"Camry Hybrid... Disappointing"2.0 starson by hammonddave
Pros: Gas Mileage, Quiet Ride, Improved Exterior Design
Cons: Power Lungung at Highway Speeds, Limited Trunk Space, Cheap Interior Materials, Expensive
Summary: After taking a 30 minute test drive in the new Camry Hybrid I must admit that I was quite disappointed. Initially I was very excited with Toyota's new design for the Camry. Introducing Hybrid technology to the masses is a great idea, and one that is long over-due. I was excited to see my Camry waiting for me at the dealer (I had pre-ordered one several weeks ago). Although the exterior design is a vast improvement over previous Camry, it does have some strange visual elements. One that sticks out is its bulbous nose. Yes, as you look at the car from the side it looks as if it actually has a nose on the front.
Upon entering the car I was immediately struck with the amount of cheap plastic that permeated throughout. Although I had ordered the leather interior upgrade, the amount of plastic still created a very "un-luxury" feel. Buttons looked and felt cheap. The high doors and small side windows also give the car a confining feeling when sitting inside. The headliner is made of a cheap felt-like material that reminded me of the cheapest economy autos of the 1980's.
The driving experience is best described as "interesting". I had previously driven a Prius and enjoyed the way it handled. I did enjoy how the Camry drove in stop and go traffic. The transition from battery power to the engine was silky smooth. The new Camry certainly had a great deal of power when pulling away from an intersection, or upon entering a highway. Unfortunately once the car reaches full highway speed, there is a terrible lunging when settling into a cruising speed. At 70MPH the car would repeatedly jerk forward then relax... it seemed impossible to maintain a constant speed. I had seen this before in the Road and Track Magazine Test Drive, and I experienced it myself today. This was one of the deal-killers for me as the car felt unsteady and difficult to control at highway speeds.
Finally, I was greatly disappointed at the reduced trunk space. Yes, the rear seats do unlatch and flip down, but there is a huge hump between the rear seats and the trunk that holds the batteries. This creates a wall that forbids you from sliding anything larger than a set of skis into the back seat. Why Toyota did not locate the batteries under the seats, like they did on the Prius, is beyond me. The batteries not only prevent you from loading long items in the trunk, it also reduces the overall volume of luggage.
This, along with the speed problems, and the cheap materials used for a $30,000 automobile, made my decision very easy. Believe me, I was hoping this car would be terrific, but Road and Track is right. If you really want a good buy on a Camry, go for the regular four cylinder. It has a great gas mileage, is $8,000 cheaper, has a huge trunk, is 750lbs lighter, and is almost as quick. Let's hope that Toyota improves its design and the quality of the interior materials on their future cars.