Last week, I test drove a fossil fuel-powered Camry so that last night, when I test-drove the Camry hybrid, I would have a baseline for comparison.
I ought to have used the Ford Fusion hybrid for that.
Outside, the hybrid looks much the same as the standard Camry, except for the hybrid badging. The same pleasing Camry lines. Inside, it was comfortable and very well-finished. The instrument panel, displays, and gauges were intuitive, sleek, and appealing. Comfortable seating, front and back, with plenty of headroom and legroom. Again, much like a typical Camry, only a little more high-tech looking.
To start the hybrid, you simply push a power button, just like you would on your PC. The gear shifter is a little awkward, but the vehicle started and shifted smoothly. A display on the instrument cluster appears when you start the vehicle, letting the driver know how the vehicle is being powered at any time. Cool, but I thought the Fusion hybrid "leaves" display was a little more interesting, engaging, fun.
Almost immediately after merging with traffic on the surface street where I did my drive, the vehicle switched from battery to engine, and surprisingly, the transition was not as smooth as I expected. In fact, every time the vehicle made the transition, there was a noticeable hesitation and hiccup, and I again found myself comparing it to the much smoother Fusion transition. The ride itself, in terms of suspension and handling, was very smooth, even with the considerable depth and number of pot-holes on our Michigan roads.
As I parked the car and took a couple of photos, I did a mental review, and rather than comparing the Camry hybrid to its non-hybrid counterpart, I found myself comparing it, unfavorably, to the Fusion hybrid. In terms of overall styling, both are attractive. For interior comfort, both are similar. Fusion wins for the instrument cluster, and Camry wins for cabin size. On the road, both were similar in ride and handling, but Fusion was the hands-down winner for power-source transition.
Having been a life-long fan of Toyota, I smugly expected that the Camry hybrid would rise in my estimation after driving it. Surprisingly, though, I preferred the Fusion, and being a resident of Detroit, that feels...good...