By Clint Williams
Green Right Now
You can't really say the Toyota Camry is exciting, but this may get your pulse racing – 38.8 miles per gallon.
That was the real-word mpg in a week of driving the 2012 Camry Hybrid featuring an improved gasoline-electric drivetrain that gets 30 percent better fuel economy that previous generations. The 2.5-liter gasoline engine is a smidgen bigger than that found in earlier Camry Hybrids. Combined with the electric motor, the hybrid generates 200 horsepower, enough oomph to go from 0-60 mph in 7.6 seconds.
A new water-cooled exhaust gas recirculation system reduces emissions, helping the 2012 Camry Hybrid meet Advanced Technology Partial-credit Zero Emissions Vehicle standards.
The cabin is comfortable and quiet, thanks, in part, to sound absorbing materials in the engine compartment. Back seat passengers have ample legroom. All passengers are protected by seat-mounted side airbags and side curtain airbags. New this model year is a blind spot monitor – a $500 option – that uses sub-millimeter wave radar to detect vehicles in the driver's blind spots. When the system detects a vehicle in the adjacent lane, it alerts the driver using indicators on the side mirrors. If the turn signal is on when the there is a vehicle in the blind spot of the driver's intended lane, the indicator on the corresponding mirror will flash.
All these refinements, to an already proven model, add up to a best-in-class nod from Consumer Reports Magazine, which named the Camry Hybrid its top family sedan for 2012
The Camry Hybrid LE has an MSRP of $25,900, $1,150 less than the 2011 model. The premium Camry Hybrid XLE has a MSRP of $27,400, a decrease of $800.
The Camry, America's best-selling car for 13 of the past 14 years, does a lot of things well, even if it isn't a fun car. But the Camry Hybrid will make you smile as you cruise past gas station after gas station after gas station after gas station.
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