The Truth About Cars » Prius http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Fri, 28 Aug 2015 20:00:07 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.4 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars » Prius http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Toyota Wants $500 From Canadian Owners To Fix Odometers (Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/toyota-wants-500-canadian-owners-fix-odometers-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/toyota-wants-500-canadian-owners-fix-odometers-video/#comments Fri, 28 Aug 2015 20:00:07 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1155522 Owners of some Toyota cars in Canada say that the Japanese automaker is asking them to foot the bill for replacement odometers due to a glitch that won’t allow the gauges to roll over after 299,999 kilometers, CTV is reporting (via AutoFocus). The glitchy odometers are found in 2003-2008 Toyota Matrix and Corolla models, and […]

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Toyota Odometer Stuck

Owners of some Toyota cars in Canada say that the Japanese automaker is asking them to foot the bill for replacement odometers due to a glitch that won’t allow the gauges to roll over after 299,999 kilometers, CTV is reporting (via AutoFocus).

The glitchy odometers are found in 2003-2008 Toyota Matrix and Corolla models, and some 2004 and 2005 Toyota Prius models.

There are a few videos on YouTube of people expecting to hit 300,000, but they never do.

We reached out to a Toyota spokesman in the U.S. but haven’t heard back. According to the CTV report, Toyota is replacing the odometer but asking owners to pay for the replacement (for now).

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New Prius Will Be Shown Next Month in Las Vegas http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/new-prius-will-shown-next-month-las-vegas/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/new-prius-will-shown-next-month-las-vegas/#comments Wed, 19 Aug 2015 17:00:42 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1145889 Toyota’s next-generation Prius, which will be the first use of the automaker’s new global platform, will be shown to media in Las Vegas next month, Bloomberg is reporting (via Autoblog). The report doesn’t specify when the automaker would build the next-gen Prius, or why it chose southern Nevada in the summertime for its reveal (Tesla speculation […]

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2016 Toyota Prius Getting Gas At Vons

Toyota’s next-generation Prius, which will be the first use of the automaker’s new global platform, will be shown to media in Las Vegas next month, Bloomberg is reporting (via Autoblog).

The report doesn’t specify when the automaker would build the next-gen Prius, or why it chose southern Nevada in the summertime for its reveal (Tesla speculation starts now).

Sales of the Prius have declined since 2007 and 2008 when average gas prices in the U.S. hovered around $4 per gallon. Toyota hasn’t fully updated the Prius since 2009, with a mild refresh gracing the hybrid in 2011.

Bloomberg notes that the eco-friendly Prius may have lost sales to all-electric cars — Nissan Leaf, Tesla Model S, and others — in the time it’s taken Toyota to update it.

The automaker began taking reservations in California last month for its hydrogen-powered Mirai.

According to our own Bark Maruth, we should expect glowing coverage of the Prius from reporters from carsaregoodandfun.net sometime next month.

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QOTD: Why Hasn’t Anyone Out-Gas Mileaged The Prius? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/qotd-why-hasnt-anyone-out-gas-mileaged-the-prius/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/qotd-why-hasnt-anyone-out-gas-mileaged-the-prius/#comments Fri, 14 Aug 2015 12:28:29 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1141713 Fifty-one miles per gallon city. Forty-eight miles per gallon highway. Still the best numbers in the industry for nearly a decade now. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I’m referring to the Toyota Prius, which is a 5-door hatchback that looks a bit like an egg mated with a shopping cart. It’s been a decade since the […]

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2014 Toyota Prius

Fifty-one miles per gallon city. Forty-eight miles per gallon highway. Still the best numbers in the industry for nearly a decade now.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I’m referring to the Toyota Prius, which is a 5-door hatchback that looks a bit like an egg mated with a shopping cart. It’s been a decade since the Prius came out in hatchback form, and a decade since it achieved those impressive fuel economy figures: 51 miles per gallon city. 48 miles per gallon highway. And still, no one has unseated the Prius.

It hasn’t been without trying. After the original Honda Insight failed, Honda came out with a Prius-looking second-generation Insight trying to dethrone the king. But it didn’t even come close, with fuel economy figures reaching just 41 miles per gallon city and 44 mpg on the highway. Even the Civic Hybrid, in its current form, can manage only 44 mpg city and 47 mpg highway.

And then there are the other challengers. The Ford C-MAX, also a hybrid-only 5-door hatchback, originally seemed like it might be close to the Prius’s EPA ratings — until people started complaining that they couldn’t come anywhere near Ford’s published figures. Down the C-MAX’s numbers went to their current resting place of 42 mpg city and 37 mpg on the highway.

The Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid gets close at 42 mpg city and 48 mpg highway. So does the Honda Accord Hybrid, at 50 mpg city and 45 mpg highway. And the Ford Fusion Hybrid, at 44 mpg city and 44 mpg highway. But none of them can unseat the reigning king and champion, the Toyota Prius.

Interestingly, even Toyota doesn’t seem to be able to top the Prius. Proof of that came a few years back, when they debuted the even smaller Prius c, a subcompact hatchback version of the Prius designed to provide a low-cost alternative to the iconic car. Despite a smaller engine, a smaller size, and less weight, its fuel economy ratings are 53 mpg city and 46 mpg highway — no better combined than the Prius’s 51 mpg city and 48 mpg highway.

So how does the Prius do it? It isn’t by cheating. The people on Fuelly all seem to report somewhere between 47 and 49 miles per gallon, which is right there on par with the EPA’s estimate. By comparison, second-generation Honda Insight people all seem to be somewhere between 43 and 45 miles per gallon.

We must assume that the Prius gets its amazing miles per gallon by honest-to-goodness engineering: a streamlined body, a tremendously efficient engine, and a wide range of other modifications that gives this car a leg up on all of its wannabe-Prius competitors. Which brings me to ask: why hasn’t anyone topped the Prius?

If it’s just engineering, someone can certainly do it. After all, this isn’t rocket science. Tear down the Prius. See what they did. Replicate it. This is how Volkswagen created its current-generation Passat, although unfortunately the car they used as the benchmark was a 1995 Camry CE.

So maybe people don’t want to replicate the Prius. What I’m thinking is, other automakers have decided the Prius is old news, and they want to focus instead on plug-in hybrids and electric cars which are all the rage these days. But here’s the problem with that: last year, Toyota sold 207,000 units of the Prius family, compared to roughly 19,000 Chevy Volts, and 30,000 Nissan Leafs. In other words: although electric cars might be all the rage, the “highly efficient hybrid” segment is still exponentially larger than the plug-in EV class.

And so I ask: in today’s world of people trying to conserve energy, save the planet, and lower their carbon footprint, how is it still possible that nobody has managed to equal the Toyota Prius in terms of fuel economy? How is it possible that nobody has beaten it? How has nobody entered this wildly profitable, popular segment and given the Prius a (slow, quiet) run for its money? Because the way it stands now, it doesn’t seem like General Motors should’ve devoted all that energy to making the Chevy Volt. Instead, they should’ve made a Chevy Prius.

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Ford C-Max Sales Have Perpetually Declined In America http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/ford-c-max-sales-perpetually-declined-america/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/ford-c-max-sales-perpetually-declined-america/#comments Thu, 16 Jul 2015 12:00:06 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1113177 Following Ford’s announcement that production of the Focus and C-Max would leave Wayne, Michigan in the next few years, sales personnel at Ford dealers across America were heard asking their managers, “We still sell the C-Max?” No, that’s not entirely true. Ford is moving Focus and C-Max production out of Wayne by 2018, but we weren’t privy […]

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Ford C-Max sales chart TTAC

Following Ford’s announcement that production of the Focus and C-Max would leave Wayne, Michigan in the next few years, sales personnel at Ford dealers across America were heard asking their managers, “We still sell the C-Max?”

No, that’s not entirely true. Ford is moving Focus and C-Max production out of Wayne by 2018, but we weren’t privy to the conversations inside Ford showrooms. That question may or may not have been asked.

Through the first-half of this year, Ford’s U.S. dealers only sold an average of four C-Max Hybrids and C-Max Energis per dealer per month. 

The C-Max did get to off to a hot start back at the end of 2012. There was plenty of talk about the C-Max’s ability to outsell the Toyota Prius. No, not the Prius you know best, but rather the Prius V, which isn’t nearly as popular as the regular Prius.

During the final quarter of the year, Ford sold 12,340 copies of the C-Max in the United States; twice topping the 4K mark. (Ford hasn’t topped 3800 since, didn’t top 3,501 in 2014, and hasn’t managed 2,700 monthly sales in 2015’s first six months.)

2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid, Picture Coutesy of Ford Motor CompanyBut by the end of its first year, the C-Max was already struggling to find more than 3,000 buyers per month. Other than the September 2013 improvement, when the year-over-year comparison took into account the C-Max’s launch month of September 2012, and two other occasions last summer, C-Max sales have always declined on a year-over-year basis.

