Camry Hybrid proves the future is here

Hybrid’s engine and transmission give it top fuel ratings.  Growing up, I watched a lot of episodes of The Jetsons. Sure they had great gadgets around the house and even a robot maid, but it was their car that intrigued me the most.  While we haven’t defied gravity with flying cars yet, there does exist some very technologically advanced vehicles. A good example is the new Lexus LS460, a car that can parallel park itself.  The smaller cousin of the Lexus is the Toyota Camry. This top selling mid-size family sedan is popular in North America and the Hybrid version is the winner of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC) 2007 Car of the Year Award.

Some first generation hybrid cars were styling exercises straight from the design book of The Jetsons. The Camry, and other newer hybrids such as Honda’s Accord and Civic, Ford’s Escape and the Lexus GS450, seem to be going back to the main stream design, basing their alternative fuel cars on current models.

I don’t mind at all as the new Camry is as sexy as a family commuter vehicle has the right to be. The lines are down near perfect, with none of them pointing the wrong way.

The Camry Hybrid utilizes what Toyota likes to call Hybrid Synergy Drive. This system essentially attempts to use electric power as much as it can. When extra power is needed – for example under heavy acceleration or heavy electrical usage – the gasoline engine will fire up and work in parallel with the electric motors to pull the car.

I say pull, as a front wheel drive car, the same as the regular Camry. Power to those wheels is transmitted through a continuously-variable transmission (CVT). The Hybrid Camry puts out 187hp, 40 more than the 2.4L gas-only four cylinder it’s based on. Torque is at 161lb/feet at very low revs – this is why a CVT tranny works here, CVT’s like low end torque. They have an infinite number of gear-ratio settings, unlike a regular automatic, which has five, six, seven and now even eight (Lexus LS460) set gears.

The combination of the future-type engine and the advance transmission give the Camry Hybrid one of the top fuel ratings in it’s class. Fuel consumption is estimated by the folks at Toyota to be 5.7L/100km (50mpg) in the city and on the highway. This is quite high as my figures were closer to 7L/100 km (40mpg), still very respectable for a car that seats five and hits 100 km from a standing start in about 8.5 seconds.

So where is the downside here? Interior cargo space suffers. The batteries are stored in the rear area, shielded by a protective casing. Their placement reduces the 15 cubic feet of trunk space down to 10.6 cubic feet, with the further loss of a folding rear seat option.

For safety, the nickel-metal hybrid battery will automatically disconnect it’s power from the car if an accident is detected. Up front, seven airbags keep the occupants from receiving additional injuries. There are two bags up front, two on the sides up front and back and a small one for the driver’s knee area.

The 2007 Vancouver International Auto Show has a green theme to it and the Camry Hybrid fits that bill to a “T”.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *