2007 Toyota Camry Hybrid
2007 Toyota Camry Hybrid. Click image to enlarge

Review and photos by Greg Wilson

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When hybrid cars first appeared in the late 90s, they had unique, futuristic styling: the Honda Insight (now discontinued) and Toyota Prius (now into its second generation) are the two pioneers in North America. Then in 2003, Honda introduced a Civic Hybrid sedan that looked almost identical to the regular Civic sedan. Honda’s theory was that not all hybrid drivers wanted a vehicle that looked different to, or was less practical than a mainstream vehicle.

Since then, all new hybrids (with the exception of the Prius) have borrowed an existing bodystyle, notably the Honda Accord Hybrid, Ford Escape Hybrid, Toyota Highlander Hybrid, Saturn Vue Green Line, and Toyota Camry Hybrid – and coming soon, the Nissan Altima Hybrid, Chevy Malibu Hybrid, Chevy Tahoe Hybrid and GMC Yukon Hybrid.

It was a no-brainer for Toyota to convert the popular Camry to a Hybrid model. As the best-selling car in the United States, and one of the best-selling mid-size sedans in Canada, the Camry makes an ideal candidate for a hybrid powertrain, and will attract additional environmentally-conscious buyers.

2007 Toyota Camry Hybrid
2007 Toyota Camry Hybrid. Click image to enlarge

Unlike the Honda Accord Hybrid, which was introduced in 2005 with a 3.0-litre V6 motor and Honda’s IMA hybrid system, the Camry Hybrid uses a 2.4-litre four-cylinder engine in combination with their hybrid ‘Synergy’ electric drivetrain and CVT transmission. Though the hybrid bits add weight to the car, the additional power they generate in combination with the four-cylinder engine (combined 187 hp) actually improves acceleration when compared to the standard four-cylinder Camry. In 0 to 100 km/h tests conducted at this year’s AJAC Car of the Year ‘Testfest’, a Camry Hybrid took 8.6 seconds compared to a Camry LE four-cylinder with 9.5 seconds. In fact, the Camry Hybrid is not far behind the Accord Hybrid (with a V6 hybrid drivetrain) which took 8.2 seconds from 0 to 100 km/h in 2005 AJAC tests.

2007 Toyota Camry Hybrid
2007 Toyota Camry Hybrid. Click image to enlarge

The Camry Hybrid is also quicker from 80 to 120 km/h than the four-cylinder Camry: 7.0 seconds vs 8.0 seconds. And despite being heavier (1669 kg vs 1530 kg), the Camry Hybrid stops more quickly too. In 100 to 0 km/h braking tests, the Hybrid stopped in 42.1 metres compared to 42.7 metres for the regular four-cylinder Camry.

Official fuel consumption figures for the Camry Hybrid are 5.7 L/100 km City and 5.7 L/100 km Hwy, but during a week of urban and suburban driving, my Camry Hybrid averaged 7.2 L/100 km (39 mpg Imp.) – still pretty impressive.

2007 Toyota Camry Hybrid
2007 Toyota Camry Hybrid. Click image to enlarge

The official fuel economy figures for the four-cylinder Camry with five-speed automatic transmission are 9.8 L/100 km City and 6.5 L/100 km Hwy, but real-world figures are likely to be higher.

So it looks like the Camry Hybrid is better in every way than a comparably equipped four-cylinder Camry. Well, not quite. The actual driving experience in the Camry Hybrid isn’t quite as seamless as a regular Camry for reasons to do with its hybrid powertrain. I’ll explore that in a minute, but first let’s look at the technology that makes the Camry Hybrid go.

Hybrid Synergy Drivetrain

Toyota’s (and Lexus’) “Hybrid Synergy Drive” system is a ‘full’ hybrid system – which means that the car will run on the gasoline engine alone, the electric motor alone, or a combination of both. A sophisticated electronic controller switches between gas and electric motors automatically as needed for power requirements.

2007 Toyota Camry Hybrid
2007 Toyota Camry Hybrid. Click image to enlarge

In addition, the 105 kw electric motor/generator and regenerative braking system recharge its 244-volt nickel-metal hydride battery when the car is decelerating or braking. As well, the gasoline engine shuts off automatically when the car is stopped at traffic lights, or when idling, to save fuel. The Camry Hybrid is completely self-sufficient – it doesn’t need to be plugged in.

The Camry Hybrid meets the most stringent exhaust emissions standards:

2007 Toyota Camry Hybrid
2007 Toyota Camry Hybrid. Click image to enlarge

California’s Advanced Technology Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle (AT-PZEV). PZEV certification means it is a Super Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle (SULEV), meets a zero-fuel evaporative standard, a 240,000 km durability demonstration, extended emissions system warranty, and has technology deemed to advance future fuel-cell vehicles.

For safety, the high-voltage nickel-metal hydride battery is sealed in a strong protective case behind the rear seat, an area well-protected in front or rear collisions. Should a crash occur, a drivetrain management computer automatically disables all voltage circuits and isolates the high voltage in the battery case. Toyota even publishes a handbook for emergency workers should they need to attend to a wrecked hybrid vehicle.