Thus, while never truly popular, the C-Max has become increasingly unpopular in America. The reasons? It’s difficult to challenge a segment owner like the Prius. The second-generation Honda Insight can attest to that fact. Ford also flubbed the fuel efficiency marketing hype and later paid the price. Even before its efficiency downgrade, the C-Max wasn’t alleged to be quite as economical as its Toyota rivals.

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures. Follow on Twitter @goodcarbadcar and on Facebook.

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No Fixed Abode: A Vestigial Tale http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/no-fixed-abode-vestigial-tale/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/no-fixed-abode-vestigial-tale/#comments Fri, 10 Jul 2015 12:00:41 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1060538 I woke up yesterday to see that my friend W. Christian “Mental” Ward had taken advantage of me while I was drunk. My first thought was to make a porn movie in which I played myself, kind of like that nice young lady who recently graduated from Columbia did. (They call her “Mattress Girl”, by […]

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evolution

I woke up yesterday to see that my friend W. Christian “Mental” Ward had taken advantage of me while I was drunk.

My first thought was to make a porn movie in which I played myself, kind of like that nice young lady who recently graduated from Columbia did. (They call her “Mattress Girl”, by the way.) But then I realized that Mental’s violations had been limited to using the column title “No Fixed Abode” for his own opinions. So I calmed down. But then I wondered: what if I just let people use the title for columns of which I particularly approved, either drunk or sober? Eventually I wouldn’t even need to approve them myself. I could use an algorithm, or a Millennial. Perhaps, after fifty or seventy-five years of this, the phrase “no fixed abode” would become brandless, like “kleenex” or “band-aid.”

I can imagine some kid in the year 2210 waxing nostalgic about his steam-powered Kamakiri biosphere-mobile (the first person to get the reference wins the Internet) and saying to his friends, “Man, I’m going to hook up the ‘trodes and bang out a nofixedabode about the time I saw my Daddy mowing the lawn and I was like, ‘Come on Daddy, get in, let’s go!'” At that point, the original reason for the column title, to say nothing of its decidedly nonfamous originator, would be long lost to history.

Which brings us, of course, to the Prius.

echoint

But not yet.

Speaking of Mattress Girl and her ilk, maybe the above photo should have a trigger warning preceding it. Only the most traumatized of you will recognize the interior for what it is: the first-generation Toyota “Echo”, known as “Yaris” overseas. I would expect that all of you will recognize that is has a center-dash layout in which the instrument panel is mounted in the middle of the vehicle. Some of you will do better than that and recognize that the two sides of the instrument panel are essentially interchangeable. You could use the same pieces to make a left-hand-drive car or a right-hand-drive car. It’s just a matter of swapping the modules out.

This is a brilliant way to make a cheap car for a truly global market. It simplifies parts inventories, allows you to get some volume-based savings that you wouldn’t have if you had to make two different kinds of dashboards, and it probably makes assembly easier as well. I don’t know just how much money this layout saves, but I’d say that it’s nontrivial. In any event, it’s worth making the driver look over at the center instrument panel. Most of the people who are driving these things barely look at the dashboard anyway, and very few of them are driving quickly enough to need to have the instrument panel right in front of them.

echo2

No surprise, then, that the next-generation Yaris that replaced the Echo/Yaris had the same modular layout. You see how it’s still possible to make the same car two different ways here, relatively easily?

yaris1

And here’s the current car. Better materials, classier design, and (let’s face it) a more flattering photo, but the same concept remains in place. Interchangeable dashes. You can easily see how both sides are identical, right down to the way the glovebox and knee bolster have pretty much the same dimensions on both sides of the console. Toyota’s far from the only company to do this, although most of its competitors don’t do an actual center display but prefer instead to have an instrument panel unit that can live on either side of a symmetrical dashboard.

You get the idea. Let’s look at the first-generation Prius.

prius1

The bones of the first Prius probably had a lot to do with the original Echo/Yaris. They were developed around the same time, they shared some dimensions. No wonder that the Prius has the same kind of symmetrical swap-out dashboard. It saves money and it’s part of the Toyota cheap-car DNA at the time. It would have been notable had Toyota not chosen to do this, frankly. Keep in mind that nobody knew how successful the Prius would eventually become. Saving money in design, materials, and production was a nontrivial goal, no matter how much THE JAPANESE GOVERNMENT CHIPPED IN ON IT.

I just capitalized the last half of the sentence to give my predecessor at TTAC, Herr Schmitt, heart palpitations. Were he still around, he would no doubt explain to you that Toyota did not need the Japanese government to make the Prius and that he knows more about it than Jim Press does.

