Toyota Camry Hybrid Performance
Reviewers find the 2007 Toyota Camry Hybrid performs with enough power and finesse to make its hybrid status an afterthought. Forbes reports, "Most of the time you can quite simply forget that you're driving a hybrid, because it behaves almost exactly like a gasoline-engine car -- which says a lot about the sophistication of the hybrid system." The hybrid system consists of a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine and a 105-kilowatt electric motor. Edmunds asserts, "More than any other hybrid we've driven, the 2007 Toyota Camry Hybrid has the most seamless transition between electric motor and gasoline engine. If we didn't tell you it was a hybrid and let you drive it, we doubt you would notice."
Matched to a continuously variable transmission (CVT), the Camry Hybrid is quick and powerful enough that "you're unlikely to feel deprived," according to USA TODAY, "even during those full-blast runs up the ramp to merge with maniacs on the big road." MSN says, "This car doesn't sacrifice power to be fuel-stingy." Nevertheless, its fuel economy is impressive enough, argues Motor Trend, that it "makes you ask how other carmakers can defend their comparative inefficiency." Reviewers largely agree with Kelley Blue Book that "the capable suspension delivers an impressively smooth ride," though some voice complaints about lackluster steering feel.
Acceleration and Power
The 2007 Camry Hybrid comes with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that creates 147 horsepower and 138 pound-feet of torque, along with a supplementary electric motor. The net effect is 187 horsepower. This hybrid system is matched to a continuously variable transmission (CVT). MSN reports, "In city traffic and during passing maneuvers, electric power provided good get up and go," while CNET contends, "Acceleration is incredibly smooth due to the continuously variable transmission, which doesn't have the hard gearshifts of a standard automatic." Cars.com agrees, saying, "The car reacts reasonably quickly to the accelerator pedal but it often takes longer than a conventional transmission to build up speed." Automobile Magazine recounts "an extremely scientific test -- OK, a drag race," in which "the Hybrid outpulled its conventional four-cylinder twin by a hefty margin."
The electric motor is powered by a battery, which is continuously recharged by the engine. The battery also gets power from energy captured during "regenerative braking" -- that is, energy that would otherwise be lost as heat during deceleration. Car and Driver explains, "The car moves easily on electric power alone at low speeds and on downgrades. Both the engine and the motor pitch in when acceleration is needed. The engine runs only when the computer tells it to." Together, the engine and motor provide "more than adequate power for everyday driving," finds the .
Although, as BusinessWeek notes, "The CVT seems strange at first because you keep expecting the car to shift gears and it never does," most reviewers like the transmission. The calls it "one of the few continuously variable automatic transmissions I've used that feels smooth and seamless, and is well-matched to the engine's torque curve." says the CVT "purportedly improves fuel economy over conventional trannies." Most reviewers are impressed by the Camry Hybrid's fuel economy, even if it doesn't measure up to the official 40 miles per gallon in the city and 38 miles per gallon on the highway cited by Toyota. About.com reports, "I stuck to local streets during my Camry Hybrid test drive and averaged 30 MPG. Disappointing? Nope. That's a downright impressive figure for a car as big, comfy and quick as the Camry Hybrid. Most mid-size sedans average in the low 20s under the same conditions."
Handling and Braking
Reviewers agree that the Camry Hybrid handles much like a regular Camry, which means it has a smooth ride with adequate handling. "Ride quality was excellent, both over rough roads and on Interstates," finds The Auto Channel. "The suspension is compliant, but it isn't too soft and mushy to make the ride miserable." Automobile Magazine writes, "The Camry Hybrid is a comfortable and unassuming machine as long as you drive it calmly over smooth pavement, where you'll enjoy generally placid ride characteristics." Edmunds notes, "The chassis rolled a bit in sharp turns, but not so much to be bothersome."
The steering draws a share of criticism. Kelley Blue Book says it "feels a bit numb;" Consumer Guide claims it "lacks feel," and judges it to be "over-assisted, requiring some correction every now and then to keep things on the straight and narrow." CNET finds, "When crawling along in traffic, the steering wheel has an alarming tendency to pull sharply to the left or right depending on the camber of the road."
The brakes are generally found to be effective. Even "brake feel," which Car and Driver says is "always a hybrid bugaboo, is good here" -- though "not quite up to nonhybrid-Camry standards." Consumer Guide praises the brakes for their "ample stopping power." Others, such as Edmunds, note, "The hybrid's brake pedal is fairly sensitive and takes some adapting to avoid jerkiness." The concurs: "The brakes tended to grab when applied; gentle and gradual does it."