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Toyota's 2012 Camry Hybrid takes the crown MPG crown away from the Fusion Hybrid, Sonata Hybrid

Toyota has seriously upgraded the interior design and materials used in the 2012 Camry Hybrid.
Toyota's mainstream Camry lineup also looks reinvigorated

Toyota Motor Company (TYO:7203) is moving aggressively to stay on top of the hybrid market even as fellow veterans like Ford Motor Company (F) and plucky new players like Hyundai Motor Company (SEO:005380) look to give chase.

I. The New Camry

i.  Built in America with Non-Union Labor

Tuesday was a big day for the Japanese automaker as it unveiled its latest and greatest Toyota Camry, a vehicle which has been on top of American sales for mid-size vehicles for thirteen of the last fourteen years.  Alongside the traditional gas engine models, the Camry family has grown, with the addition of a second hybrid model.

To date Toyota has sold 15 million Camry vehicles since the platform's 1983 launch, with 9.7 million of those sales coming in North America. Most of the Camry vehicles will be built at Toyota's Georgetown Kentucky plant, one of Toyota's 13 North American plants.  Thus far the Georgetown plant has built 6.7 million Camry vehicles.  The plant employs 7,000 non-union employees and has won more JD Power Quality awards than any other North American assembly plant, beating out all of the UAW plants.

The first production 2012 Camry rolled off the line at Georgetown today, driven by Akio Toyoda, President of Toyota and great grandson of company founder Sakichi Toyoda.  Mr. Toyoda bragged, "This car has become a symbol of Toyota's success all over the Earth, so you might say this is an opportunity to show the world yet again, what Toyoda is all about.

Mr. Toyoda says he is all about "product, product, product" and reports taking a very hands on approach with the new Camry, which would make even infamous corporate perfectionists like Steven P. Jobs proud.  He comments, "I personally tested the new Camry until I was satisfied it outperformed its competitors.  And I can tell there's no comparison."

Perhaps alluding to Toyota's uncharacteristic wave of recent recalls, he comments that he looks forward to "continue earning the trust and respect of the American community." 

ii. Tech Specs on New Camry

However, you feel about the looks of the new Camry, it's easy to respect the price.  While the entry level Camry L is getting bumped $750 to $21,950 USD MSRP, otherwise prices have dropped on the general lineup -- in some cases by a lot.  The LE model has dropped $200 (for the base inline-4) to $22,500 MSRP, the SE has dropped $1,000 to $23,000 MSRP and the XLE has dropped a whopping $2,000 to $24,725 MSRP.

The new vehicles stick with the 2.5L inline-4 engine (dual VVT-i) that was rolled out in the previous 2009 refresh as a replacement to the older 2.4 L inline-4.  The 178hp engine is now standard for all models, a perk which was before only granted to the pricier LE model.  City/highway gas mileage has been bumped from 22/32 mpg in the previous generation to 25/35 mpg, this time around -- a modest increase.

Speaking of looks, while the Camry maintains the same 2006 platform (XV40), the exterior has been subject to a drastic makeover, with 100 percent of the sheet metal remodeled.  The internals have also been worked on -- Toyota says 90 percent of the parts have been re-engineered.  In total 80 percent of the parts are sourced from American suppliers, with Toyota claiming the Camry to be the "most American" mid-size car.

iii. Sales and Marketing

The new models (sans the hybrid launch October 3).  Toyota says its average Camry buyer is 60 years old, but that it wants to attract a more youthful crowd this time around.

Toyota has cause for concern.  Rocked by parts shortages due the Fukushima tsunami and earthquake, the company briefly lost its top spot in monthly sales to General Motors Comp.'s (GM) 2011 Chevy Cruze, which caused some to speculate that Toyota could lose its sales crown to an American car company for the first time since the 1996 Ford Taurus' one year reign atop sales charts.

But Toyota is now back ahead of the Cruze, and insists it will be at full production capacity, by the time the Oct. 3 launch rolls around.

Toyota is looking to cap its comeback by having the Camry serve as the pace car at the Daytona 500 NASCAR event.  It also plans to market the vehicle with pricey Super Bowl ad placements.

II. Twins Are Born

i.  The Hybrid Specs

The hybrid Camry launch will be delayed "approximately 30 days" from the other models, but when it launches, Toyota will have twin hybrids in the brand for the first time.

The new entry level LE hybrid drastically improves fuel economy, bumping it from 31/35 mpg city/highway to 43/39 mpg -- an increase of approximately 30 percent in city gas mileage.  The XLE hybrid offers a respectable 41/38 mpg.  Horsepower has jumped to 200hp from 187hp combined horsepower in the previous generation.

