We got the new car on schedule, got it home, and I spent several hours setting everything up and reading about various features.
It paired with both my phone and GoddessJ’s, via Bluetooth, with no problem. The hands-free system works like a charm; the audio quality is as good as our phones alone. The built-in Homelink system connected to our garage door opener with only some minor fiddling.
It doesn’t have the optional navigation system, but that’s okay because we have a stand-alone GPS nav system. The dashboard is close enough to flat — unlike the Corolla’s — that we were finally able to use one of those beanbag-donut things to permanently mount the GPS on, so there won’t be all those little ring marks on the inside of the windshield where we had to stick it. Even better, the glove box is HUGE, so there’s plenty of room to stick the whole kit and kaboodle into it when we’re not using it. 🙂
There are so many little touches that make it a joy to use. The front cup-holders have a small insert that lets them handle any size of cup — the Corolla had cup holders as well, but they couldn’t handle today’s “bladder buster” drink cups, or even our 20oz Rubbermaid water bottles. And there are two more in the back, another improvement on the Corolla, though I haven’t taken a look at them yet.
The temperature control system is excellent. You put it on a temperature and it holds it there, varying the fan speed and other settings to stay as close to it as possible. The passenger’s side has its own separate controls, if the two of you want slightly different temperatures.
The electronic rear-view mirror apparently dims itself when something bright shines on it. We did take it for a spin after dark, but I wasn’t able to catch it in the act. I didn’t suffer from any glare, but I couldn’t tell if that was the mirror’s doing or a lack of lights bright enough. The automatic headlights did function as advertised though.
Apparently the side mirrors are heated, so that when you turn on the rear defogger, they will melt off any ice on them too. I’ll appreciate that come winter, I’m sure.
The steering wheel has no less than a dozen buttons on it, providing control of the audio system, the hands-free phone, the climate-control system, the information displayed in the dash, and a way to activate the voice-control system. Looking at it, I half felt like I was in Speed Racer’s Mark 5, and that if I hit the wrong button some large buzz saw blades will come springing out of the front to carve a path for us, or the whole car will leap sideways. 🙂
The sense of unreality was even worse when I realized that the sound it makes when decelerating — a kind of quiet whine, dropping in pitch as the speed drops — is exactly the same sound that KITT made when slowing down, on the eighties Knight Rider show. That, of course, was purely FX to make the car seem futuristic. This is a side effect of the very functional electronic braking system, reclaiming some of the power that went into accelerating the car to begin with, though when I voiced the realization, GoddessJ suggested that the designers were probably delighted with the sound too, and deliberately left it there. It wouldn’t surprise me.
It’s like KITT in another way, too. If you ever watched Knight Rider, you might recall that anyone who wasn’t authorized would find it locked when they tried to open it, but anyone who was could open it instantly. The Camry knows when one of its keys is near, and pretty much where it is. If you have one of them on your person, and you touch the handle of any door or try to open the trunk, the door or trunk will automatically unlock. You don’t have to even pull the electronic key out of your pocket! 🙂 And in addition to the manual and power locks inside, there’s a lock button on each of the outside front door handles too; to lock the car from outside, all you have to do is press one of them.
The car doesn’t hover in the air, and can’t carry on a conversation with you, but it’s definitely a twenty-first century vehicle despite those limitations. 😀
Overall it’s ridiculously quiet. Not only a blessed lack of road noise, but an almost complete lack of engine noise as well. And if the ride isn’t as smooth as the proverbial baby’s bottom, it isn’t far from it.
Viewed a second time, the “magnetic gray metallic” color was even more appealing than I’d originally thought. We even found that we really like the moon-roof. 🙂
Then there’s the meat of it: the hybrid gas/electric engine system.
I was disappointed with it at first. There’s a gauge in the dash that gives you an instant MPG reading, and it goes to “infinite” when the car runs entirely on the electric motor, so despite the engine’s near-silence you can always see when it’s on. When stopped (at a light, for instance), the gas engine stops as well, which is excellent. But on the way home from the car dealer’s, it ran almost continually the rest of the time, and the display usually reported somewhere around a disheartening 20MPG. However, when we took it out after sunset, the gas engine only kicked in while it was accelerating — once it was up to speed, it usually ran on battery. I suspect running the air conditioning earlier in the day, combined with the stop-and-go rush-hour traffic, had a big impact on the mileage. Time will tell how well it does in general.
THIS THING IS F’ING AWESOME!
It’s not all roses, though. I was disappointed to find that, although I could pair the Bluetooth system with my iPod Touch without difficulty, there was no way to do anything with it once I’d done so. Some research turned up the technical details: the car’s Bluetooth system doesn’t support the “A2DP” profile required to control and stream music from the iPod. There are apparently several items you can buy to correct this, from a $300 Toyota add-on down to a $50 Belkin device, but we’ll probably stick with just using the AUX input for now. The others would be nice, but definitely not $300 worth of nice, and maybe not $50 worth either.
That’s about it for now. Barring disaster, I plan to enjoy this car for a long time — at least as long as the Corolla — but I’ll try not to write much more about it. Though if I suddenly discover a delightful feature that I hadn’t been aware of, I can’t promise that I won’t write a post to crow about it. 😉