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PRIUS ENVY

This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Sun, Aug 30, 2009

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

By Derrick Lim

Is it any wonder I had a bout of Prius envy when I found out I might test drive the third generation 2010 Prius? After all, several close family and friends already have a Prius. The urban professional couple with two teenagers in Fairfield commutes daily at least 100 miles round trip to the City of Sacramento for work and school:

"We love our 2007 Prius basic model. We customized it by adding seat warmers for both front seats and special ordered grey leather upholstery. We wished we had ordered the deluxe model with special fog lamps and GPS, but didn't want to spend the money at the time. The other thing that disappoints is the lack of power for accelerating onto a freeway onramp. Otherwise, I love the leg room for both the back and front seats, and the 48 combined mpg." Note, this owner already knew about the solar roof on the 2010 model.

The college professor lives in Pacifica and teaches business and marketing at a private catholic university in Belmont:

"Greatest car I have ever owned. I get on average 47 mpg. I have put 45,000 miles on the car, which translates into a LOT of saved money at the pump. I am not a small guy (triple x he is) and it has tons of room inside. I have been able to place all of the large stuff inside without any real issues. No furniture obviously. The car is easy to maintain. The fact that it has a built in cell phone option makes it easy to take and make phone calls with NO crap hanging off my ears, etc. I can 'cut' my own MP3 music CDs and place them in the 6-CD holder, effectively having music for a month without hearing the same song on my commute. No issues. No worries. I am thinking about getting the 2010 within the year."

The newest Prius owner purchased a couple of months ago. She lives in Texas by way of California. She is a multi Emmy award winning television producer who walked the red carpet and designs a flourishing handcrafted custom jewelry collection for private trunk show parties:

"As far as owning a Prius, I absolutely love it. It's comfortable, quiet, and has a large interior big enough for my husband (double x he is) to drive and sit (as a passenger). Of course, fuel efficiency is great. Let's put it this way, I only fill up the tank every two weeks and I've paid about 20 bucks each time...wooo hooo! The rear view camera is a little deceiving giving a fish eye view of what you're backing into, displaying more room than what really exists. So I sometimes don't trust it and often use my mirrors when backing up. When the motor switches from gas to battery power, the car engine shakes a bit, but it's not that noticeable. It's a 2009 model with a 11.9 gallon tank. The engine cuts off during a full stop to save fuel, eliminating idling while sitting in traffic. During those cut off periods, the a/c is still running. Driver visibility in the back is too busy (because of the) window elements. Seats fold flat and cargo access is convenient through the large rear hatch opening."

My immediate reaction to the third generation Prius is ephemeral. I am hip and I am 'green'. I am a Prius peep reducing my carbon footprint on the environment. I can also go back to regular unleaded gas instead of costlier premium unleaded I buy for precision German engineering. Once I get over the fleeting emotion, I find the Prius has a lot more going for it. On a weekend road trip from Sacramento to the San Francisco Bay Area, I get 44 mpg. The weather lends itself to opening the sunroof. The ride is smooth. Seats are comfortable. I enjoy uninterrupted signal strength and commercial free music from SIRIUS radio. The Prius allows you to customize the volume on all speakers in case you want to minimize passenger disturbance. It is a glorious day. At my first stop in Contra Costa County, my cousin and her husband check out the car while the kids are sleeping in. It doesn't take long for my cousin's gadget oriented husband to hone in on the GPS navigation. Not only are there roads, but also restaurants and hotels. The phone icon on the display suggests you can get a number to call. Anyone for takeout? My cousin politely excuses herself fearing husband is going to ask, "Honey, can we get one?" I smile at the couple's playful banter. My craving for barbeque prompts me to ask husband to program my food stop. Down the peninsula near San Francisco International Airport, the family barbeque is well under way. Entrees, sides, desserts, and beverages arrive with each guest. As the party winds down, people gravitate toward the shiny new Prius. There is now a buzz in the driveway from the swarm of people. All the doors are open, the hood is up, sunroof open, rear armrest down, hatchback open, back seat down, trunk mat out, navigation on. The scene is a cross between an Indy pit crew and CSI forensics team.

