Actually, the Hybrid model starts with an intermediate version of the Camry that includes multi-adjustable power front driver and passenger seats, automatic climate control with separate driver and passenger temperature controls, electronic traction control, an upgraded interior with leather steering wheel, an on-board computer, and the proximity-triggered Smart key system (the car senses your presence and opens the doors upon touch and turns on the ignition at the push of a button). But the whole of the Camry Hybrid is greater than the sum of its parts. Surveys indicate that it's the most reliable Camry by a comfortable margin. Consumers Union just issued a report on the cost of car ownership over five years. Weighing such factors as resale value, cost of repair and maintenance, and gas mileage, the Camry Hybrid is among the chosen few in the report listed as offering the best bang for the buck. - Roy Nakano

SUMMARY JUDGMENT The Toyota Camry Hybrid's whole is even greater than the sum of its formidable parts. For more information about the Toyota products, go to

SPECIFICATIONS Name: 2009 Toyota Camry Hybrid Price: $26,150 As tested: $31,118 EPA Mileage: 33 MPG City/34 MPG highway Engine: 2.4-liter DOHC 16-valve VVT-i-4-cylinder/ Permanent magnet AC synchronous motor Horsepower: 147 hp @ 6000 rpm/ 40 hp (30 kW) Torque: 138 lb-ft @ 4400 rpm/ 199 lb.-ft @ 0-1500 rpm Drive configuration: Front engine, front-wheel drive Transmission: Electronically controlled continuously variable transmission (ECVT) and sequential shift Suspension: MacPherson strut front suspension with gas-filled shock absorbers and stabilizer bar, dual-link independent MacPherson strut rear suspension with gas-filled shock absorbers and stabilizer bar Wheels/tires: 16 inch alloy wheels/ P215/60R16 Brakes: Power-assisted ventilated front/solid rear disc with Anti-lock Brake System (ABS) and integrated regenerative braking Overall length: 189.2 in Overall width: 71.7 in Overall height: 57.7 in Curb weight: 3483 lbs

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