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The 2007 Camry Hybrid qualifies as a full hybrid, which means it can run only on gas, only on electric, or on a mixture of both. Like the Prius, the Camry Hybrid uses Toyota's HSD propulsion system, which incorporates a fearsome amount of technology to allow the car to run as efficiently as possible while maintaining maximum performance. The HSD uses a series of interconnected components, including a gasoline-powered combustion engine, a nickel-metal-hydride battery, a generator, a power-split device, and an electricity inverter. When the car is in motion, power from the gasoline engine is split between the drivetrain--to move the car--and the generator, which uses the resultant electricity either to drive the electric motor to help turn the wheels or to power electronics, as well as to charge the battery, which can then be used to drive the car on its own.
When the Camry is pottering around town, it can survive in electric-only mode, which makes for a smooth--and deathly quiet--ride. Initially, it can be quite unnerving to drive a car of this size in electric mode; more than once, we had to remind ourselves that the engine had not stalled when getting ready to pull off from the lights. To counter our butterflies in these situations, we found that we would step extrahard on the gas pedal to ensure that we didn't hold up the traffic flow, an action that would cause the car to decide that we needed more power and to call upon the gas engine for extra torque. As the Camry switches from electric only to gas-and-electric, the car splutters and judders as it balances the two power sources--a minor design flaw but one we can live with. An LCD in the instrument panel informs the driver which fuel sources are currently being used, while a dial to its left gives an instantaneous readout of current gas mileage.
When called upon, the 147-horsepower 2.4-liter variable-valve timed engine delivers a surprising amount of oomph, enabling the car to pass with ease on the freeway. Acceleration is incredibly smooth due to the continuously variable transmission, which doesn't have the hard gearshifts of a standard automatic.
Handling on the Camry is generally responsive, but we found that when crawling along in traffic, the steering wheel has an alarming tendency to pull sharply to the left or right depending on the camber of the road. This may have something to do with the Toyota's high-tech VDIM systems (see Safety section), but we found it very disconcerting.
Irrespective of all the technology on this car, there are two principal reasons that people will fork out another $1,000 more for the hybrid than for the top-of-the-range petrol-engine 2007 Camry: its fuel economy and its relatively low environmental impact. EPA ratings for the Camry Hybrid are 40mpg and 38mpg for city and highway, respectively. In a mixture of city and highway driving, we observed an average of 35mpg--below the official ratings but still remarkably efficient for a full-size sedan.
The Camry Hybrid qualifies as an Advanced Technology Partial Zero Emission Vehicle (AT PZEV), which means it includes advanced technology components, as well as a drive mode that produces zero evaporative emissions.
Adding to the safety tech is a tire-pressure monitoring system and Whiplash Injury Lessening (WIL) seats, which Toyota first introduced in the Prius. The Camry also provides an impressive array of engine and systems diagnostics via its in-dash LCD, which can be programmed to store maintenance information for most of the car's moving parts.
Like all 2007 Camrys, the Hybrid comes with dual-stage advanced SRS air bags. Driver and front passenger air bags, front side air bags with head protection, and side head-curtain air bags all come standard, as does a driver's knee air bag.
The 2007 Camry Hybrid is yet to be rated for frontal- and side-impact crash safety, although its scores a respectable four stars in its rollover rating.
The 2007 Camry Hybrid is covered by a three-year/36,000-mile warranty for repairs and replacements, a five-year/60,000-mile power train warranty, and an unlimited-mileage rust protection warranty. The Camry Hybrid also has an eight-year/100,000-mile warranty on all hybrid-related components, including the high-voltage battery, the battery control module, the hybrid control module, and the inverter.