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Camry Hybrid Rumors: A Focus on Performance More than Fuel Economy?

Automakers appear to be taking two basic approaches to designing the current crop of hybrids. One is to optimize the design of the vehicle for fuel economy, using the additional power from the electric motor to support the graceful downsizing of the combustion engine (e.g., Prius, Insight).

The other is to couple the same size engine used in a comparable conventional model with the electric motor. The result in this case is a vehicle that performs better than the conventional version, while offering a less significant improvement in fuel economy (e.g., Accord, Rx400h). Increasingly, the industry trend seems to be headed down this path.

Toyota has yet to announce the specifications for the upcoming Camry hybrid (earlier post), but rumors are suggesting that the powertrain will be the same as that of the new Highlander hybrid (earlier post). (The conventional Highlander is based on the Camry platform, so there is logic to this.)

The conventional Camry offers a choice of three engines: a 2.4-liter, 4-cylinder; a 3.0-liter, 6-cylinder; and the top-end 3.3-liter, 6-cylinder engine used in the Highlander hybrid. As an aside, the conventional Highlander also offers the 2.4-liter, 4-cylinder engine as an option.

The Highlander hybrid powertrain uses a new version of Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive powertrain specifically developed, according to Toyota, for the mid-size SUV class. An all-new high-speed electric motor operates at twice the speed (up to 12,500 RPM) and delivers more than twice the power (123 kW) as the motor used in the Prius, producing 268 peak combined horsepower with a standard towing capacity of 3,500 pounds.

Toyota modified the high-end 3.3-liter V6 engine in the conventional Highlander to integrate more smoothly with the new hybrid system. Revisions include changes to calibrations of the Variable Valve Timing with intelligence (VVT-i) and Electronic Throttle Control (ETC) systems.

If Toyota does use exactly the same powertrain in the Camry, clearly they will have opted for performance rather than maximizing fuel economy. With a combined 268 hp from the hybrid powertrain, such a Camry hybrid would be a screamer.

A Camry hybrid based on the 4-cylinder engine would be more interesting from the point of view of minimizing fuel consumption.

The direction Toyota takes with the Camry hybrid will be important—the car is the top-selling model in the US, racking up 426,990 units in 2004, and 259,611 units through the end of July this year (some 2% above the 2004 figures for the same period).

We’ll just have to wait and see.

Comments

Lance Funston

It would be very disappointing if Toyota simply offered a hybrid performance variant of the Camry. Adding HSD to the current 154 hp 4-cylinder engine would give excellent acceleration and exceptional gas mileage (maybe 35-40 average mpg).

It must be part of Toyota's strategy to hit the high-end of the market first to build economy of scale and then let hybrid technology "trickle down" to the masses.

Why anyone would pay an extra $3000 for what is essentially an "electric supercharger" when they could already get a powerful V6, is probably explicable in part by the unfortunate American obsession with bigger and faster.

Gene

It was originally my impression that the perforamce hybrid Accord was Honda's attempt to prove the muscle car crowd wrong that electric meant weak. I was pretty proud of them for breaking that marketing barrier. I think Toyota might be skewing that ideal that with their Camry and Lexus performance hybids but not killing it off. Though what are basically electrically supercharged imports are rolling out in greater numbers than their conventional counterparts, I doubt they will take over as the norm. There are too many Europeans and Japanese that sincerely need efficiency for the market to really succomb to the American "Texas" mindset.

wintermane

The difference is nearly everyone owns a tv some people love tv and own a luxury tv. The performance car is for people whos passion is driving. Now just as with lcd flat screens with hydrid tech you can make a car for those who love to drive that is also economical to drive too. Just as you can now make large screen tvs that dont gobble up 1200 watts.



Greg


I thought they had announced it was going to be 4 cyl.?

See:
http://www.toyota.com/html/hybridsynergyview/2005/summer/hybridcamry.html

richard schumacher

So have Toyota changed their minds? Or is someone mistaken?

Toyota's hybrid drive has at least one other advantage: it should be far more durable than a conventional transmission.

