What's New for 2009
The 2009 Toyota Camry Hybrid sees no major changes.
Typically, it will take seven to 10 years to recoup the price premium associated with hybrid cars. Federal tax credits can take a big chunk out of that premium, but as manufacturers like Toyota sell more hybrids, those credits disappear. Luckily for prospective buyers of the 2009 Toyota Camry Hybrid, the price difference between the Camry Hybrid and a similarly equipped Camry XLE four-cylinder is negligible. In other words, save gas, save money.
Besides a price drop last year, not much has changed for the Camry Hybrid sedan since it was introduced for 2007. Utilizing the same fuel-sipping technology featured in Toyota's revolutionary Prius, this Camry provides the best fuel economy available in a traditional midsize sedan package, with an EPA combined estimate of 34 mpg. Plus, with its four-cylinder gasoline engine and electric motor combined, the resulting 187 horsepower provides acceleration quicker than most gas-only four-cylinder competitor sedans. In other words, save gas and go faster.
Beyond its powertrain and the eerie quiet that goes with its electric operation, the hybrid is virtually indistinguishable from a regular Camry. As such, expect a spacious cabin, a sizable features list and a driving experience that isolates you from the surrounding world. If you should prefer a more involving driving experience, though, the Camry Hybrid probably isn't for you, as its ride is soft and its steering light.
As a hybrid sedan alternative, there's the Nissan Altima Hybrid. It shares Toyota's hybrid technology but provides more feedback to the driver and is better to drive. It also provides a higher-quality interior and sportier styling for virtually the same price as the Camry. Unfortunately, it's only available in California-emissions states. On the opposite end of the driving excitement spectrum, Toyota's dull-but-frugal Prius offers similar passenger room, greater trunk space and better gas mileage for less money than the Camry.
So there are certainly factors to consider before signing on the dotted line for a 2009 Toyota Camry Hybrid. However, with a price that makes sense for your bank account and gas mileage that makes sense for the environment, the Camry Hybrid, well, makes a lot of sense.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2009 Toyota Camry Hybrid comes standard with 16-inch alloy wheels, dual-zone automatic climate control, keyless ignition, an eight-way power driver seat, a 60/40-split rear seat, cloth upholstery, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with tilt/telescoping column, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a trip computer and a six-speaker stereo with a single-CD player and auxiliary audio jack.
Grouped together into various packages, Camry Hybrid options include a sunroof, leather upholstery, heated front seats, a four-way power passenger seat, a navigation system, satellite radio and a JBL sound system with a six-CD changer and Bluetooth.
Powertrains and Performance
The gasoline part of the Camry's hybrid equation is provided by a 2.4-liter four-cylinder producing 147 hp and 138 pound-feet of torque. The electric motor adds another 40 hp, for a grand total of 187 horses when driving conditions call for maximum power. The Camry Hybrid can also be motivated by electricity alone, but only under light throttle applications at speeds below 30 mph. Although rapid acceleration is hardly a priority for hybrid buyers, the Camry goes from zero to 60 mph in a respectable 8.4 seconds. Power is sent to the front wheels via a specialized continuously variable transmission (CVT).
Fuel economy is an impressive 33 mpg city, 34 mpg highway and 34 mpg combined. The Camry Hybrid is also an Advanced Technology Partial-Zero Emissions Vehicle, the cleanest possible rating for a gasoline-burning vehicle in terms of air pollution. In some cases, a city's air could actually be dirtier than what's coming out of this Camry's tailpipe.
The 2009 Toyota Camry Hybrid features standard front-seat side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags, a driver knee airbag, antilock brakes, stability control and traction control. In National Highway Traffic Safety Administration crash testing, the Camry Hybrid received five out of five stars in all front and side collision categories. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety also awarded the Camry its highest rating of "Good" for frontal-offset and side collision protection.
Interior Design and Special Features
Although the Camry's cabin looks snazzier than in years past, the general quality has slipped a bit in terms of build quality and materials. It's still OK for most buyers, but we've come to expect better from Toyota, and more discerning customers should find the Nissan Altima Hybrid more impressive.
What it lacks in polish, though, the Camry Hybrid makes up for with space, quiet and comfort. While the regular Camry provides a serenely hushed environment, the Hybrid's ability to travel using only electric power makes it rival the moon tomb for quietude. The Camry's comfy seats and oodles of cubbies and compartments make it a very family-friendly environment. The hybrid system's battery packs chew into trunk space (10.6 cubic feet versus 15 in the regular Camry), although a 60/40-split/folding rear seatback provides some added utility when needed.
Driving the 2009 Toyota Camry Hybrid can be a bit odd due to the CVT, electric motor and eerily quiet cabin at traffic lights. Unlike many other hybrids, though, the Camry Hybrid offers relatively brisk acceleration, meaning you don't necessarily have to sacrifice performance for good fuel economy. While the Camry offers a smooth ride and quiet cabin, its isolation takes a toll in terms of road feel and general driving dynamics.