"Where's the CD player?" Multi CD changer is available, but not equipped on this car. The Prius is also MP3 ready. The younger MP3 generation left earlier. I don't even have an iPOD. For that matter, I don't have blue tooth either. The Prius does hands free. "Where's the spare tire?" Under the trunk tray under the trunk mat. No full size tire. Emergency tire only. "Good leg room and head room. There's no hump in the middle of the back seat." Good. That takes care of the inevitable family arguing over whose turn it is to sit in the middle. Visibility is good except for the rear window view obstructed by the spoiler. The electronic key fob is a great hands free feature for drivers who constantly don't know where their car key is. The solar panel on the roof is perfect for hot climates with no shade. The car's fan starts ventilating the car as soon as you open the door. The front end is really low so you have to watch for rolled curbs and sharp angled driveways to avoid bottoming out. Word of mouth is probably one of the most common and effective forms of advertising. The 2010 Prius got plenty of play from my test drive. Everyone relished the opportunity to be unleashed sans a salesman's lurking shadow. The Prius must be doing something right given its market longevity and third generation launch. Do I have Prius envy? With the down economy, increasing fossil fuel costs, and urgency to be environmentally green, yes I do.

SIDEBAR COMMENT The second-generation Prius was a game-changing vehicle beyond even Toyota's wildest imagination. It sold well beyond expectations. It topped the ratings among owners asked "would you buy the vehicle again?" Most importantly, it played a major role in causing other car makers to re-think their game plans toward hybrid technology and other fuel-saving technologies. The car is not without its faults, however. Its lightweight design translates to a ride that feels decidedly tinny-econo-compact, even though it's a mid-size car space-wise. The second-generation Prius also won't win any quarter-mile drag races, and no one will mistake it for a sport sedan in the handling department. Last, but not least, the car looks a bit dorky - sort of like a pregnant guppy. The third-generation Prius addresses many of these areas. The car manages to be both quicker and get better gas mileage at the same time. Much of the former is due to a Power mode that allows the car to sprint better when called for. It's a button not unlike those nitrous-oxide switches that used to grace aftermarket muscle cars. It's great for passing on the highway, or when you just want to sprint off from a stoplight. Complimenting the Power mode are an Eco mode (no matter how much you lead-foot it, the car accelerates for optimum gas mileage) and an EV mode (drives in full electric mode in low speeds). The new Prius feels less tinny. The ride is smooth and quiet - almost Lexus-like. The car also has a bit more room inside, although the old car is no slouch in the passenger space department. And while the car still won't be mistaken for a sport sedan, it does feel as if it corners better, particularly with the larger wheels and tires that are available. Design-wise, Toyota has managed to make the new Prius less dorky-looking, which still maintaining that "yes, I'm a hybrid" silhouette. They added some new magic tricks to the act, like an optional solar panel roof and remote air conditioner that operate to keep the car cool while it's baking in the sun. There's an optional Park-Assist that parallel parks the car for you. Even without the new magic tricks, it's clear we have the makings of another winner here. - Roy Nakano

SUMMARY JUDGMENT Meet the new benchmark of hybrid vehicles. For more information about Toyota products, go to www.toyota.com  For LA Car's article on debunking the myths and confirming the realities of the Prius, see Wheels of Fortune

SPECIFICATIONS Name of vehicle: 2010 Toyota Prius Price II: $22,000 (includes EV (all-electric)/Eco/Power modes, Touch Tracer Display) III: $23,000 (includes JBL audio system with Bluetooth and XM Satellite Radio, available Solar Roof, available voice-activated navigation system with XM Nav-Traffic) IV: $25,800 (the above, plus leather-trimmed seats and steering wheel, three-door Smart key system, available Solar Roof and Navigation) V: $27,270 (all of the above, plus LED headlamp and integrated fog lamps, 17-inch alloy wheels and low-profile tires, available Advanced Technology Package) EPA gas mileage (city/highway/combined) 51/48/50 Emission rating: SULEV (with AT-PZEV) Engine: 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine with VVT-i Electric motor: Permanent magnet synchronous motor Horsepower: Engine horsepower: 98 hp @ 5,200 rpm Electric motor power output: 80 hp Hybrid system net horsepower: 134 hp Engine torque: 105 pound-feet @ 4,000 rpm Electric motor: 153 pound-feet @ 0 rpm Transmission: Electronically controlled continuously variable transmission Drive System: Front-wheel-drive Hybrid battery pack: Nickel-metal hydride Wheels: 15-inch alloy wheels 17-inch alloy wheels (optional) Tire Size: 15-inch: 195/65R15 17-inch: 215/45R17 (optional) Dimensions (inches) Overall Length: 175.6 Overall Width: 68.7 Overall Height: 58.7 Coefficient of Drag: 0.25

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