Tuesday, February 14, 2006

The 2007 Camry Hybrid, America's Automobile

Like it or not, the Toyota is America's Automobile (yes, Automobile with a capital "A"), especially if you're not, shall we say, under 65. Why just today, while passing through one of the "watch out lest you get T-boned by a Camry" stretches of my morning commute, I turned onto Van Nuys Boulevard and got into the middle of three lanes behind a new Camry -- it didn't even have license plates yet. The woman drove no faster than 34 miles per hour. I know the speed limit is 35, but let's face it, it's morning rush hour, and 34 was her top speed. So I pull into the right late to get on the Ventura Freeway and speed ahead because I am NOT driving a Camry, nor do I drive like I'm driving a Camry.

I pass the Camry but watch in my rearview mirror. It suddenly shifts into the right late - "Hey, I'm actually going somewhere, and wouldn't you know it, I'm already here." Then it makes a full stop and rolls up the driveway sans accelerator, using only the power of the transmission in Drive (and stopping traffic behind it). Ah, Camrys.

That brings me to my other point, only tangentially related of course, but the title of this post nonetheless: the 2007 Camry Hybrid, which Pulitzer Prize-winning Dan Neil of the Los Angeles Times assesses here. This link probably won't be here forever, so click TODAY but enjoy the following excerpt, which will be here for the foreseeable future:

By certain lights, the 2007 Camry Hybrid is not particularly revolutionary. Here we have a nicely equipped, 3,637-pound, five-passenger sedan with 192 horsepower, costing about $30,000 (final pricing has yet to be confirmed). Styling reminds me of the old Merle Travis song: So round, so firm, so fully packed. The ride and handling are straight-up Pink Floyd: comfortably numb.But, ladies and gentlemen, what we have here is the Buick from another planet. Beneath the almost laughably stately sheetmetal is a still-slightly radical, state-of-the-art gas-electric powertrain allowing the sedan to post estimated EPA fuel economy numbers of 43 miles per gallon city, 37 mpg highway, and 40 mpg combined driving.


There's nothing rakish or aggressive about the car's new styling, no trick graphics or plunging hood lines. What the Camry is on the inside — safe, reliable, sturdy, bourgeois — it is on the outside. This car is the radon of midsize exurban transportation: odorless, colorless, invisible.How does it drive? Quintessentially Camry-like. Unlike the spanking-quick Honda Accord Hybrid, which uses the hybrid power to boost the performance of its V6 powerplant, the Camry moves at a deliberate and unhurried pace — which is to say, it's kind of slow. Although it has enough asphalt savvy for ordinary driving, it's rather yacht-like in its cornering and steering responses.
(Check out the Camry Hybrid's computerized console, above right. Does it come with Photoshop and Word? How about Frogger?)

You can't make the Camry fast, because ... well, just because. And on a serious note, the trade-off of better mileage for non-sportscar-like performance is what a hybrid should be, in my opinion. And making America's Automobile, its best-selling car, in a hybrid version is probably the smartest thing any car company has done in recent memory.

Now if they could only hybridize my Ford Focus (not exciting, but not a Camry either), which can haul ass if called upon, but which also gets less-than-stellar gas mileage.

Previous Camry musing:

Orange Line vs. Camry
The ultimate car

And from Ilene:
Duck and cover, it's a Camry!

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