This month's Industry Pulse feature column is all about Rebecca Seiler and Jennifer Shaw, who are both engineers at Ford Motor Company. I had the pleasure of interviewing them both separately and learning how their work impacted the new 2013 Ford Fusion.
Editor’s note: My co-pilot and I were so excited about this trip that we created a hashtag to document experiences. Follow Be Car Chic on Instagram and check out the #FarleighGoesSouth hashtag for all pictures.
Traveling abroad…to North Carolina
If you’re not from the South, then it can be a very foreign place to visit. It’s like another country within our country. The South is full of delectable food, hospitable people and well-made furniture at prices that would make you drool. Did I mention the delicious food everywhere you go? Especially home (and Bojangles…sorry Mom).
My good friend Farleigh and I enjoyed plenty of each of these on our recent haul from Washington, D.C. to North Carolina, where we visited Winston-Salem and Hickory–two well-known cities in the region.
Our first leg of the trip would be a five-and-a-half-hour journey to Winston-Salem by way of Interstates 66, 81 and 77. The Camry’s hybrid technology got us a solid 37.6 miles to the gallon on this portion of the trip. We had a decent mix of highway and city driving, with the ratio leaning toward the highway, which likely reduced the mpg average a bit. The EPA estimates miles per gallon on the Camry Hybrid at 40 city and 38 highway.
To be honest, my copilot (and dueling 90’s on 9 singer) and I weren’t sure what to expect from the Camry Hybrid on this trip. We kept an open mind and were wise to do so.
The 2015 Toyota Camry not only has improved styling on the exterior, but the interior provided almost every comfort we could ask for. All this combined with hybrid technology for less than $33,000. Not bad. Not bad at all.
Even at highway speeds, the Camry Hybrid is quiet. With higher-end tires, we were certain that what little road noise existed could be reduced further. Despite the long distances traveled, ride was comfortable–a priority when driving more than just a few hours. We were both impressed with the front seats; they provided plenty of support without being overly bolstered–perfect for two average-sized women. However, we could see how the short lower seat could make a taller driver’s legs become weary on a longer trek. If we could change anything about the seats it would have been the patterned cloth design. While we didn’t mind having cloth seats, and this is being truly nit-picky, neither of us were fans of the design.
The Camry’s design is a little swankier than in years past, making this iteration less of a “snoozy grandparents’ hand-me-down”.
Steering is responsive, even (dare I say) sporty when driving in Normal mode. Eco Drive and EV Mode are also available – and they’ll help keep your MPG’s higher overall. I’d recommend utilizing them in city conditions where the regenerative braking can come in handy, juicing up the battery packs. But don’t accelerate too quickly as that will take you out of EV mode quickly and pop you into the combination ECO mode.
Elbowroom in the front was plentiful between Farleigh and me. (When you’re tucked in close quarters with a friend with whom you’ve never traveled before, it’s critically important that you each have your own personal space!)
Indulging in The South
While in Winston, we indulged in several Southern “delicacies”, such as fried chicken, mac ‘n cheese and green beans. We enjoyed burgers from The Fresh Market and, finally, the pinnacle of our visit – Bojangles’. If you have never experienced their fresh biscuits and fried chicken, then you are most certainly missing out.
It seemed as though our trip consisted of just as much eating as it did driving – about 15 hours. We crammed in as much as possible – not just activities, but delicious food!
Did someone say furniture?
Moseying Westbound and down I-40 to my hometown of Hickory, known for its furniture mart and textile mills, we landed at the ever-chic Mitchell Gold & Bob Williams outlet store, connected to my town’s grand Furniture Mart. Needless to say, it was a day full of furniture shopping, budget numbers crunching and a deep desire for all things perfect for our metropolitan spaces yet at a fraction of the price. (Let me put it to you this way: Hickory is like the Nordstrom Rack of home furnishings.)
Farleigh made it out better than me, garnering a few new pieces for her Scandinavia-inspired urban apartment. I resisted the urge to snag a great deal on a sectional for our basement and instead bought a cute “antique” hanger for my endless collection of scarves (quite the savings there, trust me!).
We stayed in and gave the Camry Hybrid a rest on Saturday night, opting to take a three-mile stroll around the neighborhood by foot instead. We needed to make room for, yes, more food (this time prepared by my mom).
Returning to The North
Sunday came and we got a bonafide Southern church experience before embarking on our expedition back “Nawth” (as we Southerners say, jokingly of course). It is a six-and-a-half hour drive back without traffic. We weren’t sure if others would be looking to travel on Sunday or Monday over the holiday weekend, so we took our chances. Fortunately, our bet was a good one; we coasted traffic-free all the way home.
The Camry Hybrid garnered an average of 40.8 mpg on the return trip. We aren’t certain why the discrepancy between trips; it could be the terrain of the routes we took. We trekked up I-85 and 95 on the way back.
After a long journey, we were both glad to get back to our normal routine–and to detox from the fried, caloric goodness that only the South can provide.
All in all, the Toyota Camry Hybrid is a solid hybrid electric sedan at an excellent price considering the technology. Think about it this way: if you’re looking to purchase a greener vehicle, the Camry Hybrid, as a mid-size sedan, is less expensive than many subcompact electric vehicles. Now, that’s not a knock on EVs – it’s just some knowledge to consider based upon your daily driving needs and family vehicle needs.
Would we do it again?
I’m going to speak for Farleigh here, but absolutely. We would definitely take a road trip in the 2015 Camry Hybrid. It provided every comfort that we needed, plus it saved us the headache of multiple stops on our trip to fuel up the car. We only filled up once each way, going anywhere from 450 to 500 miles on one tank.
If we could change anything (important) about the new Camry, it would be to request that Toyota invest in a higher quality Bluetooth system and microphone. While my phone paired quickly and easily with the system, the sound quality–particularly going out to the person with whom I was conversing–was notably distorted and just generally terrible quality.
Other than that, there really are no complaints. We should note that the rear seats do not fold down due to the location of the hybrid battery pack; however, Toyota has done well to place the battery in a way that does not inhibit trunk space.
The 2015 Camry Hybrid would make an excellent car for just about any demographic–young families, older families, singles or teenagers. It’s as fuel efficient as a comparable-sized diesel vehicle, with a much friendlier price tag and record for reliability.