I recently purchased a new 2007 Camry Hybrid.  Why a Hybrid?

These were my top reasons for buying a Hybrid

  1. The environment: — how can anyone in this day and age buy anything but a Hybrid?  I’m no tree hugger, but when the price of a 2007 Camry Hybrid is actually LESS than the price of a 2007 Camry XLE but has all the same features (even more features really) you’d be crazy to buy anything but the Hybrid.
  2. The price: k, I already said this in point #1, but the Hybrid with its two engines has a all the power you need, and has all of the high-end features of the XLE (even nice alloy rims) and is actually less expensive than the XLE!
  3. The fuel savings: I was really surprised by this.  I drive mostly highway so I thought my fuel economy wasn’t going to be that good, and to be fair, it’s nowhere near as good as it would be with city driving, but I’m still doing quite well.  A real shocker — on a trip from Toronto to Sudbury — all highway (speeds varying between 80 and 110 KM/h) I actually had a tank average of 6.6L/100KMs!  I used less than half a tank of gas to drive over 400KMs!
  4. Styling / Coolness Factor:  This is a good looking car.  I keep having people tell me how good looking this car is — they’re all surprised it’s a Camry.  Plus this car has a great interior, and just about the coolest looking instrument panel I’ve seen in a long time.  Check out this picture of the instrument panel:

Smooth & Quiet Drive – CVT Transmission is great

If you’re like me, you want your drive to be smooth as silk, and quiet.  This car delivers — bigtime.  The CVT transmission means you no longer have a “jerky” drive that you get with non-CVT transmission cars, and when you’re running in electric mode this car is amazingly quiet — I just love backing into my garage with this thing (no emissions stinking up the garage either).

CVT takes some getting used to at first but once you’re used to it (takes about 1 week) you NEVER WANT TO GO BACK to a non CVT transmission.  I was on a business trip recently and just happened to get a 2007 Toyota Camry LE (which does not have the CVT transmission) — I couldn’t believe how jerky the ride was by comparison to the smooth acceleration I get with my Hybrid / CVT.

This car actually rewards you for using less fuel – changes the way you drive

This may seem silly, but this car has 5 features that really make you want to consume less fuel and “tweak” your driving to consume less fuel.

Feature #1: The L/100km Consumption Gauge

Have a look at the picture of the dash — in the place where you’d normally see a tachometer you see a L/100km consumption meter instead.  This shows you you’re fuel consumption “right now”.  Your goal is to keep that puppy as low as possible. If you accelerate hard, you see that needle shoot up, if you accelerate smoothly you notice that you consume less fuel.

Feature #2: The L/100km Bar Graph

I didn’t included it in the screen picture, but each time you get in the car, there’s a little bar graph that shows you your average L/100km for the trip — the graph starts at 9 or so L/100km and goes to 5.7L/100kms — your goal is to get as many bars as you can (more bars for less L/100kms).

No kidding, every day, every trip I take, I do my best to get those bars?  Why? Read on to Feature #3…

Feature #3: The car flashes the word “EXCELLENT”

When you turn off your car if you’ve made it to 3 bars on your L/100km graph the display flashes the word EXCELLENT.  OK, at first I thought this was cheese but I actually look forward to seeing that bit of positive encouragement every day.  This thing can actually cheer you up.  I’ve occasionally had a crappy day at work, but on the drive home done well enough on fuel economy to get the word “EXCELLENT” flashing at the bottom of the display and it’s cheered me right up. 🙂

Feature #4: The Blue Glow

As soon as you earn even one “bar” on your L/100km bar Graph a blue glow appears around the speedometer and L/100km Consumption meter.  This blue glow starts off very dim, and gets more intense each time you earn another bar on your graph.  This is a small thing, but it makes your display look even more cool than it already is and is another major positive reinforcement for having done a good job consuming less fuel.

Feature #5: The Tank Average

Every time you fill your tank, the car resets the tank average.  So each tank you can set a goal for yourself, or see if you can beat the last tank average.  My personal experience with this was:

  • First Tank: 8.2 L/100km
  • Second Tank: 7.9 L/100km
  • Third Tank: 7.2 L/100km  (notice I was getting better and conserving fuel just by changing the way I drive — I was basically driving the same route during each of these tanks).
  • Fourth Tank: Trip from Toronto to Sudbury: 6.6 L/100km
  • Fifth Tank: 7.5 L/100km
  • etc.

I just love these features — they just make you feel good about having bought a Hybrid, and quite frankly just make you feel good in general.  I love this car.

Anti-Lock Breaks and Traction Control: WOW what an improvement

If you’ve ever been in an car with Anti-Lock breaks, you’ll know what I mean when I say it can sound (and feel) horrible when they’re in use — car shakes, you hear this horrible grinding noise, etc.  That is NOT the case with the Camry Hybrid.  The anti-lock mechanism is QUIET AND SMOOTH — the car does not shake, there’s no grinding noise.  It does feel a bit different when they’re on, and you see this little traction control / ABS light flashing on the dash, but it is by far the best anti-lock system I’ve every had the pleasure of driving.  It just works and is smooth.

