Unapologetic insolence from an aging subversive

Unapologetic insolence from an aging subversive

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

More Motoring Muttering (the Ninja Car)

Ninja car. Note creases front and rear.

Last week I drove a strange and wonderful vehicle about 1500km.

I finished up driving it a whole lot further than originally intended because of the geography of the rivers in the Maranoa – but I‘ll talk about that later.

The term “Ninja” applies for two reasons – this thing is both unorthodox and Japanese. Ninja are Japanese warriors who used unorthodox techniques, as opposed to the Samurai – much more conventional fighters.

It’s also a Toyota, which at first glance, doesn’t gel with the unorthodox description, but it is very different from the conventional household appliance (which is what Toyotas essentially are). In the first place, it has two motors, one miller-cycle petrol driven, and the other, electric.

It also has most of its ancillaries driven by electricity, including the power steering and the air conditioning. It has very low coefficient of drag, and very hard low rolling resistance tyres.

It is, of course, a Camry Hybrid. These things are now predominantly Australian made. They’re probably the most complex motor vehicle ever made in this country.

Hybrids tend to get the climate change deniers collective knickers in a knot, as they claim that they are a wank – to put it crudely, pandering to fashion and alarmism.

Funny thing is – they are rapidly becoming a common feature of many taxi fleets. Taxi managers are notoriously hard headed when it comes to vehicle choice. They put efficiency and economics before politics.

This particular example was a pale blue, and had obviously been driven in the manner of most fleet cars. Only one corner wasn’t creased, and when I picked it up, it took me about 5 minutes to set the driver’s seat up so I could actually see out of it.

Perhaps there was a connection between the low seat and the creases on its flanks which were obviously earned in brushes with the support pillars in the underground fleet car park. The bloody seat was set so low that anyone within the normal range of physical dimensions was flat out seeing anything but blue sky.

It was actually very interesting to drive, and felt like no Camry I’ve driven, and I’ve driven plenty.

It was quiet, refined, a bit ponderous, and accelerated very well indeed. Overtaking was a breeze, as the torque of the electric motor is always there, and fairly hooks in when you need it. It has a very well sorted CVT instead of a gearbox, and this seamlessly encourages the two motors to cooperate in perfect harmony.

The ponderous feel reminds me of a Toyota Avalon I used to drive in the fleet. This isn't surprising, as the architecture of the Avalon is similar, if a model or two ahead .

The Camry handled very well, but was not all that responsive. The brakes felt funny, but stopped it very well. Overall, the controls had a disconnected feel about them, but performed the necessary functions with a minimum of fuss. It felt a bit like driving a simulation, rather than an actual car.

The big deal with these things is, of course, their fuel efficiency. This one returned litres per 100kms in the mid sixes, which is pretty good for a car of this size, weight and performance. This was in country cruising mode, at which, unlike conventional vehicles, hybrids are not most efficient. They return better figures in stop-start urban conditions. Hence the attraction for the taxi fleet buyers.
They are fuel efficient - 5.6lit/100kms

You’d get these figures in a good diesel on a long trip, but diesel prices are ridiculous in the bush. The Camry Hybrid is content to run on 91RON unleaded.

And the extra kilometres? You’d have to look at a map, but halfway through the week I ran into flooding down the Weir, Condamine and Balonne Rivers. These are all part of the Murray Darling system, flowing south in this neck of the woods, and I had to get from Roma to St George.

First option was the Carnarvon Highway, but the Balonne crossing at Surat was flooded. I turned north, to attempt to cross on the Leichhardt at Miles, but it was cut by the Condamine. In the end, I had to go all the way north to Dalby, and go along the Moonie Highway to get around the Weir River, which was also in flood.

The detour was about 350kms. A 220km journey became 543km by the time I got to Goondiwindi.

St George? Couldn’t get there. I’ll have to do that one next trip.

I wouldn’t mind if I was assigned a Camry Hybrid – no matter how creased.



cav said...

But is it a chick magnet?

1735099 said...

Told you before, Cav - some of us don't need chick magnets.

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