Mike

I hope it is the 4-cylinder. I’m hearing from some inside that it is not. (That’s why it’s a rumor. :-)) So we’ll have to see.

Scott

I certainly hope they go with the "efficient" model (4 cylinder) for the Camry. I'm going to be replacing a minivan this fall and the only reason I'd go for a hybrid is to save gas. I wouldn't even consider a hybrid Camry that didn't get much better mileage than a normally aspirated one. The Accord Hybrid is not on my consideration list for this reason - what a waste of technolody.

LochDhu

The Prius and the Camry are the same size. So if you want an economy hybrid, get a Prius. If you want a performance hybrid sedan get the V6 Camry. Why would Toyota make a second economy hybird?

Tman

You made a good point there LochDhu. The prius not only carries the hybrid torch, but it redefines the midsize sedan. Interior space is virtually the same as camry only falls short in rear headroom. If toyota were smart, they would gradually replace the very plain camry with the prius.

A four cylinder camry hybrid would be a waste of technology, since the similarly sized prius would get better gas mileage. Toyota has started off with something spectacular, taking it to the next level is what is left. They can use a turbocharger on the prius engine to make a high performance midsize sedan. As days go by I see traditional midsize sedans as highly inefficient designs.

The prius is much smaller and lighter than a camry despite of its battery pack, yet match it in space while taking full advantage of aerodynamics. Thats the direction the midsize sedan should be going. Toyota take note!.

Greg

The Prius is a hatchback and the Camry has a trunk. What if you do not want a hatchback?

Aussie

There is a vehicle that gets high mileage and outstanding performance. It's called the motorbike. What...it's not as comfortable? Seems as though the fuel crisis will have to be solved without anybody leaving their comfort zone.

George

I own an 05 Prius and Camry, and I don't believe they are the same car at all. The Camry with its smooth quiet ride is a great car for the road. The Prius is a great commuter car. I bought the Prius for its great mileage compared to the Civic Hybrid (secondly, I liked the technology better). I will buy the Camry hybrid for the same reasons. If the mileage isn't significantly better than the Accord, I'm not motivated to buy. I don't see a lot of other people motivated to buy the Accord hybrid either. I wonder if it has to do with its less than stellar mileage?

ToyoStockOwner

As a Toyota stock owner I would like the company to focus their hybrid technology on fuel efficiency and not on performance. A more powerful Camry or any other sedan is not what the market needs. Interior seating room on the Camry is greater than the seating room in the Prius. If the Camry comes out with a fuel economy focused hybrid then I'm buying it. Side note:A plug-in option for the Prius would be great.

Stephen Carter

Regarding hybrid powered vehicles, the "me too" automobile manufacturers seem to be missing the point. Toyota's Prius is an efficient "package", not just another alternatively powered vehicle. It combines aerodynamic design, light weight, low roll resistant tires, regenerative braking, a sophisticated power monitoring and control system, AND an efficient, yet more than adequate hybrid power source into an elegantly engineered, integrated product, which delivers customer satisfaction at many levels . Jumping on the improved fuel efficiency bandwagon by simply slapping hybrid power into existing vehicles is like someone rubbing wrinkle cream on a Shar Pei puppy. It just won't achieve the desired result, no matter how hard they try. Hopefully the American car consumer will not fall for anything less than the real deal, whoever is making it.

Smith

I own a Solara V6 with a 5 spd and I get decent gas mileage. It has the same drivetrain as a Camry. Living in Texas, I share in the bigger and faster (mostly just faster) ideal that's been complained about here. I don't like slow cars, I've had them before and I won't go back. I also want what's best for the environment and I wish cars didn't run on gas or at least ran on much less. The Prius has a fully electric mode switch which the CalCars Prius+ takes advantage of with it's plug in mod. Since I (and most people) enjoy having cake and eating it too, I think that the camry should be able to switch modes between all electric, default, and performance. In this way many who have the view that hybrids are slow will be silenced and they will be taken into the mainstream as a more viable option to save fuel, even with the plug.

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