2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid Road Test Review
by Martha Hindes
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Toyota's mainstay midsize Camry auto has about the same impact as some recent ubiquitous Macy's department store ads reminding us that just about everyone shops there. And if they haven't, they probably want to. Well, who hasn't heard of America's best selling Toyota Camry, even if the 2012 hybrid model promos haven't achieved quite the same saturation level?
The 2012 Camry Hybrid, like its earlier brethren, is based on Toyota's bread-and-butter family sedan in what's probably the hottest auto arena on the planet. That kind of competition means putting your best face forward. And Camry got some less-than-radical surgery in the design and hybrid engine technology categories for 2012 to keep it a bride instead of a bridesmaid as more hybrid competitors knock at the door.
While some fuel-stingy sedans have tightened the reins on size to cut weight and eke out a shred more mileage, Camry hasn't. Its midsize-for-five is comfortably so. And rear seat passengers can lounge during long drives without feeling crunched. Ditto that for usable trunk space, an improvement thanks to a shuffling of inner components below.
Dressing for the occasion also has won attention, with interior renovations enhancing the luxury feel, including brushed aluminum trim. A requisite power-flow display coaxes conservative driving. The upmarket XLE gets chrome touches, 17-inch rather than 16-inch wheels, and heated sideview mirrors, plus 24 additional pounds of curb weight that skims a shade off fuel economy. Options include blind spot warning, navi and Entune multimedia system. But the base LE is no slouch, with standard push button start, dual zone climate control and enhanced passive safety systems among amenities.
Powering the Camry Hybrid for 2012 is a 156-horsepower, 4-cylinder aluminum engine to cut weight, augmenting the 105 kW electric motor. Those work in tandem to boost fuel economy and cut emissions. Combined horsepower is 200, with continuously variable transmission for notch-free acceleration. (If you like "head bobs" during transmission gate shifts, forget about this one.)
That power combo kicks out a combined 41 MPG fuel economy rating for the base LE model, a whopping boost from 2011's 33 MPG combined rating. Unlike some competition, it rides happily on regular octane when the engine is engaged. In geek speak; it earns a tantalizing AT-PZEV rating for its "advanced technology partial zero emissions" standing, a biggie on east and west coasts. And base pricing ($25,900 LE and $27,400 XLE) is lower than last year's.
Exterior colors come in delicious hues without knocking your socks off visually. Also in typical Toyota style is noise cancellation, with a reportedly seamless transition from silent electric power to subtler engine hum when the engine kicks in. And unlike some competitors, especially in hybrid guise, it actually sports a limited-range spare tire.
Toyota kept the showroom wraps on its 2012 Camry hybrid long enough to churn up interest among loyalists and tease newcomers. With an end of October sale date finally near, an around-the-block showroom line might not be an exaggeration.
For more info on the Toyota Camry Hybrid Sedan, click here.