What's New for 2011
For 2011, the Toyota Camry Hybrid downgrades its former alloy wheels to steel ones with plastic covers.
The attraction of hybrid vehicles has always been two-fold: considerably higher fuel mileage and considerably less pollution than their gasoline counterparts. Of course, there is a literal price to pay, as they usually cost quite a bit more than their fraternal twins. The 2011 Toyota Camry Hybrid is the rare exception to that rule.
This roomy midsize sedan boasts an impressive 34 combined mpg and runs so cleanly that it earns an Advanced Technology Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle (AT-PZEV) certification. And yet the Camry Hybrid is hardly any more expensive than the top-of-the-line four-cylinder Camry XLE. Better performance by virtue of its higher output (187 horsepower versus 169 hp) powerteam ices this green-frosted cake. To be fair, the XLE does have a few more luxury features as standard, but the Hybrid still comes with the ones you'll really need.
At low speeds (and while coasting at higher speeds), the Camry Hybrid can run solely on electric power. At higher driving speeds, the gas engine takes over. When maximum thrust is needed, such as for climbing grades or swift passing and merging, the electric motor joins the gas engine. These transitions are virtually seamless, and as such the Camry Hybrid otherwise feels and drives like a standard Camry. That means a quiet cabin, a comfortable ride and an isolated feel behind the wheel.
It's true that some consumers may prefer a more engaging driving experience, and they'd be better served by the Ford Fusion Hybrid or the Nissan Altima Hybrid. Another intriguing option will be Hyundai's all-new Sonata Hybrid. Of course, one might also consider Toyota's Prius, which gets you ample space for five and hatchback versatility, and the Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf, two other impressive green cars on the horizon. Overall, though, the 2011 Toyota Camry Hybrid remains one of the better hybrid deals going, offering an enviable combination of excellent fuel economy and traditional midsize sedan space and comfort.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2011 Toyota Camry Hybrid comes standard with 16-inch steel wheels, dual-zone automatic climate control, keyless ignition and entry, an eight-way power driver seat, a 60/40-split rear seat, a leather-wrapped tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a trip computer and a six-speaker CD/MP3 stereo with an auxiliary audio jack.
Bundled into various packages, Camry Hybrid options include a sunroof, 16-inch alloy wheels, leather upholstery, heated front seats, a four-way power passenger seat, a navigation system, satellite radio and a JBL sound system with a four-CD changer, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, a USB jack and satellite radio.
Powertrains and Performance
The Camry Hybrid is powered by a 2.4-liter four-cylinder gas engine working in concert with an electric motor. Power is sent to the front wheels via a specialized continuously variable transmission (CVT). The gas engine produces 147 hp and 138 pound-feet of torque, and the electric motor adds another 40 hp, yielding 187 maximum hp. The Camry Hybrid can also run on electric power alone, but only under light throttle applications at speeds below 30 mph.
With a respectable 8.4-second sprint from zero to 60 mph, the Camry Hybrid's acceleration falls between that of the four-cylinder and V6 non-hybrid Camrys, though it's closer to the four's. Fuel economy is an impressive 33 mpg city/34 mpg highway and 34 mpg combined.
The 2011 Toyota Camry Hybrid features standard front-seat side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags, a driver knee airbag, antilock disc brakes and stability control. In the government's new, more strenuous crash testing for 2011, the Camry Hybrid earned an overall rating of three stars out of a possible five, with three stars for overall frontal crash protection and three stars for overall side crash protection. 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
There's some visual interest in the Camry Hybrid's cabin, thanks largely to the ice-blue backlit trim on the center stack, but the general quality has slipped a bit relative to Camrys of old. Still, interior materials are adequate for a midsize sedan, and the car's inherent quietness combines with the hybrid powertrain's frequent electric-only silence to create a consistent impression of refinement. Comfy seats along with numerous cubbies and compartments make the hybrid's interior a thoroughly family-friendly environment. The hybrid system's battery packs eat into trunk space significantly (10.6 cubic feet versus 15 in the regular Camry), but a 60/40-split-folding rear seatback provides some added utility when needed.
Driving the 2011 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, the flip side of that coin is lifeless steering and high-seas body roll; for most hybrid shoppers, though, these foibles are unlikely to be deal breakers.