A bolt out of the blue and Toyota nails it! [fimg=left]http://www.cleanmpg.com/photos/data/523/12_TCH_-_News.jpg[/fimg]Wayne Gerdes - CleanMPG - Aug. 24, 2011 2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid LE – Just $25,900 to start (that is not a typo) while providing its owners an eye opening, best in the mid-size class 43 mpg city/39 mpg highway/41 mpg combined EPA rating. SOB that is one fuel efficient mid-sized sedan! Cle Elum, Washington -- In a secluded area of the Pacific Northwest far from prying eyes and long camera lenses, Toyota introduced their current and upcoming #1 selling automobile platform in the form of the all new 7th generation Camry to a very fortunate few. With all the cloak and dagger activity occurring, it did not stop some shots to get out at a commercial shoot for the all-new Camry far to the south. That said, I think you will find the wait worth it as we expose this exceptional car's features and once again should be a consideration for your own drive. 2007 vs. 2012 Except for the first year, the previous generation Camry Hybrid never reached noteworthy monthly sales. It was an excellent car from a comfort perspective, provided excellent fuel economy for its era and of course included Toyota’s bulletproof hybrid drivetrain reliability. What it lacked was a spark to pull the more enthusiastic drivers amongst the hybrid owning crowd in. Soon after its release, a much more fuel efficient Ford Fusion Hybrid was being offered at a similar price and with more capability including a more vigorous Giddy up and go, better ride and handling and an award winning display in the form of SmartGauge with EcoGuide that greeted its owners with a pleasant tune and beautiful presentation each and every time they turned the key. And the competition did not stop there. Earlier this year, Hyundai threw its hat into the hybrid ring with its award winning Sonata Hybrid sporting an all-new and very advanced hybrid drivetrain of Hyundai’s own making. Following soon after was the Kia Optima Hybrid with the same drivetrain but a style as unique as its brand amongst the Gen Y crowd. Meet the all new, seventh-generation Camry, America’s best-selling car for 13 of the past 14 years. For 2012, the all-new Camry is benefiting from a larger interior volume and cargo capacity while built upon an almost identical exterior footprint as before. With the wheelbase, width and length identical, you would think there were not really any changes at all when in fact, from the inside, its feels bigger with a number of small enhancements providing more than “meets the eye”. And of course the real new and that will help the all-new 2012 Camry Hybrid in the consumer marketplace is its $25,900 starting price, more than $1,150 less than the outgoing hybrid model! 2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid Specifications The 2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid will be available in two trim levels. Complete specifications, pricing, standard and optional equipment including a standard and optional list of features not found in its competitors offerings can be found on the 2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid – Specifications page. 2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid Exterior The new Camry did not break new ground on the exterior front but did receive a more modern and hard edge sculpted appearance by comparison to its predecessor’s bubbly or “wobbly” silhouette. A nice “looker” from any angle. The chiseled look begins with an all new chrome grille sporting the soon to be familiar wedged V as we have seen on a number of new Toyota’s including the upcoming v and all new Yaris. A wider more forceful lower intake opening adds a much needed sporty appeal and all new chrome fog light surrounds exude taste far beyond the Camry Hybrid’s actual competitors. Enhancing the profile, the hybrid receives a lower sill chrome accent piece running from the front to rear door providing a slightly more upscale stance. The standard “Prius” like squared off Aero tabs at the four corners, new wheel and tire sizes that fill the wheel openings better and a more pronounced trunk lip spoiler add an even more aggressive presence over and above the non distinct previous generation Camry’s exterior. It is what you cannot see that really makes a difference however. Along the front side mirrors housing and within the tail lamp lens assembly are small fins that are said to induce vortices that accelerate air flow along the body sides and reducing drag at any speed over 25 mph. A smoother underbody covering is also provided which in total has reduced aerodynamic drag coefficient from 0.28 to 0.27. In 2010, the Camry Hybrid was also spec’ed at 0.27? While not an entirely new “look”, it is enough to make the new Camry Hybrid a competitive prospect in the ultra-competitive mid-sized marketplace. Add it all up and you have a Camry with an exterior that meets the standards of a second decade of the twenty first century and will surely draw people back into the Toyota showrooms for a closer look. 2012 Toyota Camry Interior If there is one thing I love about Toyota’s, it is their control stalks. The CC and wiper controls are on their own separate stalks with the headlight controls and turn signals on the left stalk. The all-new Camry continues to provide this best in class solution along with much more. The all new Camry interior consists