While Honda may have been the first automaker to bring a hybrid car to the U.S., it is Toyota that gets credit for building the first mass-production hybrid car, the Prius. The technology that created the Prius has pretty much become the template for all hybrid cars. In fact, Toyota's hybrid design is so good that rival manufacturers lease some of Toyota's Hybrid Synergy Drive patents for use in their own hybrid models. If all this tells you that Toyota's hybrid cars are probably the most tried and true hybrids on the planet, you?' be right. And, if you're in the market for a roomy, comfortable family sedan that can also accommodate your need to be as green as possible, then the 2007-2011 Toyota Camry Hybrid is the right car at the right time and the right price.
Why You Want It
If you're looking at the Camry Hybrid, we suspect the Prius is either too small or too funky for your taste. With the Camry Hybrid, you get the same Hybrid Synergy Drive system as in the Prius, only with a larger gasoline engine and a lot less high-tech instrumentation and features. The Camry Hybrid is nearly identical to its gasoline counterpart, with the only measurable differences being the Hybrid's smaller trunk and small trunk pass through (due to the placement of the battery pack). If cargo storage isn't a deal breaker, then the Camry Hybrid's impressive fuel economy, greatly reduced emissions and conventional styling make it an excellent choice for four-person families or busy professionals who are required to spend a lot of time behind the wheel. It also makes a great daily long distance driver and, although not yet ready to replace Fido, is a dutifully reliable companion.
Notable Features & Options
The Camry Hybrid comes nicely equipped and includes the Smart Key system with push button start, dual-zone automatic climate control, power functions for the windows, mirrors and locks, steering wheel touch controls for the audio, temperature and cruise control, a tilt/telescopic steering wheel, AM/FM CD stereo, 16-inch steel wheels with plastic wheel covers, low rolling resistance tires, a power driver's seat, and a 60/40 split folding rear seat. The 2007 Camry Hybrid has more standard features, including a 440-watt JBL audio system and Bluetooth hands-free phone technology. Standard safety equipment includes four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes, electronic traction and stability controls and seven airbags including a driver's side knee, front side-impact and full-length side curtain airbags. Options for the Camry Hybrid are bundled into packages and include the JBL audio system, Bluetooth, voice activated navigation, heated front seats and side mirrors, a power glass moonroof, leather seating surfaces, fog lamps, USB port and iPod interface, Satellite radio and 16-inch alloy wheels.
2008: In an attempt to lower the Camry Hybrid's price, some features that were standard in 2007, such as the JBL audio system and Bluetooth, are made optional.
2009: The Camry Hybrid remains unchanged.
2010: The Camry Hybrid receives a mild makeover, with a new grille, new fog lamps, new 16-inch alloy wheels, and some interior upgrades.
2011: There are no major changes for the 2011 model.
Engines and Performance
The Camry Hybrid doesn't perform like a normal gasoline car, at least not when you first start out. With a push of a button, the Camry comes to life but there is no audible clue to tell you so, only the lights on the dash and instrument cluster. Shift into drive, push the accelerator pedal and the Camry Hybrid glides forward in deafening silence. The electric motor is doing all the work, nearly imperceptible to the ear but providing plenty of torque for quick starts. Once the speedometer passes the 25 mph mark, the gasoline engine kicks on, and the Camry Hybrid's driving experience reverts to that of a standard gasoline powered Camry. The Camry Hybrid's 2.4-liter gasoline engine produces 147 horsepower, while its electric motor adds another 40 horsepower for a combined rating of 187 horsepower. Strong acceleration gives the hybrid the feel of tepid V6, but its fuel economy, especially around town, is quite impressive for a midsize sedan (33-mpg city/34-mpg highway).
Inside, the Camry Hybrid is laid out similarly to a Camry LE, with the only exception being the small pass through behind the rear seats and the revised instrumentation. The hybrid powertrain can be monitored by a gauge that resides in the spot normally occupied by the tachometer. The gauge shows fuel economy as well as when the vehicle is being powered solely by electric power.
Recalls, Safety Ratings and Warranties
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, or NHTSA, has issued the following recalls for the 2007-2011 Toyota Camry Hybrid:
2007: A recall was issued for a possible problem with the airbag inflators not having enough heatable gas pellets to ensure proper inflation.
2007-2010: Recalls were issued for floor mats that could interfere with the accelerator pedal and for a defective accelerator pedal assembly.
2007-2011: A recall was issued for vehicles that may be missing the required load carrying capacity modification labels.
Recall repairs are required by law even if the vehicle is out of warranty. Your dealer can check to see if the repairs were performed and if not, will fix the car at no charge to you.
As for the 2007-2011 Toyota Camry Hybrid's safety record, the car performs well in both NHTSA and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) crash tests. NHTSA gives the Camry Hybrid five out of five stars in its front end and side-impact crash test, and four out of five star for the rollover crash test. The IIHS gives the Camry its highest rating of GOOD in the frontal offset crash test, the side-impact crash test and the roof strength test.
Toyota provides the Camry Hybrid with a 3-year/36,000 mile basic warranty, a 5-year/60,000 mile drivetrain warranty and an 8-year/100,000 mile warranty for hybrid-related components. You can extend your coverage buy purchasing a Certified Pre-Own (CPO) Camry Hybrid from a Toyota Dealer. CPO cars undergo a rigorous inspection, come with a 12-month/12,000 mile comprehensive warranty from the date you purchase the vehicle, and extends the original powertrain warranty to 7-years/100,000 miles (begins from the date the vehicle first entered service.)
Word on the Web
We were quite pleased by what we found out on the web, both from consumers and sites dedicated to informing them. ConsumerReports.com gives the 2007-2011 Camry Hybrid high marks for its build quality, reliability and overall design, with the one exception being a low mark for the 2009 model's fuel system. J.D. Powers and Associates also think highly of the Camry Hybrid, giving it a score of 8 out of a possible 10 in its Predicted Reliability survey. Owners heap praise on the Camry Hybrid, often finding their fuel economy far exceeds the EPA estimates. Some complaints where logged regarding getting used to the car's drivetrain, and to the regenerative braking setup which some feel doesn't slow the car much.
You could look at the Toyota Prius, which has a similar drivetrain as the Camry Hybrid, gets better fuel economy and exists in greater numbers. The Prius is smaller than the Camry, however, and its high tech cockpit might not appeal to everyone. The Nissan Altima Hybrid was sold only in California and it uses much of Toyota's hybrid technology. Although hard to find, the Altima Hybrid is about the same size as the Camry and offers the same fuel economy. If you can go with a late model hybrid, the 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid offers much of the same features as the Camry, gets better fuel economy (41-mpg city/36-mpg highway) and it can be had with the cool SYNC voice activated communications system. The Fusion Hybrid is newer, however, so the pricing is probably going to be higher than with a slightly older and higher mileage Camry. If you?re more into good fuel economy vs. the part-time zero emissions aspect of the Camry Hybrid, we would suggest looking at the Volkswagen Jetta TDI clean diesel.
We have to say no matter which year you choose or what options, the Camry Hybrid is sure to please. For those on a budget, try to find a 2007 or 2008 model on a CPO Toyota lot. This way, you can add additional coverage for the non-hybrid components. If you're not worried about breaking the bank, seek out a low mileage model with the leather and JBL audio packages. The leather seating makes the Camry feel like a little Lexus, and the JBL audio system rocks!