Pricing and standard equipment

2007 Toyota Camry Hybrid
2007 Toyota Camry Hybrid. Click image to enlarge

Starting at $31,900, the Camry Hybrid’s level of standard equipment is similar to the Camry XLE, but without the leather seats. Standard equipment includes a continuously variable transmission, fully independent suspension, 215/60R16-inch all-season tires with alloy wheels, four disc brakes with ABS and Brake Assist, electric power assist steering, vehicle stability control, and Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management (a superior form of stability control that enhances braking and steering in collision-avoidance manoeuvres).

Inside are cloth seats, eight-way power driver’s seat, automatic climate control with driver/passenger temperature adjustments, tilt/telescoping steering wheel, power windows with driver’s auto-down, power door locks, Smart Key keyless entry with push button starter, cruise control, JBL audio system with AM/FM/CD/MP3/WMA in-dash six-disc CD player, steering wheel audio controls, auxiliary input jack and eight speakers; 60/40 folding rear seatbacks, and heated mirrors.

2007 Toyota Camry Hybrid
2007 Toyota Camry Hybrid. Click image to enlarge

Standard safety features include seven airbags: two front, two side, two curtain and one driver’s kneebag. Front seatbelts have pre-tensioners and force limiters, and there are three three-point seatbelts in the rear and three height adjustable head restraints. For child seats, there are two lower anchor brackets and three upper strap anchors, and rear child safety locks.

The only options available are packaged together in the ‘B’ option package which includes leather seats, heated front seats, power moonroof, four-way power front passenger seat, and two illuminated vanity mirrors, bringing the total MSRP to $35,580.

In addition to Toyota’s regular 3 year/60,000 km basic warranty and 5 year/100,000 km powertrain warranty, the Camry Hybrid also offers an 8-year/160,000 km warranty on Hybrid-related components such as the battery, control modules, and inverter.

Driving impressions

2007 Toyota Camry Hybrid
2007 Toyota Camry Hybrid
The Camry Hybrid’s deep centre console bin (top); an auxiliary jack and a 12-volt power outlet are located in a storage compartment at the bottom of the centre stack (bottom). Click image to enlarge

The Camry Hybrid’s four-cylinder engine is the same one used in the regular Camry, a 2.4-litre four-cylinder engine with four valves per cylinder, variable valve timing, dual overhead camshafts, and dual balance shafts. It develops 147 horsepower, but when combined with the electric motor, it adds up to the equivalent of 187 horsepower. A continuously variable transmission replaces the five-speed automatic in the regular Camry, and besides having no discernable gear changes, this CVT does what most CVTs do: its revs quickly to a given rpm, and stays there while your foot is planted on the accelerator and the car accelerates. This feels unusual in a normal car, but in a Hybrid it’s not quite as disconcerting because there’s so much bottom-end torque from the electric motor: in this case 199 lb-ft of torque from 0 to 1500 rpm. Throttle response is almost instant so there’s no need to rev the heck out of the engine and CVT to get going.

However, from a standing start, I experienced a slight hesitation when first applying the throttle, and on occasion when the gasoline engine started up automatically, there was a slight jerk in the drivetrain. It wasn’t serious enough to make me think something was wrong, but it’s something you won’t experience in a regular Camry.

2007 Toyota Camry Hybrid
2007 Toyota Camry Hybrid. Click image to enlarge

The 2.4-litre gas engine sometimes shuts off while idling at a stoplight, but a lot depends on the power demands on the hybrid system. It will keep running if the battery needs charging or if the heater or air conditioner are running at full blast.

Around town, I found the Camry Hybrid to be quiet and comfortable, with a comfortable ride over smooth pavement, however the suspension proved stiffer than the regular Camry over sudden road bumps and potholes – perhaps because the Camry Hybrid is heavier and has stiffer low rolling resistance Michelin Energy tires.

Still, with a fully independent suspension (front MacPherson struts and coil springs/rear MacPherson struts with dual links and coil springs) the Camry Hybrid handles very well and I found it very comfortable on long drives.

2007 Toyota Camry Hybrid
Editor Greg Wilson thought the skinny metal buttons in the Camry Hybrid’s centre stack were ass-backwards. Click image to enlarge

The cabin is very quiet, and when running on the electric motor alone, it’s whisper quiet. Even with both motors going, engine noise isn’t bothersome.

The brakes aren’t too grabby, a common trait on hybrids with regenerative braking systems. But they do grab harder than conventional brakes, and a sensitive brake foot is needed. Performance in poor winter weather is greatly enhanced by all those standard safety systems that step in automatically to prevent spinouts on slippery surfaces (VSC, VDIM). The latter uses a series of sensors to anticipate stability problems and correct them automatically using a combination of braking and throttle control.

My test car had one odd problem: a strange creaking sound coming from the steering column while making turns.

