SALT LAKE CITY — After the track is prepared, your sleek, black borrowed Camry waits to come to life. With the key in your pocket, you can open the door, buckle up, and then fire it up. But, you won't hear a lot of noise because this Camry is a hybrid.
You kinda lose all sense of hot-rodditude when your car just hums. But on a red air quality day, that's not such a bad thing. And when you add 199 pound feet of electric motor torque to the 156 from the gas engine, it's a peppy combination.
The Camry tells you your miles per gallon along with leting you know if you're charging, using gas, or electrons, and coaches you on staying in the eco zone. The gas gauge barely moves; this thing has a 680-mile range. No complaints from our commuters about back seat room. The ride is firm, and lets you know how the paving crew did. In our case, poorly.
Going hybrid means giving up the fold-down seats and 2.3 cubic feet of trunk space, some of that for the regular car battery, which has a pretty flimsy cover.
Price-wise, Gas Camry XLE vs Hybrid XLE, the hybrid's cheaper, and still has blind-spot detection, backup camera, and info screen.
Toyota hybrid sales nearly doubled in 2012. If it were us, we'd go hybrid if we drove a lot of hills, because you can put that wasted downhill energy to use going up the next one.
Having a hybrid is also a good idea if you see more red lights than open road. All that stopping was just shedding off the speed your engine worked so hard to create; now unneeded momentum helps charge for when you have to get moving again.
The Camry hybrid is interesting, but not exciting. But red lights are neither.
EPA gas-alone 4-cylinder Camry mileage is 25 city/35 highway/28 combined. EPA Camry Hybrid mileage is 43 city/39 highway/41 combined for the LE; 40 city/38 highway/40 combined for the XLE. Both run on 87 octane fuel.
The Camry has been the best-selling car in the United States for 11 years running, selling more than 400,000 units in 2012. It also topped the Cars.com American Made Index, which ranks the most-American vehicles based on percentage of their parts made domestically, where they are assembled and how many are sold to U.S. buyers.