Just had the opportunity to take a 350 mile drive in a Toyota Camry Hybrid and came away quite impressed. Where the Prius is ideal for those making the statement "look at me, i drive a hybrid", the Camry Hybrid looks almost identical to a regular Camry, with the exception of a small Hybrid Synergy Drive badge on the rear fender. The only other difference I noticed was that the trunk is a bit smaller, making room for the battery pack.
Toyota has geared this version of its hybrid system for both power and fuel economy performance, and it covered both admirably. Using an efficient gas engine and a powerful electric motor, the Camry Hybrid produces 187 horsepower. This is teamed with a continuously variable transmission (CVT).
We packed the car for the weekend getaway, and even with somewhat compressed trunk space, we fit a suitcase, large duffel bag and a few other bags with room to spare. Three of us had plenty of room, and while the seats were not the most comfortable in the world, they didn’t cause any pain after several ours on the road.
Our route had a mix of city and highway driving, but the bulk of it was on the highway, with our speed averaging for the entire trip around 60 mph, so some of the driving was at 70 or higher. With this full size sedan with a decent load, we averaged 38 mpg. Typically when I drive a hybrid, I change my driving style to eek out more mpg, but this time I just drove it like I would any other car, and as I’ve said before, I tend to have a lead foot. If I had really tried, I probably could have broken 40 mpg. I think this is pretty impressive for a big sedan.
In a couple instances we had to pass on a two lane road. I was really surprised how quick the Camry Hybrid accellerated, taking advantage of the CVT to keep the power in the peak torque.
The price is about $3,000 more than a Camry LE V6, so based on price alone, it would take about 5 years to make up the difference in price based on $3 per gallon.
But I was still impressed.