Through it all, car manufacturers and dealers are offering every incentive under the sun to move the metal, an exercise that is becoming increasingly difficult because of one commodity’s unwillingness to decrease in price more than a few pennies every now and again. Gasoline never goes on sale, much to the disdain of SUV, truck, and large sedan-selling dealers everywhere. Unless, of course, they operate under a Toyota sign, which means that sitting next to the V8-powered, four-wheel-drive Tundra pickup is a 2007 Camry Hybrid, a midsize sedan that gets an EPA-estimated 40 mpg in the city, and at just under $31,000 fully loaded, could be considered a bargain even at its retail price.
Power for the 192-horsepower 2007 Toyota Camry Hybrid comes from the company’s Hybrid Synergy Drive, the same gas/electric system used in the Prius and Highlander Hybrid SUV. In the Camry version, that includes a 2.4-liter, dual overhead cam, 16-valve four-cylinder engine with variable valve timing. Engine output measures 147 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 138 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,400 rpm, with the hybrid’s electric motor tacking on about 45 horsepower and 199 lb.-ft. of torque available from 0-1,500 rpm. The hybrid system draws power from a 244.8-volt NiMH (Nickel-Metal Hydride) battery to supplement the gasoline engine and captures braking energy to recharge the battery during deceleration (also known as regenerative braking). Together with an efficient continuously variable automatic transmission delivering power to the front wheels, the SULEV (Super Low Emissions Vehicle) 2007 Toyota Camry Hybrid earns EPA ratings of 40 mpg city and 38 mpg highway, compared to 24/33 for a four-cylinder, gas-powered Camry with a traditional five-speed automatic tranny. We recorded 33.8 mpg over the span of one week, with a slight nod to time spent on the highway.
Aside from the hybrid-related technology, this Camry is similar to the rest of the model lineup. Though it weighs about 350 pounds more than a comparable gas-only version, the same front MacPherson strut and rear multi-link suspension controls the ride, with a variable-assist rack-and-pinion steering setup charged with maintaining the intended direction. Bringing 16-inch alloy wheels and 215/60 Bridgestone Potenza tires to a controlled stop are four-wheel antilock disc brakes supported by electronic brake-force distribution and electronic brake assistance systems, as well as Toyota’s Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management (VDIM) stability control program.
In terms of features that the buyer can actually see and touch, the 2007 Toyota Camry Hybrid comes very well equipped for $26,480, including a $580 destination charge. Standard on the one and only available trim are items such as a driver’s knee airbag, front-side airbags, side-curtain airbags, keyless ignition, a power-adjustable driver’s seat, Bluetooth connectivity, electroluminescent gauges, and a 440-watt JBL sound system with a six-disc CD changer capable of playing MP3s and WMAs. That’s not to mention the dual-zone climate control system; a tilt and telescoping leather-wrapped steering wheel with controls for the radio, climate system, and phone (if equipped); a trip computer; a tire pressure monitor; and the handy utility of a split-folding rear bench seat.
However, should the Joneses already have the standard Camry Hybrid, you could always go for an example like our $30,667 test car. Besides the $580 destination charge, that price included $1,300 for leather upholstery, $1,200 for a DVD navigation system, $940 for a power sunroof, $470 for a Convenience Package (heated front seats and heated mirrors), and $277 for a Preferred Equipment Package, which amounted to a set of carpeted floor mats, a rear bumper appliqué to prevent scratching, and a first aid kit. Since that amounts to the options list in its entirety, one can quickly deduce that a fully-loaded 2007 Toyota Camry Hybrid will run $30,667. Minus any “special” dealer fees, of course.