of an evolutionary change rather than a revolutionary one. While it lacks the whiz bang swooping lines of let us say a Sonata Hybrid interior space, it gains in ease of use over just about everybody in the segment with a well thought out layout. Large knobs for interior climate controls, large embedded fonts on the many larger buttons and switches to control infotainment and NAVI (while stopped), radio tune and volume control knobs that you can not only actually turn but have a high quality decremented movement and tactile feel and finally, all-new 4-way steering wheel controls for both infotainment control on the left and voice/phone commands on the right. While we are still being inundated with an overwhelming number of decisions on how to simply tune the radio or answer a Cell while on the road, the Camry team did their utmost best at making the overall presentation and layout of the various controls as easy and intuitive as possible. Or better put, the way a car’s interior controls should be designed. Removal of the plasticy feeling of past Toyota’s, the all new Camry sports a leather hood with pronounced stitching giving it the appearances of a very expensive European. At the same time, the plastic chrome accents and surrounds from the vent directional’s, NVI/radio surrounds and lower center console provide a rich feel that today’s mid-class buyer not only expects but demands. Check! The only failing I perceived was in the use of a far too small and two colored MFD embedded into the speedometer. While an aFCD and small energy flow diagram are incorporated, competitors are offering far more useful and brilliant displays that provide not only eye candy but also easier to read information at a glance. Making up for that oversight, all 2012 Camry hybrids are equipped with a rather large analog based iFCD in the far right of the instrument cluster. It is easy to understand and just as useful as it should be. And we still have no tach to the left as the Charge/Eco/Power gauge takes up an entire instrument. AN EV light does dictate whether the ICE is off as the iFCD pegs so at least you have that going for you. Where the interior upgrade really shines is the way the interior surfaces have been shaped to provide more room. Cutouts into the doors and rear seatbacks are deeper allowing a feeling of spaciousness that the predecessor lacked even though the interior has really not grown at all. Another item that we have complained about lately has been somewhat overcome in the all new Camry with a simple reshaping and reduction of the cross section of the A, B and C-Pillars. The pillar changes provide superior sightlines while still somehow keeping the strength needed to ace the new IIHS/NHTSA roof crush strength tests. Interior comfort and size has been improved thanks to a number of changes: A seat shape and size (longer seat bottom) that more compliments the typical and taller driver. The front seat cross-section has been reduced increasing rear seat leg room. Control panels on the door trim have been moved higher to create additional space for the passenger’s knees. Door-trim panels are narrower to increase roominess. The shape of the front seatbacks has been re-designed to provide more knee space. The shape of the back side of the center console has been re-designed to allow more knee and leg room for a center rear seat passenger. Cloth is standard with both the LE and XLE with optional leather edged suede on the XLE. I did not really see the point of a leather edged suede body seat cover but it felt nice for my hours behind both the wheel and in the passenger seat. Suede with leather surrounds on an XLE Hybrid The high end seating was comfortable but does a suede center with leather surrounds have any advantage over either full cloth or full leather I was asking myself? Like most Toyota’s, the lower seat bottoms are still just a tad too short for maximum long distance comfort (the tallest of drivers even though it was extended for 2012) yet with the multitude of adjustments, seating comfort will not be an issue for most. It’s a Camry for goodness sake; one of the most comfortable mid-size sedans out there and it continues to provide the same only better! What about interior NVH? Toyota has improved the rigidity of the platform but where the engineers got creative was in removing sound. It goes something like this. Foam was installed in all the right places, wheel housings have been quieted, sound absorbing materials were added to the trunk side trim, door seals were improved, new dash and floor pan design and suppresses vibration, sandwiched sheet steel with a variety of felts and even air gaps are used in the dash panel, damping coating thickness and application areas have been optimized and finally get this, the breathability of the floor carpet has been tuned to improve noise-blocking performance and overall cabin quiet! So what does it all mean? The all-new Camry is quieter than ever before and its predecessor was a pretty darn quiet car to begin with! And while not quite the interior, I think some are going to really like that the Camry Hybrids trunk capacity has increased by 2.5 cu. ft. (a reasonable 13.1 cu. ft. now) thanks to a smaller inverter that was moved to under the hood and the new battery assembly moved 5.5 inches forward. Infotainment There are five Audio Systems with the Hybrid LE using an AM/FM/CD with 6-speaker system. The XLE Hbyrid receives the Display Audio 6-speaker system with the ability to be upgraded with Navigation and Entune, Navigation, Entune and JBL GreenEdge and finally a premium HDD Navigation with Entune and JBL GreenEdge system. You can read all you would ever want to know about both Toyota’s Entune and JBL’s GreenEdge at the following: Ford has SYNC, KIA has UVO, Hyundai has Blue Link and Toyota has Entune CleanMPG Previews the 2012 Prius v Harman GreenEdge Sound Technology Bolsters New 2012 Prius v The LE Hybrid sounds ok and along with the latest Smartphone integration features, the XLE’s design audio sounds good with the JBL GreenEdge sounding a bit better. 