Toyota held its launch for the 2012 Hybrid Camry range late last week, and Giz travelled down to Broadford Raceway to check out its flagship Hybrid vehicle.
The 2012 Hybrid Camry comes in two models: the $34,990 Camry H and the $41,490 Camry HL — the L stands for Luxury, which is essentially a package that gets you a much nicer leather interior, satnav, inbuilt DAB+ radio, automatic pop-up lights and blind spot indicators; otherwise there's no difference under the hood of either model.
The one thing that Toyota was keen to push above all else was that despite the Camry being a hybrid it didn't mean it's lacking in drive power. Having survived a hot lap and taken it up to over 140km/h rather rapidly, I tend to agree with them; while this isn't a muscle car to speak of, for the broader market that might want to be reassured that their car can handle, say, an uphill overtake without running out of puff, this does the job suitably well.
I should point out here that I'm not a motoring fanatic per se; I'm very much of the school that views my car as a tool to get from point A to point C, possibly stopping off at point B to take a nice photo along the way. That's at least partially the target market for this kind of vehicle, however. I'm also (and I'm perfectly happy to say this) only an average driver; I do think that far too many people think of themselves as above average drivers when they're not; that's dangerous thinking not to mention mathematically illogical.
There's the promise from Toyota that we'll see hybrid vehicles this year within the $20,000-$50,000 price range, at which point they're genuinely competitive with their petrol brethren, especially if Toyota's fuel economy figures are to be believed. The claim is that you can save around $3000 in petrol costs over three years with one of the new hybrids. As with previous models, that'll depend on your mix of city and highway driving, although the reverse of the normal petrol rules applies here. The more city driving — where the electric motor takes over the job of providing power for starts at the lights — you do, the more economical it is. Toyota's claim here is that you can get as low as 4.9L/100km for city driving, up to 5.7L/100km for highway, an an average of 5.2L/100km overall.
It's worth noting that while we were driving around, I never sat in or drove a car that was running at less than 7.2L/100km, but then we weren't exactly doing normal economical driving at any time.
First up was a test drive down from the track to Strath Creek. As this was the first time I'd stepped behind the wheel, I was a touch nervous — any new car is at least a slight learning experience for any driver — but the Camry's response was excellent, and if you're after an easy car to drive, it's a good companion. No film of that in action for you, sadly; I was a bit busy concentrating on driving to hold a camera at the same time — and I'm sure that'd be illegal.
The rest of the testing was on-track, and involved slaloming, 100-0 hard stops to test the braking, stability control testing on a wet track and a rather nerve-destroying hot lap. I'll let the video do the talking here:
Is one day long enough for me to give you a buy/don't buy recommendation? No, it's not; I'm certainly happy to say that the Hybrid Camry's a very nice vehicle, and a solid competitor in the emerging non-petrol/diesel car space, however.