Years ago people thought Toyota was crazy to build a hybrid car in large numbers, but these days many car makers offer hybrid drivetrains in their cars. Now Toyota has added another hybrid to the range, this time choosing the Camry as the base model. The Camry Hybrid gets a new frontal styling to mark it out from normal Camry’s, but more importantly, it has a version of the Toyota Hybrid Synergy Drive System fitted.
Toyota Hybrid Synergy Drive
It is essentially the same system as found in the latest Toyota Prius, but the petrol engine is a larger 2.4 liter 110kW (147hp) four-cylinder engine. Like the Prius, this runs on an Atkinson cycle, which is a very fuel efficient system but one which does not provide much power for any given displacement. This is where the 105kW (140hp) electric motor in the Camry hybrid comes in, supplying power to make up for the shortfall.
The Camry Hybrid is intended to make the car feel like a V6 powered car, but with lower emissions and fuel consumption, which means the electric motor assists the engine more often than it does in the Prius.
Regenerative Braking in Camry Hybrid
As in the Prius, the gear lever has a special slot to increase the amount of regenerative braking in the Camry, but unlike in the Prius the Camry’s engine also switches on to provide engine braking, which can increase fuel consumption. The owner’s manual even goes as far as to say that driving constantly with the function on will increase fuel consumption.
The secret to a good hybrid system is that it is virtually unnoticeable to the driver, and this is so in the Camry Hybrid; it merely drives exactly like a Camry, with only the displays telling the driver where the power is currently coming from. The only real sign is that the engine switches off when the car is stationary – just like the Prius.
Camry Hybrid Fuel Consumption
The official fuel urban consumption claim of the Camry Hybrid is 8.8L/100km (26mpg), but during the test drive, which was almost exclusively urban, the readout in the dashboard registered 7.6L/100km (31mpg).
The only problem with the Camry Hybrid is that the technology remains expensive. With an NZ$6500 premium over a standard Camry plenty of driving will have to take place before the extra expense is paid off with lower fuel usage – Toyota NZ estimates that the average driver will save NZ$1,530 per year in fuel costs over a standard Camry. That means over four years of driving.
However, there is the point that the car is far less damaging to the environment while it is running, which is often the reason a hybrid is bought in the first place.