Much of improved gas mileage comes thanks to weight reductions.  Toyota has shaved over 200 lb off the weight of the vehicle.  The 2011 hybrid weighed 3,680 lb.  The new SE hybrid weighs 3,417 lb, while the XLE weighs 3,441 lb.

Still Toyota manages to squeeze an industry-leading 10 airbags into the vehicle.

ii. Sizing Up The Competition

Toyota looks to double its hybrid take rate from approximately 5 to 6 percent of sales to be between 11 and 12 percent, according to Toyota officials we spoke with.

And with its new low price and drastically improved mileage Toyota just may be able to meet those goals.

The LE hybrid shaves $1,150 off the MSRP of the previous model, placing the cost of ownership at a modest $25,900.  An XLE costs $27,400 -- just slightly more than the previous Camry Hybrid -- but contains many luxury perks that the former model didn't, most significantly the Entune infotainment system (more on this in a separate, upcoming piece).

The hybrid squares off against the Ford Fusion hybrid, which starts at $29,935, and worse yet features a slightly inferior 41/36 mpg.  Another significant challenger is the 2012 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid, which is roughly comparable in price at $26,545 but only gets 35/40 mpg highway/city.  Likewise, the 2012 Optima Hybrid from Kia Motors Corp. (SEO:000270) starts at $27,250 but only gets 36/40 mpg city and highway.

Thus the market logic goes something like this -- Toyota and Hyundai/Kia are close in terms of the cheapest hybrid entry price, but Toyota is a ways ahead of Hyundai, Kia, and Ford in mpg.

Toyota is still sticking it out with nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) batteries, when competitors Hyundai and Honda have switched to lithium-ion batteries.  But for now, near the head of the pack in price and the top in mpg in this hybrid segment, it's hard not to argue that the new Camry Hybrid is an appealing proposition.  



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RE: v-4? what the hell's a v-4?
By YashBudini on 8/23/2011 11:02:37 PM , Rating: 2
V formations are used in cramped places. Old Saabs, and the Honda Magna motorcycles, etc. V blocks are much more difficult to cast, so it's used only as required. Longitudinally 5 cylinders seems to be the max. but this is not a rule.


RE: v-4? what the hell's a v-4?
By Dr of crap on 8/24/11, Rating: 0
RE: v-4? what the hell's a v-4?
By NellyFromMA on 8/24/2011 9:23:30 AM , Rating: 3
Why hello ghost of American Past! Are you still in era 1996? Welcome to 2011, or basically any time after 2001 :)


RE: v-4? what the hell's a v-4?
By Dr of crap on 8/24/11, Rating: 0
RE: v-4? what the hell's a v-4?
By YashBudini on 8/24/2011 3:05:26 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
so shut up!

What does stuff like this need to be used so frequently?

Yeah it's small potatoes to others, but the question remains.


RE: v-4? what the hell's a v-4?
By NellyFromMA on 8/25/2011 4:32:37 PM , Rating: 2
No, I agree. It's lame. Thankfully, it reflects poorly only on them.


RE: v-4? what the hell's a v-4?
By mcnabney on 8/24/2011 9:38:02 AM , Rating: 2
Well, since V6s are the new V8s it isn't a far stretch to say that many V6 platforms are being replaced by V4s.

And if you like that you are gonna LOVE the V3s creeping back into the econobox category. Fiesta will have that option for 2012 I am told.


RE: v-4? what the hell's a v-4?
By Samus on 8/24/2011 9:41:36 AM , Rating: 5
I really want to see a diagram of how a V3 works.


RE: v-4? what the hell's a v-4?
By YashBudini on 8/24/2011 2:45:26 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
I really want to see a diagram of how a V3 works.


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Honda_NS500
Keep in mind this is a 2 cycle engine.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/V3_engine


RE: v-4? what the hell's a v-4?
By lagomorpha on 8/24/2011 7:28:29 PM , Rating: 2
"I really want to see a diagram of how a V3 works."

That's nothing, in some parts of the world in the 90s you could get a Volkswagen with a V5!

Granted it was a cut-down version of their VR6 engine which used a very narrow 15 degree angle so it balanced almost like an Inline-6 and even had a single head instead of two as in a traditional V engine. The VR5 was basically an Inline-5 with a 15 degree angle between cylinder banks, 3 on one side and 2 on the other.

