Toyota's newest hybrid has its bases covered

Spacious Camry comes close to being the perfect family car

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Fuel economy is great, the wonders of hybrid technology are terrific, and protecting the environment is important, but you had better cover all your other bases if you're going to sell a hybrid car.

That point came home last week when I test drove the 2007 Toyota Camry Hybrid sedan.

The solid construction that comes with the Camry is augmented by a roomy back seat that holds two child seats and still has room for another child. And there's reasonable legroom for the adults in the front too, making this a superb long-distance car. If it had all-wheel drive it would be the perfect family car -- especially for Pittsburghers in the winter.

Toyota.com
The 2007 Toyota Camry Hybrid sedan offers a roomy interior as well as fuel economy. The vehicle is rated at 40 miles per gallon in the city and 38 on the highway, and has a base price of $25,900.
Click photo for larger image.

This family car transitions easily to a luxury car for a night out on the town. And despite being a hybrid, it has brisk acceleration and is fun to drive -- not the case with other hybrids I've driven.

Our test car had a base price of $25,900. Adding a navigation system, Bluetooth-ready stereo with eight speakers, satellite radio and other options brought the price to a reasonable $27,909.

Standard equipment is extensive on this car -- anti-lock brakes, driver and front passenger side air bags, driver's knee air bag and front and rear side curtain air bags, halogen headlamps, dual zone climate control, full power accessories, tilt wheel and 60/40 split seat.

Power for the Camry Hybrid comes from a hybrid "synergy drive" system consisting of a 2.4 liter four-cylinder engine putting out 147 horsepower, and a 45 horsepower electric motor. Fuel economy is rated at 40 mpg city and 38 highway.

As is the case with all hybrids, there are few if any sounds once you start the car to tip you off that it's running. Pay attention to the dashboard and its message center -- the Camry has a "ready" notification to keep you posted. The dashboard also has a miles-per-gallon fuel consumption meter that shows your electric-to-gas power relationship so you can keep up with how you're doing.

Although the Camry is peppy and quiet, its steering seems to be over-assisted, requiring some correction every now and then to keep things on the straight and narrow. And the brakes tended to grab when applied -- gentle and gradual does it.

The trunk is rather oddly shaped and small, too, which was not an issue on the non-hybrid Camry I drove.

All in all, the Camry Hybrid is an entirely satisfying car to drive. Just make sure you appreciate its other sterling qualities along with the fact that it's a hybrid.


Don Hammonds can be reached at dhammonds@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1538.


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