Toyota Redesigns Camry and Adds Hybrid
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that the Toyota Camry is a hugely popular car. In fact, it’s been the best selling car in America for eight out of the last nine years. And the 2007 model that may become the most popular Camry yet. Why? Because Toyota completely redesigned the Camry, and added a gasoline/electric hybrid to the mix.
The Toyota designers gave the Camry a new, more muscular look. The most noticeable change is around the nose, where the grille in now larger and the Toyota logo sits prominently above it. The rear deck also looks distinctive with a squared off trunk lid, ala BMW, and slanting taillights.
The ’07 Camry is about the same overall length as last year’s car, but the Toyota designers made it feel more spacious. They pushed the dashboard forward to create a more airy cabin. They increased front-seat travel to better accommodate tall drivers, and at the same time, they slimmed down the front seats to improve back-seat legroom. Now, even with the front seat all the way back, an average-size rear occupant won’t feel crowded. However, the trunk space is slightly smaller at just under 15 cu-ft.
The Camry comes in five versions. The base model is the lightly equipped CE. This is followed by the better-equipped LE, which in turn is followed by the more luxurious GLE. The SE is the performance model, and new this year, is the high-tech Hybrid. Buyers can order options, like heated seats, a navigation unit, stability control and the Smart Entry and Smart Start system. This last feature enables drivers to unlock the doors and start the engine (at the press of a button) just by keeping the key fob on their person.
The Camry carries over the 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, but Toyota engineers have massaged it to produce a few more horsepower—now 158. However, the V-6 is new. Toyota replaced the old 3.0-liter V-6 with the bigger 3.5-liter engine out of the Avalon. The old motor pumped out 190 horsepower—the new one generates 268. The V-6 is teamed up with a six-speed automatic, and has plenty of muscle. It’s now competitive with the V-6 in the Honda Accord.
However, the big news in Camry engines this year is the hybrid gasoline/electric power plant. Toyota uses a slightly detuned version of their 2.4-liter engine that produces 145 hp, and combines it with an electric motor to produce a total of 192 horses. It’s mated with a more efficient continuously-variable transmission, rather than a conventional automatic.
The Hybrid starts silently. It’s only when you start to move that you know that the motor is running. And when you do take off, you won’t hear any gears shifting. So you won’t have the sense of immediate response to the accelerator. But the Hybrid is not sluggish— it will get you to 60 in 7.3 seconds.
Toyota tuned the Hybrid’s suspension more for a comfortable ride, than sharp handling. This car runs wide if pressed hard into a turn, but the ride quality is first rate. It absorbs bumps very well, and is exceptionally quiet and free of vibration on the road.
The EPA rates the Hybrid’s gas mileage at 40-mpg city/38-mpg hwy. However the government’s ratings are usually higher than what most drivers can achieve, and that was my experience with the Hybrid. My test car, which was just broken in, averaged 31.7 mpg in combined city and highway driving.
Camry pricing starts at $18,890. The Hybrid has a bottom line of $26,820.
Disappointing Gas Mileage
Price (Hybrid): $26,820
Engine: 2.4-ltr gas/electric hybrid
Transmission: CVT automatic
Brakes: disc, ABS
Gas Mileage (EPA): 38-40 mpg
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