I don't think Honda and Proton ever actually made public exactly how their MotoGP V5s worked other than the sound of early Honda RC211Vs made some journalists speculate that it might have the front and rear cylinders move together like a big separated V-twin and Honda officially replied that that was not the case.


RE: v-4? what the hell's a v-4?
By Samus on 8/26/2011 2:56:55 AM , Rating: 2
The VW engines aren't V's, they're W's. It's basically and inline engine at a very acute angle while still using one head.

From the top it looks like a zig-zag pattern.
______
|_2_4_|
|1_3_5|

Where a V6 would look like
______
|1_3_5|
|--------|
|2_4_6|

W engines have the energy profile of an inline engine while having a better torque curve closer to that of a V engine. It's a great engine design.

The V3 isn't what I thought it'd be at all. It's a 0-90-0 degree configuration, and each cylinder has its own head!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Motorcycles-Hond...


RE: v-4? what the hell's a v-4?
By 91TTZ on 8/24/2011 10:41:51 AM , Rating: 2
LOL @ V4 and "V3"

A V4 is pretty much only used on motorcycles and I have no idea what a V3 is.


RE: v-4? what the hell's a v-4?
By Spuke on 8/24/2011 11:48:29 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
And if you like that you are gonna LOVE the V3s creeping back into the econobox category. Fiesta will have that option for 2012 I am told.
NO! The Fiesta's Ecoboost engine will be an INLINE 3 cyl turbo.


RE: v-4? what the hell's a v-4?
By HideOut on 8/25/2011 2:41:06 AM , Rating: 2
The fiesta isn't a V3, it is an inline 3 with a turbo, ala "ecoboost". Nearly same power as the 4 cylinder it is replacing at a lower weight and fuel usage.


RE: v-4? what the hell's a v-4?
By Spuke on 8/24/2011 11:46:41 AM , Rating: 2
Ummm...Toyota's had a 4 cyl Camry for decades. This is just replacing the 2.4L 4 cyl they had before. BTW, the 4cyl sells more than the 6. Same with the Altima and the Mazda6 and every other car in that category.


RE: v-4? what the hell's a v-4?
By Nutzo on 8/24/2011 7:04:58 PM , Rating: 2
4's are fine.

When I bought my 2002 4 cyl camry, my wife was complained that it would be too slow and we should get the 6, since her current car was a 6.

The joke was that the camry 4 cyl had more HP and more tork than her 11 year old american 6 :)


RE: v-4? what the hell's a v-4?
By lagomorpha on 8/24/2011 7:35:26 PM , Rating: 2
Modern 6 cylinders are getting fairly ridiculous power numbers compared to where things were in the 90s. Just an example...

2011 Toyota Camry V6: 268hp
1989 Ferrari 328: 270hp
2011 Nissan Maxima: 290hp
1995 Ferrari 348: 320hp


RE: v-4? what the hell's a v-4?
By YashBudini on 8/24/2011 9:31:06 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
2011 Toyota Camry V6: 268hp

Same engine in the IS350 gets you 306hp


RE: v-4? what the hell's a v-4?
By lagomorpha on 8/25/2011 7:41:24 AM , Rating: 2
The difference is the IS350 and various Infiniti models are designed to be sport sedans. The Toyota Camry people expect to be boring and get decent gas mileage for its size.


RE: v-4? what the hell's a v-4?
By YashBudini on 8/25/2011 5:37:16 PM , Rating: 2
That's not the reason, and the proof is the Maxima also has a lower hp rating. Rather it's the design of the FWD car's exhaust system that probably accounts for most, if not all the hp difference.

Unknown factor - Infiniti states the engine should use 91 octane fuel. How much hp comes from a more aggressive spark advance with the extra octane is not disclosed.

The odds of Toyota or Infiniti assembling different engines for their perspective models is unlikely.


RE: v-4? what the hell's a v-4?
By lagomorpha on 8/25/2011 6:35:02 PM , Rating: 2
I wasn't speaking about the physical reason the Lexus/Infiniti make more power than the Toyota/Nissan with the same engine, I was commenting on the silly amount of power the Camry/Maxima have. It wasn't that long ago that over 200hp in a front wheel drive family car was considered not only unnecessary, but borderline dangerous. Thanks to some engine technology, and some handling and traction technology it's becoming commonplace.


RE: v-4? what the hell's a v-4?
By YashBudini on 8/25/2011 8:24:46 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
It wasn't that long ago that over 200hp in a front wheel drive family car was considered not only unnecessary, but borderline dangerous.

No arguments from me, but tell that to the people who make Cadillacs.

