Usually, hybrids are about as exciting as two turtles amid coitus. That is to say they are normally slow, uninspiring and not very much fun to watch. In the snow, it’s additionally exasperated. There are exceptions, but not many. The Chevrolet Volt we tested was surprisingly spunky for what truly is a step above hybrids and plug-in hybrids – it’s an electric car with a generator that can juice-up the batteries, or; when the batteries are depleted, directly power the electric motor.
We brought both vehicles to our secret testing ground near Golden, Colorado. Right off the bat we were pleased how well both vehicles did wearing mud and snow tires. Still, they are significantly different performers.
The 2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid is what much of the nation now accepts as hybrid technology – the gas engine partially powers a battery and it powers the front wheels. The electric motor aids the gas motor providing more power when called upon and, when stop-and-go movement is slow enough, the electric motor can power the front wheels solo.
Both vehicles are similar in that they use regenerative braking (brakes gain normally lost energy when the vehicle is being stopped). They are also vastly more efficient than their regular gas versions. The Chevrolet Volt is based on the Chevrolet Cruze platform.
The new Camry Hybrid gets 40 mpg city and 38 mpg highway – that’s better than last year and the power climbs too. The revised 2.5-liter 4-banger puts out 156 horsepower and, when combined with the electric motor, the combined output is an impressive 200 horsepower. This too is a gain from last year. Despite better efficiency and more power, the 2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid is quieter, better planted and more rewarding to drive than the last model. Frankly, for about $35,000, you will be hard-pressed to find a better commuter in this bracket.
The 2012 Chevrolet Volt gets crazy mileage. It’s rated at 94 mpg (electricity) and 37 mpg when the electric motor is being directly charged. Combined, my friend Roman Mica managed to average 68 mpg. That’s real good. Output from the electric motor is 149 hp and 273 lbs-feet of torque. Being that it is an electric motor, that beefy torque is available the moment you touch the accelerator pedal.
The 2012 Chevrolet Volt is eligible for a government credit of $7,500. That means you can get one for about $32,000 (once you get that money back). That’s not a bad price considering how much technology is packed inside. The thing is: General Motors built a technical marvel but missed one crucial detail for this family car: room for three in the back. Unfortunately, the Volt has two seats in the back as the battery pack takes up the space of the middle seat. It’s kind of a bummer for folks who want family seating.
When all was said and done, Roman Mica and I agreed that the Volt is friggn’ cool. It’s a vehicle that gets “green” folk leg humpin.’ The 2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid is a great family car that rides nice and has excellent passing power. There is no real “wow” factor, but that’s not what Camry owners are usually looking for. I like it much better than last generation’s Camry Hybrid and I wouldn’t hesitate recommending it to folks who want a bit of comfort and reliability along with their economy.
Funny thing is: neither vehicle blows my skirt up as much as the Nissan Leaf. I think there is something about an all-electric car that yells “Bite Me!” to big oil. Don’t get me wrong, I like the Chevy Volt quite a bit, if GM found a way to allow a third tush in the back, I would love it.
Enjoy the video and happy holidays!