Traction control was much the same, when you accelerate hard in snow for example, the system kicks in and prevents you from spinning out.  No thought required — it also just works.

Other things I love about this car

  • Alloy Rims look great

Electric-only mode

This car automatically switches in and out of Electric only mode, here are some things I’ve learned from experience:

  1. When you first turn on the car, odds are it won’t be in electric only mode. (Especially in winter).  It seems the car wants to “warm itself up first” so it turns on the gas engine to do that.  I’m guessing in summer it won’t need to do that, but in winter it seems to want to do that.
  2. After a highway trip, it tends to go into electric only mode whenever you’re driving below 60km/h — maybe because the engine is warmed up already, or because it’s charged the battery, or whatever.  Either way after getting off the highway for me, the rest of my trip home is in whisper quiet electric only mode — love it!
  3. You’ll stay in electric only mode if you don’t accelerate hard.  To stay in electric only mode, you have to accelerate VERY smoothly.  I actually find that sometimes you’re better to accelerate quickly up to the speed limit, then let go of the gas completely (which tends to put you back in electric only mode) then just stay light on the peddle and you’re good to go.
  4. Stop and go traffic = electric only mode for longer periods of time.  I don’t get stuck in stop and go traffic much, but when I do, I find the car tends to switch to electric only mode more often.  I once had that happen just after filling up a tank, and ended up with a tank average of 2.2L/100KMs for that trip.
  5. You get an electric boost at highway speeds — even with cruise control turned on.   I found that even with cruise control on I still got an electric boost at highway speeds every once in a while that helped to keep my fuel consumption below 9L/100kms.
  6. Odds are you can get better fuel economy than cruise control.  Especially if you build up your speed while going down hills, then lay off the accelerator when going up hills, you can dramatically cut your L/100kms consumption.  And it is very easy to see how you’re doing because you’ve got that instant feedback on the L/100kms consumption guage.
  7. How can I force my car into electric only mode?  Well, there’s no button to do that, but what I’ve found is that you can “force” it into electric only mode by stopping the car.  I.e. come to a stop sign, stay there for more than 5 or 10 seconds and the gas engine will turn off.  If you then accelerate very smoothly you’ll be in / stay in electric only mode until you either acceleate hard enough to require the gas engine, or until you’re battery is too low.
  8. TURN OFF the climate control system (at least until the engine is up to temperature).  If it’s the middle of winter, and you have the climate control turned on (auto mode) then there’s only one place for it to get heat: the gas engine.  So if you want to be in electric only mode, turn it off.   On my car, I ordered the B package (which gave me a sunroof and leather seats) — but this package also gets you seat warmers.  I find that unless it is extremely cold, I’m happy with my seat warmer turned on, and the main climate control system turned off.  With that configuration I can drive in electric only mode for longer periods of time.

Order The Security System Option

The security system option on this car is more than just an annoying alarm.  Sure it adds that and glass breakage detection and stuff, but it also adds this cool button on your door that lets you lock the doors without using the key fob.  So you can leave your key in your pocket and never have to touch it — not when getting into your car, not when getting out of your car.

RFID Key Fob means no inserting the key to turn on the car

With this car you walk up to the car, open the door (it unlocks automatically when you touch the handle as long as you have the key on you — more on that in a bit).  You then sit down, put your foot on the break, press the ON button, put the car in gear and drive away.

THIS IS SO COOL (and it really freaks people out the first time you give them a ride).

RFID automatic unlocking of your doors.

You get this even without the Security option.  You’ve locked your car, your keys are in your pocket.  You walk up to the car and touch the driver’s side handle — the door you touched unlocks automatically.  Scenario #2 you’ve got the key fob in your pocket and you walk up to the passenger side door and touch the handle — it unlocks automatically.  Scenario #3 you’ve got the key fob in your pocket, but your spouse does NOT have one.  You walk up to your door, touch the handle, it unlocks automatically.  Your spouse tries to open their door — the door is still locked!  It only unlocks the door for a person if they have the key fob on them!  Very cool.

Things that bugged me

#1 Satellite Radio Information Display Doesn’t have Enough Characters

My #1 pet peeve about this car is that with the optional XM Satellite radio installed the information display just doesn’t give you all the information you get from 3rd party radios.  It shows you about 15 characters of either  the station name OR the artist OR the track name — and it displays the “Short forms” of the names instead of the full versions of the names.  This is annoying, but it is functional.

With the amount of space this LCD display takes up in the dash they could have put a way more high-resolution screen there and displayed the station name, artist, FULL track name (AND enabled the scroll for more information feature), etc.  They just didn’t.

A great feature when you have a a CD or MP3 CD in there with a long track name you have the option to scroll the text to see the rest of the name — great for CD/MP3, but frustrating when you realize you can’t do the same with the XM Radio display.