Where were we? Oh yes. Cheap car, cheap to make, modular dash. Next photo, please.

priius2

And here’s the second Prius we had in this country, the one that made the car famous to people besides Larry David and your local comparative-literature professor. This dashboard is proudly symmetrical and interchangeable. It continues to have a center dash display. Nothing too surprising. Alright, let’s see the last slide in the carousel.

prius3

Well, I will be Gosh-damned. This is in no way a cheapo Toyota mirror-image dash, is it? It’s from the current Prius, which is going to replaced in the near future, and which I used to run a few laps around New Jersey Motorsports Park a couple of months back. Looks like the Prius has finally come correct, all the better to match its hugely upscale consumer base and public image. The Tupperware simplicity is gone, replaced by something that looks kind of like what you get in an Avalon.

Except for that center dash display.

This is the kind of stuff that keeps me up at night, by the by. Why does the Prius retain a center display when the reason for it — interchangeability between RHD and LHD variants — is gone? After all, you don’t get a center dash in a Camry, or an Avalon, or an LS600hl. Only cheapo Toyotas get a center dash. The Prius is no longer particularly cheap, and Toyota finally cottoned to the fact that many of its buyers don’t give a fig for its purchase or operating costs, so it has a proper interior. But it still has the center dash?

It took me a while to figure out the answer, but here it is: The consumer cannot sense intent. What I mean by that is this: You, the manufacturer, might have all sorts of reasons for doing something, but unless you state those reasons on the front page of the Huffington Post, Fox News, and Reddit’s “Gone Wild” section every day for a year, as well as paying for “in-game placement” in World of Warcraft and Call of Duty, nobody will know what those reasons are. Instead, the consumers will guess at your reasons, and their guesses will be wrong far more often than they are right.

There are more examples of this in the world than there are atoms with which to electronically transmit their descriptions. The Chevy “Pro-Tec” plastic optional pickup box that vastly outperformed steel in all but the coldest conditions? Customers thought it was there to save money and rip them off. The three-piece necks on Gibson guitars of the Seventies? The factory did it to prevent warping and reduce warranty claims. Musicians thought the purpose was to save money and ruin their sound. The unbuttoned lower button on the Duke of Windsor’s suit coat? It was because he had a potbelly. Fashionable men around the world with flat stomachs dutifully unbuttoned the moment they saw a picture of their aristocratic better doing it.

It stands to reason, therefore, that the reason the Prius has a center dash is because people think that is part of the “Prius brand DNA”. What makes that funny is that it reinforces the fact that Prius buyers never shopped any other cheap Toyotas, or any cheap cars, period. If they did, they’d quickly realize that center display means “cheap”. But since they only saw the center dash in the Prius, it says “hybrid” to them. Therefore, the Prius must continue to have a center dash forever and ever, Amen, because any other arrangement would be un-Prius-like.

You are now free to imagine a scene in which natives of a desert island worship a Coke bottle. Or something like that. It’s the same idea. Viewed without context, the Prius dash layout takes on a whole new meaning and therefore it must be retained.

And if you think only stupid-ass Prius buyers feel that way, ask yourself why the Corvette had quad round taillights until last year, just like a ’62 Biscayne. Or why the BMW i8 has twin chrome ovals surrounding black glossy plastic. Or, perhaps, why your automatic-transmission car has a console shift.

What’s the moral of the story? Only this: that despite the best efforts of everybody from Joan Claybrook (look it up, kids) to “Mad Men”, people continue to have a genuine and unashamed emotional investment in their vehicles. It’s 2015, and we were supposed to have flying cars by now, but we’re more than happy to settle for what we’ve got. We all want our cars to reinforce our self-images, confirm our prejudices, reassure our pathetic senses of aesthetic sensibility. Even the buyers of the most rational car money can buy want to know that they’re sitting in a real-deal Prius.

So let’s all agree to keep the existence of the Toyota Echo a secret from them, just to be nice. To do anything else would be like buying someone shots of Tito’s all night and asking them if they mind if you write a nofixedabode.

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Toyota Prius SUV Reportedly Under Development http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/toyota-prius-suv-reportedly-under-development/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/toyota-prius-suv-reportedly-under-development/#comments Mon, 22 Jun 2015 19:00:18 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1097417 The Toyota Prius can be had in compact, wagon and original recipe, but there may soon be another addition to the family: an SUV. The Prius SUV would be developed via its partnership with Mazda, and would likely be a production-ready version of the C-HR Concept from last year’s Paris Auto Show, AutoGuide writes. The […]

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Toyota-C-HR-Concept-3

The Toyota Prius can be had in compact, wagon and original recipe, but there may soon be another addition to the family: an SUV.

