I Go to Texas With Honda, Part 1: the Toyota Camry Hybrid

Toyota Camry Hybrid

Earlier this week, I found myself sucking down mini beef wellington hors d’oeuvres with Hiroo Shimada, the chief engineer and large project leader of powertrain design at Honda for the last 15 years. Less than 24 hours later, I’d be drinking pink margaritas and shouting at the man to ride a mechanical bull. That’s not what this story’s about (but I’ll get to that). This story is about one of the best-selling hybrid cars in North America, built by the company that made hybrids part of America’s mainstream, and how driving it made me so nauseous that I had to pull over and throw up on the side of the road.

Let’s get to it, shall we?

Honda invited me, along with a number of automotive journalists who had actual media credentials, to San Antonio as part of the brand’s rollout of their innovative new 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid. The event took place at the ultra-swanky Èilan hotel and spa, in San Antonio, Texas, and featured a number of Honda executives with serious-sounding titles and solid car-guy credentials. My driving impressions of the car are embargoed until October 9th, but I can tell you this much: the new Accord Hybrid is vastly different from any other mid-sized hybrid sedan.

In order to drive that point home, Honda brought along just about every other mid-sized hybrid sedan for us to drive. Since I can talk about those- Well, here we are.

To be totally honest, the nausea wasn’t the Camry’s fault. Not totally. In fact, the Camry seemed like a decent enough car to me. Especially at first glance.

See, the Camry Hybrid is a good-looking car. It’s a bit bland, of course, and every gauge and instrument and AC vent screams “conventional”, but it has to be what it is in order to accomplish its mission. That is, to be a non-intrusive, A-to-B form of reliable transportation. An appliance, in other words – and that’s OK.

The interior is nice enough, too, though the Camry Hybrid is a far cry from the more recently updated Toyota Avalon Hybrid I played with back in February. In the Avalon, you wonder why anyone would ever spend more for a Lexus version, for example. In the Camry – nice as it is – you understand it.

As far as driving the Camry goes, it’s OK. Probably better than you’d think. That said, on the twisty roads surrounding the Èilan, with all their elevation and speed changes, the Camry seemed remarkably floaty compared to the other cars I drove. In some corners, it even seemed a bit unsettled. On my first “loop”, I was driving fairly hard in a bid to charge the hybrid’s batteries. On my second loop, I tried to hypermile the car in order to compare its MPG to the new Accord’s. It was on the second loop, driving much more slowly, that the nausea kicked in.

So, what can we draw from that experience? The Camry Hybrid was the last car I drove that day, and it’s probable that a full day of driving on twisty roads, with up/down, left/right, and fore/aft g-forces acting on my stomach for a few hours might be the culprit. Maybe Honda specifically chose that loop to play up the Camry’s shortcomings. Maybe there’s a sport suspension upgrade available from TRD that will cut down on the Camry’s body roll. Maybe it was the breakfast buffet, Whataburger run, chicken piccata lunch, or my body’s immune system rejecting the very notion of hypermiling.

Much more likely: it was the Hyundai Sonata’s fault.

Stay tuned for part 2. Until then, enjoy some quick photos I snapped of the Camry – and be sure to take any negative comments above with a grain of Hyundai-brand salt.


Original content from Gas 2.

Jo Borrás

I've been in the auto industry 1997, and write for a number of blogs in the IM network. You can also find me on Twitter, at my Volvo fansite, out on two wheels, or chasing my kids around Oak Park, IL.