My husband and I owned two cars in 2007, a Chrysler 300m and a Dodge Durango. With gas prices soaring and both of us having a 20 mile commute to work, we decided to retire the Dodge Durango and purchase a car that had better gas mileage. I had wanted a hybrid car as CO2 emissions and the US dependence on foreign oil supplies had been weighing on my mind.
i really did not want a small car like the Prius. I was involved in a head-on collision in 2000 and walked away with only minor injuries. I contribute that to having a safe, moderate-sized vehicle (Volvo). That sealed it for me - as cute as small cars are and their ability to get very good gas mileage didn't sway me in choosing a sedan for my next car.
There was not a lot of Hybrid Sedans on the market. I looked at the Lexus model and could not entertain the thought of paying over $50, 000 on a car. I then turned my attention to the Camry.
I found out that the Toyota Camry Hybrid's engine was the exact same engine that was used in the Prius. The Prius has been on the market for 9 years and the engine as proven itself to be safe, reliable and gas friendly. After test driving the Camry, I was amazed at how fun it was to drive and how it "teaches" you to be a better driver and get the most out of your gallon of gas.
First, some facts. I purchased a 4 door, 5 passenger 2008 Toyota Camry SLE model. I was able to find one in Black (which were uncommon) with gray interior. It is a very sleek and decked out with all the luxurious features found in higher priced sedans. I have a GPS navigation unit, a blue-tooth interface for my cell phone (which allows for hands-free talk through the car's speakers), a moon-roof, a Sirirus Sat Radio and leather seats. The lights come on automatically and the car as a key less start (more on this later).
I am not a car expert so I'm going to tell you how the hybrid engine works in my own terms. I had a lot of misconceptions about the way hybrids work and you may also. First, you don't have to "plug it in at night", which is a question I get asked often. The way the electric portion works is there are batteries in the trunk that obtain their charge by absorbing the energy expelled when you brake. Cool, huh? So every time you apply the brakes to slow down, that energy is not wasted (as it is in gas-powered cars), it is stored in the car's batteries. The car has an automatic method of knowing when to pull energy from the batteries and when to pull energy by burning gas. You don't have to do anything.
Another misconception about the hybrid engine is that it only benefits you if you drive in the city. I don't live in the city, I drive 75% on the highway. The car actually performs much better when there is not a lot of stopping and starting as in city driving. The reason for this is that if you peel away from the red lights and accelerate the car quickly, the hybrid engine will use gas. Period. Also, if you brake hard, you lose a lot of the energy that could go back into your batteries. The car even tells you on a display how well you are driving. Slow accelerations and slow braking can get you much higher gas mileage. The feedback loop on the display is a great way of learning how to get the most out of your gas. I think this is an amazing feature and after driving for a few months in the Hybrid Camry, my husband is getting gas mileage from the Chrysler 300m. Simply by learning to drive a little different.
The only difficulty I had in adapting to the car, was the key less start. You have a "key" that has a RFID chip in it and is married to the car's doors and engine. As long as you have that "key" in your purse, pocket or within close proximity, the car's doors will automatically open for you when to pull the handle. The same goes for starting the car. You put your foot on the brake and press a "start engine" button. I really like being able to have the "key" in my purse and not having to dig it out each time I need to travel. It takes some getting used to, but well worth it.
For anyone looking for a mid-sized Sedan and wants to help improve CO2 emissions and get really good gas mileage, this is the car for you. If you have any specific questions, please comment and I will answer best I can! Thanks for reading!
Update On May 01, 2008: Sorry I left this out! The Toyota Camry Hybrid states 34/35 mpg, but on average I get about 37. I'm very careful to accelerate slowly and try to apply my brakes slowly. Some tanks I do better than others, but I've never gotten below 32 mpg on a tank even when in a hurry to meetings and ignore the feedback from the car.