The Prius SUV would be developed via its partnership with Mazda, and would likely be a production-ready version of the C-HR Concept from last year’s Paris Auto Show, AutoGuide writes.

The partnership between the two automakers allows for powertrain technologies to be exchanged regarding new models. Thus, one idea for the SUV would be Mazda’s 1.5-liter SkyActiv diesel for a hybrid-diesel variant, as well as one without electric motors for European markets. Mazda, meanwhile, would use Toyota’s technology to bring its first EV to market, set to meet the ZEV standards set for 2018 by California’s government.

(Photo credit: Mike Schlee/AutoGuide)

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Possible Fourth-Gen Toyota Prius Prototype Caught In The Wild http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/possible-fourth-gen-toyota-prius-prototype-caught-in-the-wild/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/possible-fourth-gen-toyota-prius-prototype-caught-in-the-wild/#comments Mon, 18 May 2015 16:00:28 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1070114 Out and about at a Chevron in Baker, Calif. this weekend, a PriusChat forum member happened upon what could be the fourth-gen Toyota Prius. The member, Savior1974, whipped out his smartphone to roll film on the find, heavily disguised as prototypes are wont to do, AutoGuide reports. Whether the Prius was a mule or something […]

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2016 Toyota Prius Getting Gas At Vons

Out and about at a Chevron in Baker, Calif. this weekend, a PriusChat forum member happened upon what could be the fourth-gen Toyota Prius.

The member, Savior1974, whipped out his smartphone to roll film on the find, heavily disguised as prototypes are wont to do, AutoGuide reports. Whether the Prius was a mule or something more, however, could not be confirmed.

The upcoming Prius was held back for further refinement to its styling — which may take cues from the C-HR Concept from last year’s Paris Auto Show — and to prepare it for Toyota’s New Global Architecture modular platform.

The new hybrid is set for production by the end of this year, with its showroom debut expected the following spring.

[Photo credit: Savior1974/PriusChat]

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2015 Toyota Prius, Track Tested Review http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/review-2015-toyota-prius-track-tested/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/review-2015-toyota-prius-track-tested/#comments Tue, 05 May 2015 12:00:39 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1060434 You may have heard about the challenge I laid down to Jalopnik’s Travis Okulski. You’re probably read about brother Bark’s experience at NJMP this past weekend. But if you haven’t, the story goes like so: A team of scrappy Midwesterners fought a bunch of Euro-weenies and high-net-worth individuals on the mean streets straights and curves […]

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2015 Toyota Prius Track Test

You may have heard about the challenge I laid down to Jalopnik’s Travis Okulski. You’re probably read about brother Bark’s experience at NJMP this past weekend. But if you haven’t, the story goes like so: A team of scrappy Midwesterners fought a bunch of Euro-weenies and high-net-worth individuals on the mean streets straights and curves of New Jersey. They endured fatigue, crippling expense, and hair-raising 100-mph off-track excursions to challenge their inner demons and define themselves.

This is not their story.

This is the story of the Prius they drove. Over 1,600 miles. From Ohio to New York to New Jersey to Philly and back to Ohio.

Plus fifteen laps on a racetrack.

2015 Toyota Prius Track Test

Stress and nervous tension are now serious social problems in all parts of the galaxy and it is in order that this situation should not be in any way exacerbated that the following facts will now be revealed in advance:

  • I thought the Prius was absolutely brilliant, and I’m going to give you ten reasons why.
  • I also thought the Prius was depressingly cheap and annoyingly outmoded, and I’m going to give you five reasons why.
  • My opinion about the Prius has been changed forever.
  • My opinion about the bulk of Prius owners remains unchanged.

Alright, let’s get to it. This is the TTAC of 2015, so instead of telling you a sordid tale about a bottle-blonde working girl named Natalya who stood next to me and told her date, “I’m worth the money” as I watched Mike Stern, Anthony Jackson, and Lionel Cordrew just kill it at 55 Bar in the Village last Wednesday night, we’re going to have a listicle.

Ten Reasons The 2015 Prius Is Absolutely Brilliant. Number Six Will Blow Your Mind.

1. No tumblehome. The sides of the third-generation Prius are actually concave. The side windows reach straight up from a surprisingly low doorsill to a squared-off meeting with the roof. This car feels hugely roomy and comfortable to me, more so than any other car with its footprint on sale today, and that’s why.

