There are so many things to talk about when it comes to the 2007 Toyota Camry Hybrid that writing a brief overview might prove tricky--but here goes.
Like its 2007 gasoline-only contemporaries, Toyota's latest hybrid family member looks markedly different from its Camry ancestors; a fuller rear end and more parabolic lines will likely have passersby mistaking this car side-on for something off the Mercedes-Benz drawing board. Toyota's iconic Hybrid Synergy Drive logos on the tailgate and on both fenders subtly let the world know that this car is ecofriendly and--more importantly--acts as the ultimate alternative-cosmopolitan status symbol. Once in the cabin, the driver is greeted with a similar view to that of the, Toyota's more ostentatious (and ridiculously successful) hybrid debutante. A circular pushbutton acts as an ignition switch, but it took some convincing to assure us that the engine was actually on; in electric-only mode, these Toyota hybrids are so quiet that they would make ideal ninja getaway cars.
The Camry qualifies as a full hybrid, which means it's a car that can run only on gas, only on electric, or on a mixture of both. A dot-matrix LCD in the instrument panel let us know which of these propulsion methods we were currently using, while a gauge gave us a real-time gas-mileage readout; this swings dramatically up every time the car reverts to electric mode.
Having narrowly avoided a couple of pedestrians who were crossing the street and not expecting a stealthmobile, we found the 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine quite responsive on the open road. Acceleration in electric mode was juddery, but with our foot down, the embarrassingly low-tech combustion engine kicked in, and the car passed with ease when pushed into high gear. Handling was assured, but suspension felt a bit boxy over some unmade road.
Onboard tech in the 2007 Toyota Camry Hybrid is impressive. The optional touch screen and voice-activated DVD navigation unit were pretty intuitive and accurate on first impressions, although it did take a while to register our initial position; plus, it took a few minutes searching at stoplights to turn off the voice directions. Hands-free calling and Bluetooth compatibility also come standard on the Camry Hybrid, both of which worked well. Pairing our phone took less than a minute, and we managed to place and take calls using controls on the steering wheel. On the downside, it appears that transferring your mobile's phone book info to the Camry's memory bank can be done only one entry at a time, which will be a laborious process for those with any kind of social life. The JBL four-disc in-dash CD changer had no problem with our homemade MP3 disc, showing ID3 information for album and track names, although giving no mention of the artist. The stereo system's eight speakers sounded very good when turned up loud, and we were able to hook up our iPod to the head unit via an auxiliary input jack.
Dual climate control for driver and front passenger is enhanced with Toyota's Plasmacluster technology, which, according to the manufacturer, helps reduce airborne mold spores, microbes, and germs inside the car. We have to say that, to our untrained lungs, the air didn't feel any purer than inside the, for example, but it's nice to know that the boffins at Toyota are thinking on a molecular level.
We are looking forward to driving--and tinkering--at length with this car for our full review, which will be coming to Car Tech soon.