From: Kathleen Neil, Contributing Editor, ENN
Published August 25, 2011 12:43 PM

Hybrid Midsize Sedan?

There seem to be a lot of people looking for a quality, affordable, and safe midsize sedan, but a hybrid midsize sedan? Mingling with everyone at the Toyota 2012 Camry event at Paramount Studios Hollywood yesterday I'd have to say, the mainstream car world just isn't that concerned about how green their drive is at this point. The economy isn’t helping, nor is the way most people are experiencing the modern electronic world as a bad case of button overload; and general interest in iconic brands like a Prius Hybrid or a Chevy Volt is limited. In the last two years my automotive interest has been focused on hybrids and electric vehicles. Yesterday in Hollywood I drove both the hybrid 2012 Camry and the non-hybrid 2012 Camry and I got to look more closely at the interface between the car most people are looking for and the dream of a greener driving world.

The comparison was great fun. I admit I'm still more excited about the Plug-in Prius, which is now looking like it will be available starting around spring 2012 in 15 launch states: Arizona, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Washington. Availability is planned to open up to all other states in 2013. Much of the innovation in the development of the Prius appears to be showing up in the 2012 Camry Hybrid. Still, outside of the inconspicuous icon on the display showing the battery-engine charging interaction, the push-button start and the "Hybrid" logo on the outside of the car, I would not have thought I was driving a hybrid, except for the fantastic acceleration when initially pressing down on the gas pedal. 

I drove both the normal internal combustion engine 2012 Camry and also the hybrid 2012 Camry over the same route on the same day at the Toyota 2012 Camry event on August 23, 2011. The differences were minimal; the hybrid has more zip in its initial acceleration and the difference in gas mileage is estimated 43 mpg city/39 mpg hwy for the hybrid Camry and estimated 25 mpg city/35 mpg hwy for the non-hybrid Camry. With regard to pricing, the least expensive 2012 Camry XLE is showing at $24,725 (MSRP) versus $27,400 (MSRP) for the Hybrid 2012 Camry XLE.

The presentation indicated that this Camry is the same size but with a roomier interior, improved driving, quieter ride and a lower price tag than the previous year. The Camry Hybrid will be available as LE and XLE grade models. Speaking with a Toyota representative it appears the new "Entune" multimedia system will be standard in the XLE models along with other standard extras such as leather trim seats, "Blind Spot Monitors" (located at both side-rear and at door mirrors) and backup camera. The Entune system allows for conversational voice recognition using VoiceBox with Bluetooth® or USB connecting via your smart phone to the on-board display and Entune partner mobile apps (Bing™, iHeartRadio,, OpenTable®, and Pandora®).

For the driver who wants a hybrid but is not thrilled by the iconic approach to the idea, a 2012 Toyota Camry deserves a close look. It's nice to know that Toyota understand what "Made in America" means; 80% of the parts for the 2012 Camry come from American suppliers. Add to that the sensitivity to making alternative, high-mileage vehicles more affordable and I am all admiration for this "Reinvented 2012 Camry". The hybrid will be in Toyota showrooms in November 2011. Okay, I admit, it was exciting to meet Denny Hamlin and that Pace Car sure does look good. Does it come as a Hybrid? 

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