GirlDriver, USA

GirlDriver, USA
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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

2012 Camry Hybrid Cranking at a higher FE

I drove the 2011 Toyota Camry Hybrid for a week recently. I logged 641.6 comfortable miles and averaged 37.4 mpg. I was quite happy with the functions in the car and the mileage, (EPA rating is 31 city/35 highway, combined 33). Like all of us, I wince when I put those fill-ups on my credit card. But, the whole trip cost only around $65 in gas, not a big blip on the monthly statement.

The story gets better with the 2012 model. Much of the hybrid powertrain is new--including the engine. The new hybrid system has a 2.5-liter four-cylinder that delivers 200 horsepower. Toyota has also reduced the weight of the hybrid by 220 pounds. The improvements give you better fuel economy, fewer emissions and also faster acceleration--7.6 seconds from 0-60. Fuel economy jumps to 43 city/41 highway, the best mileage of any midsize sedan available today, with a range of 650 miles.

Along with improvements, the Camry Hybrid LE will cost less. Toyota has reduced the price $1,150 to an MSRP of $25,900. The premium Camry Hybrid XLE model is $800 less with an upgrade package at an MSRP of $27,400. As equipped, the 2011 vehicle I drove cost $29,420. The hybrids arrive at dealerships in November; the gas-powered Camrys arrive October 3rd.

The 2012 Camry, with three powertrains, including the hybrid was introduced on August 23. The Camry. which debuted in the U.S. in 1983, has been a big success story for Toyota. Globally the car has sold 15 million since its introduction. It has been the best selling midsize sedan for nine years running and 13 out of the last 14 years. The earthquake and tsunami, Toyota's unintended acceleration nightmare, as well as increased competition contributed to a 31 percent decline is Camry sales from its best sales year 2007. It is still the best selling mid-size sedan with total sales last year of 327,804.

Serious competition from competitors is one problem that isn't going to go away. Hyundai sells a Sonata hybrid. Volkswagen has a Passat hybrid coming in 2013. And these days, those two companies seem to be the ones to worry about. Toyota, which faced criticism for not making a bolder new design with the 2012, defends its evolutionary approach. Bob Carter, Carter Group Vice President and General Manager, Toyota Division was quoted saying, "Styling like the Sonata's is not a quick way to get to 400,000 sales."

Toyota's reputation has been battered over the last year. But I wonder how many of its competitors could have held up as well under the pressure. Years of steadfast reliability have helped the company. I would worry about the coming competition, not only from VW and Hyundai, but from other manufacturers like Kia, GM, Nissan and Honda. Still Toyota is a strong company. And the Camry, with so many loyal owners, will survive. It may not have the record sales of 2007, but it will be strong.

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