2007 Toyota Camry Hybrid
2007 Toyota Camry Hybrid. Click image to enlarge

It didn’t affect the feel or responsiveness of the electrically assisted power rack and pinion steering, which felt light but vague, but it sounded weird. Toyota later informed me that the electric power assist was not working correctly and the Rack & Pinion drive unit had to be replaced.

Still, if you add up all the little things I mentioned, the Camry Hybrid’s driving experience isn’t quite as smooth or as seamless as a regular four-cylinder Camry. A lot may depend on how sensitive you are to these minor issues, and how important they are to you.

2007 Toyota Camry Hybrid
2007 Toyota Camry Hybrid
2007 Toyota Camry Hybrid. Click image to enlarge

Interior impressions

Like the regular Camry, the 2007 Camry Hybrid is a roomy mid-size sedan with generous headroom and legroom for front and rear passengers. However, the Hybrid’s trunk is smaller (10.6 cu. ft. vs 14.5 cu. ft.) because the large battery and electric controller are positioned behind the rear seat. However, there are 60/40 folding rear seatbacks – unusual in a hybrid sedan. The opening is very small, but at least you can shove in those new curtain rods you bought down at Home Depot.

My base model had the standard cloth seat material, which to me at least, looks a bit cheaper than you might expect for a $32,000 car. Like the regular Camry, the Camry Hybrid has round gauges with bright backlighting (even during the daytime), and they are very easy to read, but the gauge cluster doesn’t include a tachometer – in its place is an instant fuel consumption gauge with a blue ‘E-mode’ that indicates when the gas engine shuts off and the car is running on electric power only.

The gauge cluster consists of (L to R) a small coolant temperature gauge, instant fuel consumption gauge with inset transmission gear indicator and Ready light, speedometer, and fuel gauge.  The instant fuel consumption gauge includes a blue 'E mode' indicating when the car is running on battery power alone.
The 'Ready' light indicates the Camry Hybrid is turned on and ready to drive whether or not the gasoline engine is actually running
Under hard acceleration, both battery/electric motor and 2.4-litre engine provide power
While decelerating or braking, the regenerative braking system uses energy capture from heat to charge the battery
Under light acceleration, the battery/electric motor provides power for acceleration
Under moderate acceleration, the 2.4-litre engine provides power for acceleration
The Camry Hybrid’s gauge cluster tells the driver what the Hybrid Synergy Drive powertrain is up to at all times. Roll your mouse over the images for descriptions. Click image to enlarge

Inside the instant fuel consumption gauge is a ‘Ready’ light that comes on when the ignition button is pushed as long as you have the ‘Smart Key’ in your pocket.

Inside the speedometer gauge is a small screen with a pictorial graphic showing the hybrid system: drive wheels, engine, and battery. As you drive, the display indicates in real time whether power is coming from the engine or battery or both, and when the electric motor and regenerative brakes are charging the battery (see photos).

Using a toggle button, this small screen can display the outside temperature, trip odometer, an ‘Eco-Drive’ display showing recent fuel economy performance, overall average fuel consumption, cruising range, and average speed.

As with the regular Camry, the new centre instrument panel controls features skinny metal buttons and a greeny-blue plastic background. Instead of the buttons being lit at night, the background around them is lit to make the buttons visible. Personally, I find this a bit ass-backwards, and I don’t like the skinny buttons. Give me big buttons that I can’t miss.

There are many useful storage locations in the passenger compartment. At the bottom of the centre console is a large covered bin with a 12-volt power outlet and an auxiliary iPod jack inside it, and there’s another 12-volt powerpoint inside an open bin behind the shift lever. Between the front seats is useful armrest with a large storage bin underneath it. And near the driver’s door, is a slide-out coin drawer. Two cupholders are located beside, not behind the shift lever (smart move) and rear passengers have flexible plastic storage pockets on the back of the front seats and two cupholders in the centre armrest

An unusual interior feature is a large air vent on the shelf behind the rear seats. It’s there to ventilate the battery and electronic controller just behind the seats, but it doesn’t impede the driver’s rear-view at all.

Some people might consider the Prius a competitor to the Camry Hybrid, since they’re both about the same price.

A large vent behind the rear seats helps ventilate the battery which is positioned behind the rear seats
A large vent behind the rear seats helps ventilate the battery which is positioned behind the rear seats. Click image to enlarge

The Prius has a much smaller 1.5-litre four-cylinder motor and its Hybrid drivetrain gets much better gas mileage, officially 4.0 L/100 km City and 4.2 L/100 km Hwy. However, Autos’s long-term test of the Prius conducted earlier this year showed average fuel consumption in winter to be 7.3 L/100 km and in the spring 5.7 L/100 km. The Prius has less combined horsepower (110 hp) than the Camry Hybrid, and doesn’t handle and ride as well, in my opinion. It does have a hatchback design though, and a larger, more useable cargo area.


The Camry Hybrid combines the roominess and comfort of the regular Camry sedan with the fuel efficiency and lower emissions of a gas-electric hybrid drivetrain at a very reasonable price of $31,900. However, driving tests showed that the hybrid drivetrain is not quite as smooth and seamless in its operation as the regular Camry.



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