VW addresses the torque steer in the 2011 GTI by applying light brake pressure to 1 wheel (via the computer). Effective? Yes Elegant? Not so much


RE: v-4? what the hell's a v-4?
By Samus on 8/26/2011 3:04:37 AM , Rating: 1
I totally agree.

Almost everyone uses this method of 'traction control' now. It was on my SVTF, and even though there was a switch to disable it, the only true way to disable it was with an engine tune.

It's ridiculous how cheap manufactures can be. Any FWD car with over 200hp should have a limited slip differential, preferably torsion.

Dodge used a clutchpack LSD in the SRT4 Neon and while it was a great concept, the LSD would fail after 30k of hard driving. How did they think people were going to drive that car?

Ford is now using the hydroelectric steering with 'Pull-Drift' compensation to reduce torque steer. Again, its effective, but NOT elegant.


RE: v-4? what the hell's a v-4?
By HideOut on 8/25/2011 2:42:06 AM , Rating: 2
And some versions of that same Nissan engine make around 330hp (3.7 VQ series)


RE: v-4? what the hell's a v-4?
By YashBudini on 8/25/2011 5:40:47 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
So this car is expected to sell in the US with a 4 cylinder??

The overwhelming majority of Camrys are fours.


RE: v-4? what the hell's a v-4?
By CU on 8/24/2011 10:06:57 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
Longitudinally 5 cylinders seems to be the max. but this is not a rule.


Our Envoy XUV has an 4.2 liter inline 6,


RE: v-4? what the hell's a v-4?
By Steve1981 on 8/24/2011 10:21:05 AM , Rating: 3
It's a 1949 Buick Roadmaster. Straight 8. Fireball 8. Only 8,985 production models. Dad lets me drive slow on the driveway. But not on Monday, definitely not on Monday.


RE: v-4? what the hell's a v-4?
By PlasmaBomb on 8/24/2011 11:52:49 AM , Rating: 2
Lots of BMWs have straight 6's...


RE: v-4? what the hell's a v-4?
By YashBudini on 8/24/2011 2:03:17 PM , Rating: 2
Not longitudinally.


RE: v-4? what the hell's a v-4?
By Keeir on 8/24/2011 4:24:44 PM , Rating: 2
Yes Longitudinally.

Almost all I6 engines are mounted longitudinally as a transverse layout is A. difficult and B. loses some of the inherit stability.

Ever noticed that BMW hoods tend to be very long?

http://gallery.pathoflogical.net/d/5706-3/PICT0047...
http://image.modified.com/f/17371405/sccp_0807_02_...
http://rumors.automobilemag.com/files/2011/07/2012...

To my knowledge, only Volvo has attempted a straight 6 transverse layout... and it wasn't too popular.


RE: v-4? what the hell's a v-4?
By YashBudini on 8/24/2011 6:02:57 PM , Rating: 2
My mistake, I meant to say transverse, side to side with a 6 cylinder.

Glad you found no need to scream LOSER, ie respect is a 2 way street.


RE: v-4? what the hell's a v-4?
By hduser on 8/24/2011 3:11:56 PM , Rating: 2
Longitudinally 5 cylinders seems to be the max. but this is not a rule.

I believe the Volvo currently uses an inline turbo 6 mounted longitudinally.


RE: v-4? what the hell's a v-4?
By HideOut on 8/25/2011 2:42:34 AM , Rating: 2
Its a turbo 5, 2.5l T5


RE: v-4? what the hell's a v-4?
By lagomorpha on 8/25/2011 7:45:19 AM , Rating: 2
They did make a turbo transverse inline-6 as well, but had to design the world's shortest transmission to get everything to fit.


RE: v-4? what the hell's a v-4?
By Samus on 8/26/2011 3:18:45 AM , Rating: 2
Volvo does make some transverse mounted I6 vehicles. My Mom has an S80 with a twin turbo I6 and its FRONT WHEEL DRIVE. The AWD model is also transverse mounted and the transmission has an internal transfercase (center differential) with a 3-piece driveshaft to a rear differential. I believe the SUV version of the S80 (XC70/XC90?) have the same configuration.

The Suzuki Verona has a transverse I6.

Nissan used I6's transversly in the Skyline R32-R34.

VW uses W6 engines transversly in virtually every model they sell. A W6 is basically an I6 as it is a 6-cylinder with only one head, not two like a V-engine.

BMW doesn't manufacture V6's for use in automobiles and exclusivly makes I6's, I4's and V8's. However, they are always longitude-mounted.


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