2009 Toyota Camry Hybrid Review

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The Car Connection
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The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
October 15, 2008

The 2009 Toyota Camry Hybrid melds the automaker's proven, hybrid system into America's bread-and-butter sedan. What's not to like?

The experts at TheCarConnection.com studied the range of reviews on the new 2009 Toyota Camry Hybrid, then produced this comprehensive report. TheCarConnection.com's editors have also driven the 2009 Toyota Camry Hybrid and incorporated their experience with the vehicle to bring you this definitive piece.

The 2009 Toyota Camry Hybrid—essentially the mid-size Camry sedan fitted with a high-tech, frugal, gasoline-electric hybrid system—gets a price cut of $1,000 and a couple of new option packages as it returns for the 2009 model year.

Fuel efficiency is the big selling point on the 2009 Toyota Camry Hybrid, with EPA fuel economy estimates of 33 mpg city, 34 mpg highway. Like the Prius, the 2009 Toyota Camry Hybrid has a so-called full-hybrid system, meaning that it can move at low speeds on electric power alone; at higher speeds and when more power is needed, the vehicle uses varying combinations of electric and gas-engine power (from a 2.4-liter four-cylinder) and charges the battery system, especially when coasting or braking. Altogether, the hybrid system and engine achieve 192 horsepower. The Hybrid's additional components fit well into the existing package, and the battery system is packaged masterfully and does not seriously affect trunk space.

The high-tech powertrain in the 2009 Toyota Camry Hybrid operates smoothly and unobtrusively, to the point that with the sound system turned up, it's hard to tell when the gasoline engine turns on (an instrument panel display shows that). Like the other Camry sedans, the Hybrid has a rather soft, well-controlled ride and a very spacious interior, with plenty of legroom in back and space for five adults. Due to the Hybrid's heavier weight, it handles safely but not as nimbly as the standard Camry.

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The 2009 Toyota Camry Hybrid comes with quite a bit more standard equipment than the normal Camry; it includes a Smart Key system, dual-zone automatic climate control, a Plasmacluster ionizer, 16-inch steel wheels, and an AM/FM/single CD audio system with six speakers. An impressive JBL audio system and navigation system are available as part of options packages; stand-alone options for this year's Camry Hybrid include a power moonroof, a leather interior, driver and front passenger heated seats, and heated outside mirrors.

The Camry Hybrid does quite well in safety, including five-star results in the federal government's crash tests; a nonhybrid Camry got "good" results in the insurance industry tests, except for a "marginal" result in the rear-impact test. Toyota's more sophisticated form of electronic stability control, called Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management (VDIM), is standard on the Hybrid to assure that power delivery is smooth and that the system is stable on slippery surfaces. The 2009 Toyota Camry Hybrid comes with a knee airbag for the driver as well as full-length curtain and front seat side-impact airbags, for seven airbags in total, plus the VDIM stability control system.

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2009 Toyota Camry Hybrid

Styling

The styling of the 2009 Toyota Camry Hybrid is pleasing, if not particularly daring, and likely to appeal to many different types of buyers. However, folks who want a car that is instantly recognizable as a hybrid might be disappointed.

The 2009 Toyota Camry Hybrid goes unchanged from the 2008 edition. In appearance, it is nearly identical to the nonhybrid version.

"Because it looks so much like a regular Camry, the hybrid Camry doesn't make nearly as much of a green statement as the Prius," comments Car and Driver. Edmunds calls the 2009 Toyota Camry Hybrid a "very impressive and complete sedan that now has the added benefit of an attractive price." Car and Driver simply summarizes it as "a pleasing if slightly dull vehicle."

Like every other 2009 Camry variant, the Camry Hybrid has a longer wheelbase and a blunter nose than in the previous generation, which Cars.com describes as "more sculpted, angular forms." Sixteen-inch aluminum wheels are standard equipment, but Cars.com points out that options include "17-inch aluminum wheels, an exclusive black honeycomb grille, ground effects and tinted headlight lenses." Motor Trend says of the Camry Hybrid, "its looks are still fresh."

Inside the 2009 Camry Hybrid, Edmunds describes "a very family-friendly environment" that "looks snazzier than in years past" and "rivals King Tut's tomb for quietude." Mother Proof praises its "calming gray leather, chrome accents and cool blue dials."

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2009 Toyota Camry Hybrid

Performance

The 2009 Toyota Camry Hybrid achieves better fuel mileage than the four-cylinder, gasoline-only version and adds a significant performance advantage.

TheCarConnection.com finds that the 2009 Toyota Camry Hybrid's performance rivals that of not just other hybrids, but some gasoline-powered sedans as well.

