In 2006, Toyota introduced its Camry Hybrid. In 2007, it won the AJAC Car Of The Year award. In 2008, it featured almost no changes over the year before.
Stands to reason. The Camry Hybrid combined the practicality and common sense values of Toyota's best-seller with the remarkable fuel economy and technology of the Prius. Less quirky than the Prius, the Camry Hybrid nonetheless borrowed its Hybrid Synergy Drive technology and delivered approximately the same fuel economy: 5.7 litres/100 km during both city and highway driving.
Power for the '08 Camry Hybrid was provided by a 2.4-litre four-cylinder engine mated to a permanent magnet synchronous motor and a one-speed constantly variable transmission (CVT). Batteries were of the nickel metal hydride variety. Together, the two powerplants gave the Hybrid 187 horsepower. By way of comparison, the same vintage of garden-variety Camry LE was good for 158 horses, but the Hybrid model was 150 kilograms heavier. It also featured a smaller trunk: 425 litres versus 300 litres.
Driving this breed of hybrid was, and is, simplicity itself. Just get in, hit the start button, and away you go. Non-hybrid neophytes might find it a little disconcerting when greeted with absolute silence after the ignition is turned on, but, on the other hand, you were rewarded with some of the best fuel consumption numbers in the industry. A little readout front and centre on the instrument panel told drivers exactly what the fuel consumption rate was and, if you wanted to, you could actually chart your fuel economy as you drove.
The transition from battery-powered propulsion to internal combustion and vice versa was seamless with this iteration of the Hybrid. If you sat in traffic for any length of time, the engine would abruptly cut out, but all accessories still functioned and the car restarted itself before the batteries got too depleted – usually within about 30 seconds.
Like virtually all hybrid vehicles, the Camry featured regenerative brakes; every time you decelerate or apply the brakes, a little electrical juice was fed back into the battery pack. Toyota claimed a battery life of at least 300,000 kilometres for the '08 Camry Hybrid and during highway cruising both the gas engine and electric motor were in play, depending upon what the driver was doing at the time.
The trim level on the Camry Hybrid was up a notch from the LE. Things like a dual zone climate control system, cruise control, power driver's seat, upgraded stereo system, Bluetooth capability, 60/40-split rear seat, one-touch-down driver's side power window, tilt and telescoping steering wheel, heated outside mirrors, traction control system and a driver's side knee-impact airbag all came standard. The Premium package included leather interior, heated front seats, power sunroof and rear reading lights.
One safety recall to report for the '08 Camry Hybrid, and it affects a wide range of Toyota products. It is, of course, the infamous stuck-throttle-pedal/wonky-floor-mat imbroglio, which by now should have been dealt with thoroughly by the company.
The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has 12 technical service bulletins on file for the 2008 Camry Hybrid. Most are in the form of advisories for service personnel, but there seem to be some issues with the transmission not shifting readily from Park to Drive in extremely cold weather, as well as reports of a leaky power sunroof and front-end "flutter" and vibration during highway driving.
Consumer Reports gives the '08 Camry a "Good Bet" designation and the hybrid, in particular, gets top marks in virtually all departments. There are some minor issues with the braking system and paint trim, but otherwise, it's all good. Some comments from owners: "Love the transmission," "On a long vacation drive, I managed to get 38.4 mpg (7.5 litres/100 km)" and "the worst GPS on the planet!"
Market research company J.D. Power likes this vintage of Camry as well, though it does not single out the Hybrid. Nonetheless, the regular version gets top marks for initial quality and an above average rating for predicted dependability.
From a base price of $32,000 in '08, the Camry Hybrid has dropped by about half. Prices range from the high teens to low-$20,000 range, which is $3,000 to $4,000 more than a comparably equipped non-hybrid LE version.
2008 Toyota Camry Hybrid
Original Base Price: $32,000; Black Book: $17,825; Red Book: $19,250
Engine: 2.4-litre, four-cylinder gas engine and permanent magnetic synchronous electric motor
Horsepower/Torque: 187 hp/199 lb-ft
Transmission: Single-speed CVT
Fuel Economy (litres/100 km): 5.7 city/5.7 highway; regular gas
Alternatives: Toyota Prius, Honda Civic Hybrid, Nissan Altima Hybrid, Saturn Aura Hybrid