Saturday, April 20, 2013

2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid Reviewed

The 2012 Toyota Camry is the biggest piece of technology I have ever reviewed on my blog. While not technically Mac centric the 2012 Toyota Camry has some new features for geeks to get excited about and is worth talking about.

First the good in my month of driving the new Camry I have found that it is fun to drive. A combined 200 hp four cylinder and electric drive train make the 2012 Toyota Camry a snappy and responsive car while still giving me between 43 and 45 miles to the gallon. More than twice the fuel economy of my old 2000 BWM 740iL with an interior and handling that feels comparable to my older luxury sedan.

From the moment you walk up to the car when the interior lights up when detecting the smart key fob in my pocket and the door unlocks when you just touch the door handle the tech in this car feels special. Sliding into the driver seat and seeing the instrument panel come to life at the touch of the power button.

If your phone is paired to the car you get a notification that your phone has connected on screen. If I forget my phone I get a reminder the connection didn't occur and can go back and get my phone. The bluetooth allows me to listen to music, use my phone, and use my phones Internet connection to connect my car to Pandora, iHeartRadio, Open Table, and other applications. The car even supports over the air updating of the software.

I have held on to this review for a little over a year before I released it. I decided to spend some time with the car and after the initial wow factor wore off and some of the issues started to show I would see how I felt about my car.

I still like the car overall. I will say Toyota needs to issue software updates quicker for these\

cars. So far I have only gotten one major update to the car. The issues I have encountered have included a number of software bugs I have discovered over the last year. Some of them took six months to encounter.

1.) Voice recognition degrades over time until it resets and then it works again for another month.

2.) When listening to music using bluetooth and using navigation the banner showing Bluetooth information blocks the part of the screen that shows the next street name to turn on. Also when in resetting the fuel economy monitor the bluetooth banner covers the update and reset buttons.

3.) Since the upgrade to iPhone 5 when plugging the iPhone into the USB port music control doesn't work consistently and you can't use the Apps while the phone is charging.

As a quick tip to work around the above problem. Plug a USB charger into the power adapter for charging only and continue to use Bluetooth to Internet access.

4.) On the iPhone 4 initially the car couldn't read text messages but with an iOS update I started getting text messages and iOS notifications read to me. After the move to iPhone 5 and iOS 6 the text reading feature became hit and miss.

5.) Last year with iOS 6 Apple announced Eyes Free and last month Chevy announced an over the air update to make Eyes Free work. So far Toyota is still silent and Siri Voice recognition is much better than what is built into the car and can evolve much faster.

6.) A couple of times the audio system has just cut out and no matter which source I choose no audio would work until I pulled over and turned off the car and restarted it.

Some of the things I think Toyota could have done better was with ambient lighting inside the car. Some of the lights are a blueish white and some are green. Changing them to one consistent color would be much nicer. Also lighting all of the buttons in the car would be helpful. At night finding door lock buttons and other window controls is difficult.

The car could also use parking sensors. For all of the tech on board not having that just feels like a huge oversight.

The gas milage is incredible. Over a year I have averaged about 42 miles per gallon and only have to go put gas in my car about once a month. Getting 600 miles to a tank of gas also saves time in not needing to go to the gas station. The hybrid batteries charge from the engine and the brakes so you don't have to plug the car in or do anything extra. So you get the full benefit of the hybrid system without having to do any extra steps. Engine performance still feels peppy as well.

Over all I do like the car and like where Toyota is heading with the Camry. It has an excellent fit and finish and is worth the investment if you are in the market for a new car.