Driving around looking for kit homes is a whole lot of fun, but one does burn through some gas. Recently, my husband and I purchased the world’s *most* perfect car for house hunting: A 2012 Camry XLE Hybrid.
I’ve been fascinated by the Toyota Prius since its introduction to the American markets in 2001. When I purchased my last Camry in 2003 (Salsa Red Pearl LE), I was torn between the Camry and the Prius.
After much weeping and gnashing of teeth, I opted for the Camry. It was a proven car with an incredible track record. As a freshly divorced woman, I opted for “proven, reliable and staid” over “new, fancy and sleek.”
And yet, as the years rolled by, I paid close attention to the Prius. The hybrid technology was quickly evolving and it was clearly the wave of the future. Each year, the Prius had more features, better technology and improved gas mileage.
And then in 2007, Toyota introduced the Camry Hybrid.
It had been my intention to hang onto the old Camry until it hit 175,000 miles. After all, it was a one-owner car and I kept it in tip-top shape. The Toyota dealer had performed all the maintenance work since Day One. And the car ran like a top.
In February 2011, I heard about a purported Sears Magnolia near Gaffney, South Carolina. Shortly thereafter, I was on my way to personally inspect this rare and elusive kit home.
Somewhere between Charlotte and Gastonia, the “check engine” light came on. I also noticed the smell of gas, and my gas mileage wasn’t too good.
The odometer read 152,000 miles. Suddenly, I had a sinking realization. I was driving an old car.
What was I doing, launching out on a 1,000-mile trip by myself in a car with 152,000 miles?
I made it home without incident, and took the car straight to the shop. It cost $1,300 to get that check engine light to go away.
For the next few long trips, we rented a car. That wasn’t very satisfying.
I’m a car person. I love cars. Many moons ago, I took two years of auto tech at a vocational school in Portsmouth. There’s nothing about cars that isn’t fascinating.
Last month, we rented a 2012 Prius for a weekend trip to Roanoke, Virginia. I fell in love. It was a fun car, full of gadgetry and pie charts and diagrams and all manner of displays. Best of all, we averaged more than 50 mpg on the trip.
The next weekend, we went car shopping. The Prius had been a delight to drive, but I found the seats to be stiff and uncomfortable on our five-hour trek. Plus, it had a harsh ride. I loved the technology but my aching bum wasn’t happy. After more research and reading, I opted for the 2012 Camry Hybrid XLE.
In 2012, the Camry was redesigned and re-engineered. The 2012 model gets eight more miles from a gallon of gas than the prior year’s model. My car is rated at 41 (combined city/highway). The 2011 Camry was rated at 33 mpg.
The 2012 Camry boasts 200 hp (up 13 hp from 2011). The ICE produces 156 horsies, and the electric motor kicks in about 40. The battery pack (34 nickel-metal hydride modules) eats up a bit of trunk space, and yet the 2012 still has 13.1 cubic feet of suitcase space (2.5 cubic feet more than the 2011).
Under hard acceleration, you could really feel the shift points of those four gears in the 2003. In the new Camry, there are no shift points. The continuously variable transmission is an engineering marvel, picking up energy from two different sources (gas and electric) and transmitting into smooth forward motion of the front wheels.
It is, as promised a “smoother driving experience.”
And best of all, the CVT provides both faster acceleration and better fuel economy. The 2012 Camry Hybrid does 0-60 in 7.6 seconds. Quite impressive for a sedan.
My shiny new Camry now has 1,600 miles on the odometer. Driving on the interstate, I have averaged 40-45 mpg. The faster you go, the poorer the mileage. Last weekend, I traveled to North Carolina. When cruising south on I-85 at 75 mph, my mileage fell to 38 mpg.
The car really shines in the short jaunts around town. Driving through residential streets in Hampton Roads and looking for kit homes, I hit 65+ miles per gallon. That, together with a 17-gallon tank means that you can drive 1,105 miles between fill-ups (as long as you don’t go more than 30 miles per hour).
When I’m out hunting for kit homes, tooling up and down tree-lined residential streets in early 20th Century neighborhoods, I drive about 15 miles per hour. The Camry Hybrid loves that speed.
Toyota has created the perfect car for house hunting: The 2012 Camry Hybrid.
Maybe they should change their jingle to, “Toyota; I love what you do for history.”
Kit home history, that is.
On March 31, 2003, I purchased this sweet ride, a 2003 Camry LE in Salsa Red Pearl. When I traded it in recently, there were 170,000 miles on the odometer. Most of those miles were happy miles, tooling all over the country, looking at kit homes and hawking my books. I hope to find the old Camry on the road some day. It won't be hard to recognize. Those fine-looking alloy wheels are 2004 premium Camry wheels. Rather anachronistic, but sharp looking!! Little Camry, where did you end up? :)
And here's the new sweet thing: It's a 2012 Camry XLE Hybrid. The 2012 was redesigned for optimal aerodynamic efficiency. This model has a coefficient of drag (Cd) of 0.27. By comparison, the wedge-shaped Prius has a Cd of 0.25. The rear view mirrors and tail lights have wee tiny fins that help reduce wind resistance.
The most notable difference between the 2011 and the 2012 are the tail lights. The 2012 tail lights look like a piece is missing. On the 2011, the piece is in place.
With this little badge, I'm now able to ride in HOV lanes, even if I'm alone in the car.
A built-in 6.1" display panel (with touch screen) shows fuel consumption, tire pressure, audio source, and has a blue-tooth capability (phone contacts, dial pad, etc). Sat-Nav is also built-in. This vehicle came with a *separate* owner's manual for this electronically complicated affair and the Japanese/American translation has a few flaws.
And when you shift into "reverse," the display panel provides a full-view of what you're getting ready to mow down.
Fuel efficiency (short term and long term) is also displayed. Check out my "best"!
Actual mileage after driving around Portsmouth for about 45 minutes, photographing kit homes. Yes, that's 65.4 miles per gallon.
The best part? Heated seats. I've waited my whole life to have a car with heated seats. Also interesting are the "Eco Mode" and the "EV Mode." The Eco Mode dampens throttle response and tunes down A/C controls to provide maximum gasoline mileage. When you're doing under 25 mph, you can hit "EV Mode" (or stealth mode, as I call it), and the ICE shuts off and you're running 100% electric. Nice and quiet - and super efficient.
The XLE has 17" alloys, whereas the LE has the 16" steel rims. My 2003 Camry started life with the regular steel rims and by 20,000 miles, all four were warped and had to be replaced. Further investigation showed it was *probably* a flaw in the manufacturing process.
And I've also waited my whole life for fog lamps. On a recent foggy day here in Norfolk, they worked as promised!
At night, before my husband and I toddle off to bed, we gather together in the doorway of the garage and admire our beautiful car - together. "Gosh, that's a pretty car," I tell him. "Yes," he replies, "It's a a nice-looking car." We are proud parents.
Analysts estimate that in ten years, all new cars will be hybrids. It's an idea whose time has come. With the new Camry Hybrid, Toyota has managed to put "sweet comfy ride" and "optimal efficiency" together in one fine-looking car.
And I bought the car at Checkered Flag in Virginia Beach!
To place an order for your own sweet ride, click here.
Oh, are you here to read about Sears Homes? Click here.
To learn about kit homes from Montgomery Ward, click here.
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