There’s no question that the Camry hybrid is a technological triumph that produces stunning increases in fuel economy, particularly during urban and suburban driving that many of us face. However to achieve this Camry hybrid employs a number of sophisticated systems that affect the performance and feel of the popular family car.
These systems result in driving aspects that differ from those of any non-hybrid car you’ve ever driven, starting with the continuously variable transmission, the start/stop engine and regenerative braking. As Toyota’s mainstream entry in the U.S. family car market, this might present a customer satisfaction challenge as sales volumes increase and the driving audience widens on this extremely competent car.
Unlike the hugely successful Prius with its large following of hybrid technology geeks – and I mean that as a complement – Camry is a car that has been accepted largely because drivers can ignore it. Buy a Camry, change the oil once in a while, and keep driving it. Camry is the perfect automotive appliance.
However, there’s no ignoring the operation of the Camry hybrid system, if only because the pictorial energy monitors adjacent to the speedometer and on the navigation screen constantly tell you what’s going on and how efficiently you are driving. Annoying at first, the meters soon challenged me to increase my driving efficiency, which I did by following the monitors. Studies have shown that such efficiency “video games” do produce real world fuel economy improvements.