20150503_195733

2. Reasonable driver position. There’s plenty of room to be had between the door card and the floating console. The blank space ahead of you, where the instrument panel would be in, say, a Ferrari F12berlinetta, is grey plastic adorned with a “Synergy” waveform pattern that also appears in every glass divider in the lobby of every mid-price hotel in America. And maybe it’s because I’d driven a ’99 Camaro SS right before getting into the Prius, but the distance to the windshield base was positively reasonable.

3. The vision thing. There’s no “DLO Fail”, as our own Sajeev Mehta would say. The front quarter windows are useful for parking. The rear quarter windows have heating elements on them. Driver vision is clear and nearly unobstructed. And the rear double window in the hatch – holy fuck, man, when was the last time you drove a car that let you see the license plate of the car following you? This is the opposite of the face-down-ass-up thing that most modern sedans have. Love it.

20150503_195710

4. Uninvaded space. The Prius had room for three people, their luggage, their race equipment, and a carbon-fiber Rainsong jumbo on which I played “Ramble On” after practice on Friday. “Jesus,” my brother said, “make that stop.” The packaging just plain works for both people and luggage.

5. You can turn the DRLs off. Every car in the world should offer this feature. Combined with the “EV mode”, to be discussed shortly, this would make the world’s greatest night-time drive-by vehicle ever. Room for a Bulgarian AK-47 clone in the back? Check! The ability to roll silent? Check! No DRLs to alert your rivals? Check!

20150503_195809

6. The hybrid powertrain, as implemented in this car, is beyond reproach. From Columbus to Manhattan, the Prius returned about 51 mpg despite being asked to cruise at 80-90 mph. But it was on the road to Chinatown that I had my own road-to-Damascus moment. Exiting the Holland tunnel, I pressed the “EV mode” button. The engine didn’t turn on until we arrived at the hotel and had to wait for the valet. No fuss. No drama. Half an hour on the battery, stopping, starting, listening to Father John Misty on the crank-up. It would have been two gallons’ worth of gas in anything else.

What Toyota has done with this Prius is simply brilliant. You can watch the energy displays if you like, but you don’t need to. Only once was I caught out by the Synergy Drive; making a left turn onto a crowded four-lane, I pumped the throttle to sneak into a hole between two cars and was unexpectedly braked by the Toyota’s decision to cut the engine. That’s it. That was the only time I didn’t like the system in the space of 1,600 miles. I’m a believer.

7. The quiet aero. True, my current fleet of vehicles, containing two Porsches, two Honda motorcycles, and a car (the Honda Accord) which has been infamous for road noise since 1976, tends to damage my idea of what a quiet car is. Still. This Prius has less wind noise than anything else I’ve ever driven. You can have a reasonable conversation at 90 mph.

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8. The handling. Yeah, it’s on those low-roll Avids, which aren’t great. But when I took the Prius around New Jersey Motorsports Park’s Lightning course, the Prius was a capable and friendly partner. It can hit 96 mph on the front straight before recovering sixty watt-hours braking at the “4” mark. You can rotate it – wait, I’m laughing as I type – you can rotate it at turn entry on the Synergy Drive recovery mode of the brake pedal. No, it’s not fast, but it’s not undriveable. More importantly, the Prius ended its tour of the track with a firm brake pedal, no worrying heat smells, and two bars of battery left in reserve. Hey, it’s got two controversial F1 technologies: a CVT (hey, Williams!) and battery energy recovery (hey, every F1 team during KERS development except Williams!) The only caveat: The stability control doesn’t like high-G maneuvers at freeway speeds.

9. The air conditioning. Oh what a feeling, to sit in the Prius on a hot Jersey day and just let the battery run the A/C for you while the engine sleeps. Guilt-free motoring at its finest.

10. The stereo. Best cheap-car stereo I’ve heard in a while. The dynamics of it won’t cause my friends at Stereophile to pen any rapturous tributes but at least it’s loud enough for a 43-year-old man who has been deafened by years of unmuffled club racers and Benelli shotguns operated indoors.

After six days with the Prius, I was ready to buy one without question. Keep in mind that only the existence of my personal fleet would make such an idea palatable; I’m about as likely to buy a Chinese-made dress shirt as I am to make a car that can’t break 100 in the quarter my only vehicle. Still, for ninety-five percent of the driving that I do, the Prius makes more sense than anything else on the road. And trust me, after blasting out to the lead of a forty-one-car pack while the Bimmers behind you bang fenders loud enough for you to feel it in your chest, getting into a car that “turns on” with a beep is oddly comforting.