2012 Camry Hybrid Drivetrain The Hybrid incorporates the larger 2.5L I4 from the previous generations non-hybrid I4 lineup albeit atkinsonized yet provides better fuel economy (12 mpgUS more city/4 mpgUS more highway) and performance (9 more HP and 16 more lb. ft. of torque) than the previous 2.4L equipped Camry Hybrid thanks to some small but significant changes. The engine itself has been optimized to reduce friction and along with the Atkinson cycle (late intake valve closure to reduce pumping losses and gain volumetric efficiency) treatment, now incorporates a cooled EGR. In addition, there are no accessory drive belts as the A/C, water pump, power steering and HVAC are all electrically powered. On the electrical side, the all-new inverter is both smaller and more efficient reducing energy losses. Toyota’s HSD is standard fare in the 2012 with MG2 acting as the traction motor for slower speed propulsion and regenerative braking while the smaller MG1 acts as a generator to recharge the battery while underway and acts as a speed control within the planetary gear set itself. Just like the previous Camry hybrid, the new Camry has a secondary gear reduction. While the ECO mode is not used during the EPA test cycles fuel economy runs and calculations, it like most Eco buttons nowadays provides a subdued throttle response, reduces A/C loads and softens up cruise control action. And just like the previous generation, all 2012 Camry Hybrids will be CARB certified to AT-PZEV. So where did the 24% increase in fuel economy come from? Slightly improved aerodynamics, lower RRc tires, higher pressure in the tires by 2 psi al around and the more efficient mechanical and electrical propulsion. In other words, it does not add up but see below for more. All said, the 200 HP combination makes for a sub 8-second car while providing almost unheard of fuel economy on the EPA test cycles and in the real world in some regard when pushed. [fimg=left]http://www.cleanmpg.com/photos/data/523/12_TCH_-_19_mph_PSL.jpg[/fimg]2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid Preview Drive Fuel Economy Results 2.5 miles in and 2.5 miles out of 19 mph PSL. Like shooting fish in a barrel Like all Press Previews, the prototypes are setup at factory spec and have enough miles to essentially be called showroom new. Weather was perfect. Dry with temps in the low 70’s to 80’s and local traffic was minimal. In addition, the location where the launch was held had to be the most optimal location for a Hybrid Press Preview I have ever had the pleasure to drive. If I were to setup a Fuel Economy Challenge in Washington State, I could not have found a better location as the area was saturated with 19 mph, 25 mph, 35 mph and 45 mph PSL’s with the Interstate not far away. Adding to the locale’s charm, many of the turns consisted of roundabouts or yields making it big numbers almost a guarantee. That said, HSD equipped hybrids demand advanced techniques as they are built in and the new Generation Camry Hybrid once warmed up in S4 spread its wings and lit fire to the non-calibrated fuel consumption gauge. The first segment consisted of an approximate 500’ elevation drop into a local small town and the same climb back up. There was an approximate 2-mile section of I-90 to contend with but that was nothing as it was still a descent while running at slow speed interstate. There were some climbs as I exited the resort and the 2012 TCH climbed in EV without batting an eye and allowing me over 4-miles before the UIICE actually started. 2012 TCH - Non-calibrated aFCD with a 77.9 mpg drive over 15.0 miles. Toyota had also brought along a 2011 Toyota Camry Hybrid (TCH) for us to drive and here is where it gets a little tricky. Because the 2011 was basically standing still most of the morning, I had to warm it up in order to do a competitive comparison drive. In doing so, the 11 TCH’s SoC was up at ¾ +at launch and < ½ when I arrived back at the resort whereas the 12 TCH’s SoC was sitting dead center both before I took off and after I arrived back at the same launch point. 