Sometimes doing something special should be a whisper rather than a shout. Toyota's Camry hybrid could be a case in point. The midsize, front drive sedan from the Japanese auto maker is such a staple among American auto buyers that adding a blast of noise to announce a truly fuel friendly version hardly seems necessary. Almost anyone conscious of growing global warming fears has heard about hybrid vehicles or other kinds of personal vehicle transportation designed to tilt things in a safer direction. Those who haven't heard probably wouldn't be interested.
Put the hybrid Camry version next to a standard internal combustion fueled one and the difference would be barely noticeable. But that has to be one of the goals of any car maker selling a hybrid. The more normal a vehicle seems, the less likely there will be resistance to the technology and the more acceptance it will gain. That's already a trend that is growing as hybrids proliferate and even more are due to come online.
Camry, redesigned for 2007, has added Toyota's " Hybrid Synergy Drive" for the first time. The drive produces a combined 187 horsepower with gasoline and electric power sources that work in tandem, or can work independently of each other. The gasoline engine is a 2.4-liter four generating 147 horsepower mated to a continuously variable transmission (CVT) for smoothness and fuel efficiency. A small, high-torque 40-HP electric motor is the other half of the system.
There are other features in the Camry hybrid designed to eke out an additional mile per gallon or two above its estimated 40/38 EPA estimated rating. An "ECO" button can limit the amount of energy consumed by the heating/ventilation/air conditioning system that might mean a slight fuel efficiency gain, although the system is designed to remain running even during engine shut down during idling. Look for base pricing of about $25,900.