New car reviews

2009 Toyota Camry Hybrid

Midsize Sedan gets Subcompact Hatchback Mileage

Steve Schaefer, Wed, 26 Aug 2009 10:43:30 PDT

How good is the mileage in the Camry Hybrid? Well, it got essentially the same combined mileage - 31.5 mpg - as Toyota's tiny Yaris subcompact hatchback. But you get all the midsized comforts and features you'd like and an even smaller carbon footprint.

There's a significant price difference, that's true. My Barcelona Red test Camry Hybrid, when all was said and done, cost virtually double what the Yaris did, but you certainly get a lot more for your cash, too. Toyota equips its Hybrid near the top of the Camry lineup, assuming that buyers want it that way, and also, perhaps, to price it above the popular and surprisingly roomy Prius, which now offers a true 50 miles per gallon in its third-generation 2010 version.

The secret of getting better fuel economy is to keep engine size down. The 3,680-pound Camry Hybrid combines a 147-horsepower 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine with a 40-horsepower electric motor driving the front wheels. It uses the same kind of Hybrid Synergy Drive system as the Prius, which means the car uses gas sometimes, electricity at other times, and sometimes, both together depending on driving conditions.

There's nothing quite like floating down the road at 25 or 30 miles per hour on electricity only. Pressing the left pedal sets off regenerative braking, charging up the battery. There's no plugging in for this kind of hybrid.

The Camry is America's bestselling midsize car, competing with numerous other vehicles, especially the ubiquitous Honda Accord. It's the old Chevy/Ford rivalry of the 1950's brought forward to today. People like the Camry because it does pretty much whatever you need. Besides the Hybrid, it comes as the basic Camry, volume-seller LE, slightly sportier SE, and top-of-the-line XLE, with increasing levels of equipment (and price).

The Camry is America's bestselling midsize car, competing with numerous other vehicles, especially the ubiquitous Honda Accord. It's the old Chevy/Ford rivalry of the 1950's brought forward to today. People like the Camry because it does pretty much whatever you need. Besides the Hybrid, it comes as the basic Camry, volume-seller LE, slightly sportier SE, and top-of-the-line XLE, with increasing levels of equipment (and price).

Non-hybrid Camrys comes standard with a 158-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine. The optional 3.5-liter V6 is good for a muscular 268 horsepower.While not really a luxury vehicle, the Camry, especially in top level XLE or Hybrid form, looks and feels a lot like a Lexus. Leather seats and steering wheel help convey this, as do dual-zone climate control and the Plasmacluster ionizer technology that filters out mold, microbes, fungi, odors and germs. And it's very quiet in there, too, with plenty of insulation and a sound-dampening windshield.

Of course the usual power accessories are all there. The Hybrid gets standard Smart Entry and Smart Start, so you can just leave that key fob in your pocket. This is great until you go to another, "ordinary" car without the system and wonder why it doesn't open or start.

The designers crammed lots of storage space into the Camry. The front console box will hold nine CD cases if you don't opt to use the auxiliary jack for your iPod. There's also space behind the shift lever with a power socket, a rear console box and two full-size cupholders good for XL-size drinks.

Camrys have been pretty conservative looking since they arrived in 1983, but the most recent version has more pizzazz, with a lot more curves and angles than before. The interior features sweeping lines everywhere, with a carved look giving a solid feel.

The smoothly sculpted body moves through the air with very low coefficient of drag of just 0.27, thanks in part to using underbody aerodynamics to manage airflow. The taillamps pop out of the bodywork in a surprising and entertaining way-especially for Toyota's bread-and-butter offering.

The Camry's very safe, with top five-star ratings on front and side crash tests by the U.S. Government. You also get four-wheel antilock brakes with Electronic Brake-force Distribution and Brake Assist. These all help you stop more effectively. The Hybrid also gets Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management system, a sophisticated traction control system.

The EPA Green Vehicle Guide gives the Prius Hybrid fuel economy numbers of 33 City, 34 Highway, and exceptional ratings of 9.5 for Air Pollution and 9 for Greenhouse Gas, putting it into the SmartWay Elite category. It also has a cruising range of more than 500 miles-another advantage.

Prices on Camry Hybrids start at $26,150, but, as with my tester, when you add extras the price moves up quickly. My tester had the Comfort and Convenience Package (heated seats and mirrors), Leather Package (on seats and doors), power moonroof, alloy wheels and a killer 440-watt audio/navigation system with 8 speakers. All this topped the sticker out at $31,930-very close to real Lexus territory.

You can get a four-cylinder, 158-horsepower 2010 Camry with no extras starting at just $19,395 plus shipping. It gets decent fuel economy of 22 City/33 Highway and earns commendable EPA Green ratings of 7 and 7. Hybrids are special, and driven carefully, will save you money and give you extra peace of mind.

 


2009 Toyota Camry Hybrid


2009 Toyota Camry Hybrid driver seat


2009 Toyota Camry Hybrid power consumption display


2009 Toyota Camry Hybrid rear seat

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