2011 TCH - Non-calibrated aFCD with a 77.5 mpg drive over 14.7 miles. The 11 TCH was located closer to the access road so some of the .3 miles can be explained by that but not all of it? During the drive, the 11 TCH’s ICE had to fire up twice in order to climb two small hills when exiting the mostly downhill 2.5 mile segment leaving the resort. The 12 TCH never even thought about it. All in, if the aFCD’s are both correct, the 11 TCH should have actually achieved approximately 75 mpgUS with .5 miles of SoC taken away yielding a very close almost 4% differential. We do not know about calibration of the aFCD’s and we do not know about odometer offsets so they may have even more to say than the preliminary conclusions below. So will the all new 2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid’s additions to the drivetrain actually reach the consumer or is it mostly calibration gains on the EPA test cycles? An approximate 4% differential in a back to back run on the same course when pushed to maximums does not quite add up to a real world 38% (city to city mpg rating differential. We will have more detail during a weeklong test drive at some point in the future. And a question that many FFH owners are bound to ask. Will the new 2012 Toyota Camry take down the current city cycle champion 2011 FFH? Preliminarily I would say no. I believe the 2011 FFH would have allowed slightly more than 80 mpg on that same route but we do not yet know the 2012 Camry Hybrid’s calibration detail which may be some time away. And its highway fuel economy? The person I was paired up with demanded A/C even in 73 degree temps, I was climbing over 750’ and traffic on the higher speed roadways demanded faster travel than I would normally have driven. I did not see any SHM just as the third generation Prius lost most of its capability to exploit but again, we will need some time behind the wheel to figure this one out. 45.1 mpg over 18.4 miles - Not one of my better outings although there were circumstances to explain it. Another more distant and scenic Pacific Northwest RT drive in a 2012 Camry Hybrid with PSL’s mostly in the 35 to 45 mph range. 76.8 mpg over 20.7 miles. 2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid Ride and Handling The Camry was never known to be a corner slayer or even a fun point and shoot autocrosser. What it did better than than every other mid-priced mid-sized sedan is isolate the driver and passengers from the outside world. Whether that was road or wind noise, road imperfections and undulations, or even other vehicles nearby, the Camry tuned them out with the best. While the Boy racing enthusiast types road the Camry into the ground, Joe and Jane Consumer continued to purchase the uber reliable Camry because they enjoyed the peace, quiet and comfort more so than the ability to drive race car. After 15-million sold, I have to believe the consumer knows a lot more than journo’s when it comes to what they want. We being others of course as the quiet and comfort is far more important to me than the road feel if I had to make a choice For 2012, Toyota has provided the Camry Hybrid with improved steering feel, response and handling thanks to improved EPS tuning, rear suspension geometry and what Toyota is saying is tighter ratio’ed steering gear although no specs were provided. In fact, the Camry may have the best compromise of performance oriented handling and compliant ride in the entire new class of mid-sized sedans. While the new Camry hybrid feels very much like the outgoing Camry SE with more road feel and less body roll than ever before, it still retains the darn near Camry patented and much enjoyed compliant ride. While there still is noticeable amount of body roll during aggressive cornering and the low rolling resistance tires will squeal when cornering unpowered and do the same when powering out of one, the Camry’s quiet and compliant ride still shines through. A win win from my half a day behind the wheel and I am sure you will find the same 2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid Safety Like most top tier mid-sized sedans offered today, an IIHS Top Safety Pick and an NHTSA 5-star crash test rating is almost guaranteed. With lessons learned from the Unintended Acceleration fiasco 2-years back, Toyota for one simply does not allow safety to waiver for any reason or on any front. Update: The 2012 Toyota Camry is now an IIHS "Top Safety Pick", its first ever. So where to begin. How about 10 standard airbags. Front, Side, Knee and side curtains plus outboard rear passengers receive side airbags as well. In addition, you have whiplash injury-lessening front seats. On the active side of the fence, 4-wheel disc brakes and the Star Safety System which includes ABS, vehicle stability control (VSC) + traction control (TRAC), Brake Assist (BA), Electronic Brake Force Distribution (EBFD), Smart Stop (Brake Override) and Hill-Start Assist Control (HSA). Toyota Camry Hybrid Preliminary Conclusions The most American made sedan has been upgraded to once again compete with the very best of the established marques. While the up and comers will continue to improve their own product lineups, there is something to be said about the quality of volume. It was just last month that the previous generation Camry led the entire mid-size class in sales and that design was launched in 2006! With the improvements in EPA fuel economy, even quieter interior with improved ride and handling plus new found road feel, the all new 2012 Camry Hybrid deserves a very close look. Considering the < $26K price tag, it deserves more than that once you realize Toyota is going head to head with the Koreans and doing so with a reputation beyond reproach. I mean < $26K for a Japanese designed mid-sized full hybrid? That’s almost unbelievable in this day and age! The compact and mid-sized vehicles we have available today continue to get better with each release and with the addition of the all new 2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid to the mid-sized fuel efficient lineup, here is yet another truly excellent automobile I wish was in my drive. How about you?