As opposed to the Prius, which with its distinctive profile fairly screams its eco-friendliness to passersby, the Camry Hybrid is the most unobtrusive of hybrid vehicles. Disguised as a run-of-the-mill combustion-engined Camry, the only outward indication that there is a hybrid powertrain lurking under the skin is a small Hybrid Synergy Drive badge.
Like the Four Seasons vehicle we tested in 2007, this Camry Hybrid isn’t about the driving experience but about maximum efficiency. Fuel efficiency is a fairly respectable 34 mpg, there are several vehicles on the road today that can either match or outperform it in that regard. Take, for example, the Audi A3 TDI that is currently in our fleet. That car also returns 34 mpg, and, while its base price is $4000 higher than that of a base Camry Hybrid, it makes up for it with a more rewarding driving experience and more refinement. (Plus, the as-tested price of the A3 actually come in $2000 less than this loaded Camry Hybrid.)
Amy Skogstrom, Managing Editor
Hybrids are best experienced during moderate weather. It was very cold over the weekend and that meant the hybrid took a while to get warm and wasn’t able to use the electric assist system quite as much as it might have with temperatures above freezing. The transitions from regular internal combustion power to electric mode and back weren’t as smooth as I remember when it was warmer outside. Aside from the shudder I experienced each time the start/stop function was employed, there really wasn’t much else to alert you to the hybrid powertrain of the car during normal driving.
The reduced trunk space might be a concern for a family of four looking to go green. Vacations might require a bit more trunk room than this hybrid can offer, though two or three people would probably have more than enough room for luggage.
Of course the few tangible shortcomings are nothing compared to the high-profile recalls going on at Toyota lately. There were several good reasons to buy the Ford Fusion Hybrid before the recalls at Toyota started. Sure, the recalls don’t include the Camry Hybrid but I wonder how many shoppers will look for the asterisk explaining why the Camry Hybrid isn’t recalled.
Phil Floraday, Senior Online Editor
Like Phil, I noticed that this Camry Hybrid is quite rough when bringing the gas engine back from a stop. It’s not atrocious, but is more noticeable than in the Fusion Hybrid or even the Prius. Of course the real reason to buy either of those other two hybrids would be their significantly higher fuel economy. The Camry Hybrid is rated at 33 mpg in the city and 34 mpg on the highway. That’s certainly above par for a mid-size sedan, but the Fusion Hybrid does 41/36 mpg and the Prius is rated at 51/48 mpg. And Hyundai’s new Sonata will do 35 mpg on the highway without the pricey hybrid hardware.
It’s easy to see how buyers can struggle with the braking systems on hybrids. The brakes are often vague and difficult to modulate, and the Camry Hybrid is no exception. At times, it seems like the braking effort noticeably shifts while the driver maintains a constant pressure on the pedal. It may be irritating and unfriendly, but I should be clear that I’m not calling this a safety issue. Push the pedal far enough, and the brakes will do their job.
Eric Tingwall, Associate Editor
Yep, the brakes work fine but they, like the ones on the new Prius, do not feel like “normal” brakes. Toyota can and should do a better job of educating its buyers about the way the brakes work and how they will feel.
That said, I was curious to drive the Camry because it was the first Camry I’ve driven since the Toyota gas-pedal issue surfaced. On my drive home, I repeatedly shifted the car into neutral. This entailed nothing more than grabbing the shift lever in my right hand and moving it forward slightly. Each and every time, the vehicle immediately started to decelerate. Each and every time, I hit the gas pedal and the engine simply raced; the engine was disengaged from the drive axle and the vehicle was slowing down. Funny how that works.
Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor
2010 Toyota Camry Hybrid
Base price (with destination): $26,900
Price as tested: $33,204
2.4L 4-cylinder engine
Electronic CVT transmission
Electric power steering
4-wheel regenerative disc brakes
Smart key with push button start
Front dual zone climate control
Tilt/telescopic steering wheel
Options on this vehicle:
Comfort and convenience group – $470
– Heated front seats and outside mirrors
Leather package – $1295
– Leather trimmed seats, door trim, center console
– Wood grained style interior trim
Integrated front fog lights – $130
Moonroof package – $890
– Power tilt/slide moonroof
– Dual illuminated visor mirrors
– Rear personal reading lights
Upgrade package with DVD Navigation – $2960
– 16-inch alloy wheels
– Voice command DVD navigation system
– Backup camera
– JBL AM/FM 4-disc in-dash CD changer
– MP3/WMA playback capability
– Satellite radio
– Bluetooth connectivity
– Auto dimming rear-view mirror
– Leather wrapped steering wheel/shift knob
Carpet/Trunk mat set – $200
V.I.P RS3200 plus security system – $359
Key options not on vehicle:
33 / 34 / 34 mpg
Size: 2.4L DOHC 16 valve 4-cylinder
Horsepower: 147 hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque: 138 lb-ft @ 4400 rpm
Battery output: 40 hp
Hybrid system net power: 187 hp
Electronically controlled CVT automatic
Weight: 3680 lbs
16-inch 10-spoke alloy wheels
P215/60R16 Michelin Energy mxv4 s8 all-season tires