Blinded By Silence: The Toyota Camry Hybrid

Last year there was talk in the U.S. about legislating noise into hybrid cars specifically for the blind to hear them (like those birdsong traffic lights you find downtown) – but anyone could benefit. The Toyota Camry Hybrid is so eerily quiet that my cat, resting beneath, didn’t realize the car had started and nearly got flattened.

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Ride: 10/10

Even when you attain speed and the gas engine overtakes the electric, the ride remains quiet and appropriately smooth, like you’re floating. In fact, it was difficult to ascertain the transition. When transitioning, hybrids often feel like they’re suddenly stalling (which can turn the insides to water on a busy left turn in rush hour).

Design: 7/10

The rear window is exceptionally long, almost like a hatchback, making reversing easier. Good thing, because it’s big (trashing the stereotype of the tiny Japanese import) and negotiating tight city spots requires close attention.

But consequently the trunk is, well, truncated. Furthermore there’s a missing chunk of trunk, a design oddity housing the nickel-metal hybride battery. This awkward box extends behind your back seat, which renders the ability to fold it down redundant. A bitchy complaint, perhaps, considering the impressive engineering but sometimes a gent needs to carry hockey equipment and a case of beer.

Fuel Consumption: 10/10 (would 0 be more flattering?)

As mentioned above, this is a full-sized family sedan and it takes a while to heat in winter. Nonetheless it drinks like a teetotaling monk worried about getting a hangover: an impressive 5.7 litres per 100 km, city and highway. (In the city you’re on electricity much of the time.)

Jewellery: 8/10

Keyless start means never having to take your keys out to unlock your door, a convenience you’ll appreciate while bundled against -20 degree weather. Dual-zone control means you’re cool while your girlfriend’s got it cranked to 32 degrees supplemented by the heated seat.

WIGYL* Factor: 7.5/10
* Will it get you laid?

This is an attractive car in a grownup middle-class way. You’ll catch the eye of librarians, civic activists and schoolteachers with big glasses who enunciate their ‘ings’ while emphasizing how the children are the future.

As driven $34,780. 2010 prices from $30,900 to $35,820.

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