#2 The car is louder at highway speeds than I’d like

I think it’s because the car is SOOOOO quiet at non-highway speeds that I notice the noise more at highway speeds.  The noise you hear is NOT from the car itself, but rather road noise.  Now don’t get me wrong, this is a Camry, and this Camry has all the noise reduction features of any other Camry, and is WAY quieter at highway speeds than my old 1996 Camry, but you tend to notice the noise because more at highway speed than when driving at city speeds because at city speeds, this car is incredibly quiet.

#3 Small Trunk, but I don’t care

k, every time I show someone the trunk, they’re reaction is: whoa, will that hold two sets of clubs?  (The answer is yes it will by the way.)  The reason for that reaction is that the hybrid battery takes up some of the room near the back part of the trunk that would in other Camry models be available for storage.  The situation is made worse because above the battery they put this rather large vent up to the inside of the car — required by the battery, but really you’d think they could have made the ducting for this smaller or even more off to one side so you’d have more room for cargo.

The way I use my car, I don’t miss the space.  I hardly ever use my trunk for anything, but even on long road trips with my wife and kid I’ve been able to pack all our luggage in there without any problem.  There’s just enough space “over” the battery also that you can get more in there than you think you can.

They also include a free cargo net which is a nice touch.  Oh, they also put the regular 12v battery in the trunk also — neatly tucked away on the right side of the car.

#4 The RFID unlocking of doors doesn’t work for the back seat 😦

One of the coolest features of the car is the fact that when you walk up to the driver’s or passenger side door, the door unlocks automatically when you touch the handle, meaning that you don’t have to reach for (or find) your key fob to unlock the door.  But say you’re carrying a bag/briefcase/luggage or whatever and want to put that in the back seat first before you open the driver’s or passenger door.  Unfortunately you’re out of luck.  The back doors don’t unlock automatically with this feature.  It’s really a shame, because for me I’m almost always putting my heavy laptop bag in the back seat.  So instead, I tend to open the driver’s side door first, then push the unlock all doors button inside the car door, then open the back seat, etc.

#5 No IPOD adapter available for the Hybrid

Supposedly there’s something about the Hybrid model’s stereo that makes the optional IPOD adapter “not” an option on the Hybrid.  My experience: it doesn’t really matter because you still have the AUX “line in” feature and the quality of sound through that connection (hooked up to the headphone jack of the IPOD) is excellent.  It just means you have to navigate your tracks using the IPOD itself, not the steering wheel controls.  Oh well.  Bottom line is that it’s still 1000% better sound quality with the line in jack than it would be with some FM transmitter.

Final Thoughts

If you’re in the market for a new car the 2007 Camry Hybrid is a no-brainer.  Just get it, you won’t regret the decision for a second. This is a good looking car, it drives well, it is stylish, and the car rewards you EVERY DAY for driving in a fuel efficient manner.  What more could you want?

2011 – Update:

So it’s been a few years now, and I still love this car.  Some more things I’ve noticed:

  • Keep your tires full of air.  No kidding.  Just inflating the tires to the max rated presure changed my tank average from around 7L/100KM to about 6L/100KM and that’s on a regular basis.
  • Radio Technical glitch: about once every 6 months or so when flipping between satelite radio, FM, AUX, AM, etc the radio can get to a point where it no longer can receive the signal on whatever the input happens to be.  So for example, I would lose the ability to tune an FM radio station, or I couldn’t listen to XM.  100% of the time however this problem can be addressed by turning the car off and on again.  This always fixes the issue, and it doesn’t seem to return for months.  So it’s not actually a car problem as much as it is an issue with the version 1.0 of their entertainment system.  (I’m pretty sure you cannot purchase what I have anymore so this is likely a non-issue for most people.)
  • Trunk space:  I said earlier that the trunk is small, but it really has not been a problem for me.  I have 3 small children, and I’m able to fit everything I need for the family trips into that trunk.  Maybe I’m better than most at packing and making use of the space that is available, but I’ve never found myself having to leave something behind because of the space taken up by the battery.
  • Battery: 4 years later and it’s still going strong / working well.
  • Electric-only: I found that it can work up to 70km/h, not just 60km/h like I wrote previously — but you’ve got to be extremely light on the gas as you get closer to that number to stay in electric only mode.
  • Cruise Control vs. careful acceleration: which is better?  If you’re driving on basically flat ground cruise control does a great job.  Keeps your speed more or less contstant so the fuel consumption is steady.  If you’re driving on hilly ground however, definitely turn off the cruise and instead let your self gain speed when going down hills and sacrifice some of that speed when you’re going up the next hill.  That way you can avoid spiking the fuel consumption when you go up each hill.
  • Any repairs?  The only repairs I’ve had to make to the car have been because of stupidity – minor cosmetic damage to the drivers side mirror when I scraped a wall with it once.  I’ve had absolutely no problems with the vehicle itself.  Nothing’s broken down, nothing has stopped working.  Exactly the reliability I’ve come to expect from Toyota.
  • After 4 years of driving a Hybrid would I still buy one.  Yes, absolutely.  In fact my wife will need to replace her old mini-SUV soon, and instead of looking at Minivans that do not have hybrid features (we immediately crossed them off the list because they did not have hybrid options available), we instead looked at the SUVs that do have Hybrid options and CVT transmissions.