Of course, the Prius has problems, and here are five of them:

1. The dashboard is garbage. Forget the fact that it’s in the center. The displays themselves are a strange mixture of cheap monochrome LCD and monochrome segment LCD and backlit icons like you’d find on a God-damned ’79 Tercel. Every time you look at the display, you’re reminded of just how they found the money for the Toyota Synergy Drive in a $24,000 car. No Ford made after the Tempo looks this cheap inside.

2. The rest of the car is cheap, too. You can load these things up but my rental-spec “Prius One” lacked basic features such as a three-blink turn signal. It’s equipped like a base Accent despite costing half again as much. There’s no reason for it other than to push you upmarket to the five trim levels above. It’s exploitative and stupid in the best GM practice.

3. It also treats you like an idiot. Yes, we all know the kind of people who buy these things in droves: feckless, mouth-breathing Whole-Foods-shopping asexuals who treat the government like a surrogate parent and use phrases like “I’m not okay with that” and “Here’s why that’s a problem.” Some day it will be legal to cut those people down from horseback like a Dothraki, but in the meantime they have to be coddled by a car that BEEPS INSIDE WHEN YOU’RE BACKING UP. I know I’m backing up, damn it! I also don’t need the car to flash some tacky-ass additional display every time I touch the Volume button. I know I’m touching the Volume button, because I’m a functioning human. What’s worse: the “you’re-touching-a-button” display lights up when you touch the button, but you have to press the button more to get it to do anything.

4. The seats are fairly miserable. Front and back. They’re shaped oddly and made of mouse fur. Toyota knows how to make a great seat – the Lexus RC F that showed up at our race proves that. They just don’t give you one here.

5. It’s really slow. Yes, I know that’s part of the package. But I hate it. I don’t see why there isn’t some KERS-style maximum-discharge mode for when you really want to get up to that open spot in the lane next to you.

And that’s it.

A thousand miles in a Prius will make you a believer, as long as you understand what it is. It’s not a Swiss Army Knife, it’s not a Hellcat, it’s not a Tesla Model S. It’s the most intelligently-executed basic transportation since the Model T. As such, it lacks both surprise and delight. If you don’t like it, get an Accord V6.

The Prius is not brilliant because it’s a hybrid. By and large, hybrids suck and it doesn’t matter if you’re referring to the Highlander Hybrid or the Panamera Hybrid. The hybrid concept only works when you apply it to the Prius, the same way that a double-clutch transmission is racetrack magic in a McLaren 650S but utterly miserable in your commuting Fiesta. The Prius isn’t brilliant because it’s a hybrid. It’s brilliant because it is designed for a single purpose – efficient transportation – and the HS-Drive is a part of that design. A Prius without the battery would be a better commuter than an Elantra with one. But as a single, unified system, the standard Prius is flat fucking wonderful.

If only I didn’t feel dirty after driving it, like I’d been caught reading a Jezebel article about The Top Ten Ways Men Are Stare-Raping You At The Gym or something. I think I can fix that. If you’ll excuse me, I have a superbike that needs some conspicuous wheely-ing.

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No Fixed Abode: Fruit Flies Of The Marketplace http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/no-fixed-abode-fruit-flies-marketplace/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/no-fixed-abode-fruit-flies-marketplace/#comments Fri, 01 May 2015 11:30:24 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1054169 I don’t know what you’re doing with your weekend, but I’m spending mine driving a Prius from the Midwest to the East Coast. Next week I’ll tell you all about my experience with the car, but I’ll say this: it hasn’t been what I expected. Not that my opinion on the subject matters to Toyota; […]

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I don’t know what you’re doing with your weekend, but I’m spending mine driving a Prius from the Midwest to the East Coast. Next week I’ll tell you all about my experience with the car, but I’ll say this: it hasn’t been what I expected. Not that my opinion on the subject matters to Toyota; I’m not a customer for a Prius or a hybrid of any type and I am unlikely to become one until the last car that can beat a Prius around a racetrack enters the loving jaws of the Crusher.

Existing hybrid owners, on the other hand, are near and dear to Toyota’s heart. Unfortunately, that affection is being returned in smaller and smaller doses.