The Toyota Camry Hybrid is propelled by Toyota's Hybrid Synergy Drive system, which also powers the Toyota Prius. It consists of a 2.4-liter, four-cylinder gasoline engine mated to a continuously variable transmission. The other component, the Camry Hybrid's electric motor, can run the vehicle independently, but only at speeds below 30 mph. The engine provides 147 hp, but Edmunds notes that the "electric motor adds another 40 hp," making for a decent 187 hp total.

The 2009 Toyota Camry Hybrid goes from 0-60 mph "in a very respectable 8.4 seconds," according to Edmunds. "The ride and handling are no sacrifice at all. This Camry virtually glides down the road and takes turns smoothly and easily," Mother Proof reports, adding that it's possible to "feel the moment when things move from electric to gas and back again." For some, this might be fun—for others, it might get old.

"Fuel economy is an impressive 33 mpg city, 34 mpg highway," according to Edmunds. And that's quite good except when compared to the 2009 Prius' "48 mpg in the city, 45 on the highway" as cited by Autoblog. This discrepancy leads Popular Mechanics to wonder if people "are willing to pay about the same for the larger Camry Hybrid as they will for the slick but smaller Prius." Since fuel mileage is the stick by which hybrid vehicles are typically measured, it's a very valid question.

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2009 Toyota Camry Hybrid

Comfort & Quality

The 2009 Toyota Camry Hybrid lacks some of the cargo capacity of other 2009 Camry models, but is still comfortable and spacious enough for a whole family.

While the 2009 Toyota Camry Hybrid and other hybrid cars have usually been reviewed more for their fuel mileage than their comfort, the Camry Hybrid brings a higher level of luxury and comfort to the class than is typically found.

The 2009 Toyota Camry model line continues to represent an accommodating and quality-built car. Cars.com notes that the Camry Hybrid can easily seat five occupants and that "cloth seats are standard, but leather is optional." Edmunds states that the 2009 Toyota Camry Hybrid's "general quality has gone downhill in terms of build quality and materials" but adds, "it's still better than what some other brands offer." Edmunds also remarks that "what it lacks in polish...the Camry Hybrid makes up for with space, quiet and comfort." Mother Proof agrees, reporting, "The backseat is super roomy and easy to climb into," and, "A/C vents on the back of the center console keep things cool and comfy, even in August."

TheCarConnection.com notes that trunk space has been reduced slightly to accommodate the battery pack unique to the Hybrid model. The 2009 Camry Hybrid contains 10.6 cubic feet of trunk space, compared to the 15 cubic feet found in other Camry models. Cars.com points out that the "backseat does fold forward" to allow trunk access from inside the vehicle. And Edmunds adds, "Oodles of cubbies and compartments make it a very family-friendly environment."

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2009 Toyota Camry Hybrid

Safety

The 2009 Toyota Camry Hybrid is significantly more fuel-efficient and provides more standard safety features compared to the standard Camry.

The 2009 Toyota Camry Hybrid offers many safety features, some of which are unique to the Hybrid model.

Road and Track notes that "as part of their crashworthiness, hybrids have automatic disconnect of their high-voltage source" and that standard EMS/firefighter training now includes "where to cut into hybrids with minimal hazard." Edmunds reports, "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." And Cars.com points out that the "electronic stability system," which is optional in other Camry models, comes standard on the 2009 Toyota Camry Hybrid. The Camry Hybrid also comes standard with anti-lock brakes.

Edmunds reports that the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) "gave the Camry its highest rating of 'Good' for frontal-offset and side collision protection." In addition, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gives the 2009 Camry Hybrid five stars, its highest rating, in both frontal and side crash safety. It scores almost as high in NHTSA's rollover avoidance test, earning four out of five stars.

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2009 Toyota Camry Hybrid

Features

The main reason for the lack of options available on the 2009 Toyota Camry Hybrid is its long list of standard equipment.

TheCarConnection.com notes that the 2009 Toyota Camry Hybrid sports as standard equipment many convenience and entertainment features that used to be the exclusive territory of expensive luxury cars.

Just about the only change to the Camry model line for 2009 is the demise of the "CE" trim designation; Motor Trend reports that "the CE trim level has been dropped. The entry-level Camry is now simply the Camry." However, that doesn't affect the Camry Hybrid, which comes equipped with the top-of-the-line XLE trim level as standard equipment.

Edmunds lists the standard features on the 2009 Toyota Camry Hybrid as including "dual-zone automatic climate control, keyless ignition, cloth upholstery," and much more. The 2009 Toyota Camry Hybrid also includes as standard "A/C with a pollen and dust filter, power windows, power locks, automatic halogen headlights, vehicle immobilizer, and a six-speaker stereo with CD player and auxiliary input jack," according to Motor Trend. And Mother Proof reports, "Power seats adjust in every direction, and the steering wheel tilts and telescopes into the perfect piloting position," adding, "There are controls for the stereo and phone on the steering wheel." Also noted are satellite radio and a DVD navigation system.

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