Thursday, August 11, 2011

2011 Toyota Camry Hybrid Sedan

The 2011 Toyota Camry Hybrid is largely unchanged from last year. A couple of cosmetic tweaks here and there is about all. Few will notice the difference, but why fix what isn’t broken?

The Toyota Camry has been our sedan of choice for over ten years. For the past nine, it has been the country’s best selling passenger vehicle. While that’s a great thing for Toyota, it does say something about us as a society.

That our favorite car is an ordinary, run of the mill, sensible sedan car. Fortunately we’re here to review the car, not have a sociological discussion!

The 2011 Toyota Camry Hybrid has distinct advantages over most other hybrids with perhaps the exception of the Fusion. It’s almost exactly the same as a normal car, with none of the downsides of hybrid technology. It’s slightly more expensive than the normal Camry, but not enough to put you off buying one.

That means families in the market for a new Camry can go hybrid without even having to think about it. The interior is the same, the quality and reliability are the same, the car is essentially the same on the surface. That makes it a winner.

The 2.4-liter four-cylinder gas engine is as smooth as anything Toyota have made. It produces 147 bhp and 138 lb-ft of torque. It works with the electric motor, which produces a further 40 bhp. The energy is sent to the front wheels via a CVT transmission.

Offering 33/34 miles per gallon has earned the Camry hybrid the Advanced Technology Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle (AT-PZEV) ticket. That’s good news for the marketing department, but doesn’t make much difference to the owner.

They are more interested in the real-life gains from the increased gas mileage.

The inside of the 2011 Toyota Camry Hybrid is okay. It’s well-built, the materials are of a decent quality, and everything is in the right place. The use of blue LED lights for the dashboard and interior lighting is a nice touch.

The seats are comfortable and supportive, and have enough head and legroom for even the tallest people. Even in the rear there is still room for almost everyone. The Camry will comfortably sit five without too many compromises.

Trunk space is limited by the large battery pack that sits in the corner. It reduces the available space from 15 cubic feet down to a little under 11. That’s still enough room for the groceries, but one of the few shortcomings of a hybrid.

The 2011 Toyota Camry Hybrid comes standard with 16-inch steel wheels, dual-zone automatic climate control, keyless ignition and entry, an eight-way power driver seat, a 60/40-split rear seat, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, auto-dimming rear view mirror, trip computer and a six-speaker CD/MP3 stereo.

The experience of driving and owning the 2011 Toyota Camry Hybrid is pretty much the same as owning a standard one. The gas engine is capable and refined, and the electric motor adds some well needed boost.

The electric motor can also run independently when there are low power demands. That means under 30 miles an hour, or when cruising, the car can run on electric power alone. That is another serious advantage this car has over its hybrid rivals. Not all of them can run on electric without the gas engine providing power.

The steering and suspension are the only negatives of this review. Cornering the Camry is similar to doing it in a speedboat. The body rolls, the corner seems to take forever and there isn’t that much feedback from the wheel. Changing direction is a little lifeless, and doesn’t provide enough information through the wheel to the driver.

However, considering that is the only downside to the whole deal, it shouldn’t put prospective buyers off the car.

As the Camry is the best-selling sedan in the country, the hybrid version is likely to follow that trend. With competition in the hybrid market hotting up, there may be discounts to be had. New car deals may be less obvious than usual, but the market is too sluggish and the competition too close to not have them.