Thursday, January 3, 2008

New EPA Fuel Economy Bad News for Camry Hybrid?




Fast Forward
By Marcus MacFarland

OVERVIEW

As it turns out, I had the 2007 and 2008 Toyota Camry Hybrids scheduled within a couple of months of each other. Normally, I try to avoid such a thing. However, in this case, there were only a few minor changes between these model years. The Camry got a major redesign for 2007, so the near carryover is no big surprise. Two of the changes for 2008 are rather surprising though. First, the base price actually went down for 2008, slightly. Secondly, EPA fuel economy estimates on the sticker are now supposed to be more accurate, which for hybrid automobiles is quite interesting. Perhaps, the two are related?
PERFORMANCE

The Camry Hybrid is powered by a 2.4-liter DOHC four-cylinder gas-powered engine that gets a 40 horsepower boost from a nickel-metal hydride battery-powered electric motor. Total horsepower between gas and electric motors is 187, with 147 horsepower coming from the gasoline engine and 40 from the electric. Interestingly, EPA fuel estimates for the Hybrid Camry have dipped for this year. While last year’s model was estimated at 40-mpg city and 38-mpg highway, the new estimates are 33-mpg city and 34-mpg highway. I think the latter estimate is far closer to what Camry Hybrid buyers should expect to see. When you consider that the standard four-cylinder Camry gets 21-mpg city and 31-mpg highway, it would take a long time for this option to pay for itself.

HANDLING

While the Camry Hybrid offers comfortable ride quality, its standard 16" wheels betray its cornering ability. I’ll reach and assume that the average Hybrid buyer is not going to find this information to be "An inconvenient truth". Sorry for the bad joke, but I couldn’t resist. Nevertheless, I wouldn’t expect to shred corners between Leonardo Di Caprio speaking engagements.
STYLING

Appropriately, my tester came with green exterior paint. Even though the Monroney called it Jasper Pearl, I would called it sour apple. As I’ve said before, I think the redesigned Camry is the best-looking Camry to date, sour apple paint and all. Inside, it features an attractive and thoroughly modern looking interior. However, while you can get upgraded audio and a moonroof, leather is out of the question for the Camry Hybrid.
JUDGEMENT

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a hundred times. The hybrids I’ve driven serve more as a political statement, than a sound financial decision. Realized fuel savings are only a few hundred dollars per year. So, the cost of this option will take buyers quite some time to recoup.

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