It’s the kind of headline that generates clicks the way a Prius going down a hill generates battery power: Gas price fallout: People trading in hybrids for SUVs. And the facts, in this case, justify the hype:

So far this year, only 45% of people that traded in an environmentally-friendly hybrid car purchased another, according statisticians at Edmunds.com. In 2012, that figure was over 60% and this is the first time it has ever fallen below 50%…

Back in 2012, gas prices peaked at $4.67 a gallon. At that price, it would take five years for owners of a hybrid-powered Toyota (TM) Camry to make up for the $3,770 price differential with the brand’s gasoline-powered model. But with today’s gas prices at $2.27 a gallon, it would take about 11 years.

Admit it, your first reaction to the above was, “How stupid can people be? Do they think cheap gasoline will last forever?” That was certainly my reaction. Although many of the B&B picture me as being just to the right of Attila the Hun, I’m a bit of a closet progressive at times and the image my Brooklyn-born brain conjured up when I read the above was an endless line of fat Walmartians trading in their Hy-Higlanders for Yukon XLs while smugly telling their neighbors, “I reckon gas is gonna be cheap forevah.” It’s the kind of image that is thoroughly satisfying for anybody who enjoys thinking of themselves as smarter than the average American. After all, I would never be that stupid, and neither would you, right?

But what if those stupid hicks who can’t wait to get rid of their hybrids are actually pretty good at doing real-world math? After all, using the Camry analogy provided by CNN, even when fuel is close to five bucks a gallon, you’re still looking at five years to the breakeven point. That’s longer than a lot of people keep their vehicles, so if you’re going to keep your Camry for three years and you don’t think fuel will swing past five or six dollars a gallon there’s probably no point.

The problem with that Camry analogy, however, is the standard Camry four-cylinder gets outstanding gas mileage. Very few cars sold in this country are as good as a four-cylinder Camry at conserving fuel on the move. Are buyers really just trading in Camry Hybrids for Camrys, or are they moving to larger SUVs? That’s not something we can know without access to additional data, and it’s not a conclusion that’s directly supported by the CNN article.

What if that is the case, however? Let’s do a few moments’ worth of math, based on the idea of a 15,000-mile year.

Prius (50mpg) v $2.50 = $750/year
Tahoe (16mpg) v $2.50 = $2,343/year
Prius v $4.00 = $1,200/year
Tahoe v $4.00 = $3,750/year
Prius v $6.00 = $1,800/year
Tahoe v $6.00 = $5,625/year

I don’t think anybody expects gasoline to rise past six dollars a gallon in the next decade, assuming the world doesn’t erupt in flames.

With cheap gas, the Prius saves you $132 a month. With four-dollar gas, it’s $212.50. At six bucks, it’s $318.75. This is what I consider “real money” at all three amounts, but let’s put it in context by looking at how much extra car you could get if you put that same amount of money into paying a five year loan on a more expensive car.

At $2.50, you could afford to pay about seven grand more for your car if it has a Prius-Tahoe fuel advantage. At $4.00, it becomes eleven grand. At six bucks? Nearly seventeen thousand dollars. That, too, is real money. Since even the cheapest Tahoe costs twenty-two grand more than a base Prius, however, we can assume that our Prius-to-Tahoe people are ready to spend extra money to drive a Tahoe and that this additional fuel cost is just more money to burn. The math gets much more complicated when you start comparing fundamentally similar vehicles that are available in hybrid or conventional form. That’s the math that killed the Tahoe Hybrid and it’s the math that would kill it again were GM bold enough to bring it back.

After running about fifty more permutations of the above calculations, I’ve come to believe that people who trade in hybrid versions of Highlanders and Altimas for conventional versions are probably making a solid mathematical bet. And I’ve also come to believe that if you trade in a Prius for a Tahoe you’re going to take it in the shorts no matter what fuel costs are, said shorts-taking still being less than the additional amount you’re paying to drive a much more expensive vehicle in the first place. So our putative hybrid-traders are neither stupid nor bad at math, no matter how you slice it.

No, I think the lesson of the numbers is something else entirely. While looking at my fuel-economy spreadsheet, I kept thinking back to my Audi S5. Driven with some spirit, it had an 18-mpg appetite for fuel. Its supercharged replacement might fool the EPA but it doesn’t do much better in the real world. Nor do all the turbo near-luxury and luxury cars the Germans want you to buy. Pretty much anything that will arouse envy in your neighbors nowadays is also unlikely to do significantly better than 20mpg in the real world of mixed-use commuting and daily operation.

That means five thousand dollars a year or more to keep the tank full as fuel costs rise. Which they will. There is no way around it. If you think gasoline will be two dollars a gallon in the year 2035, you are either a drooling moron or the super-genius who will invent cold fusion and make petrol irrelevant for all but the most committed and particular of motorists.

Five grand a year is twenty-five grand in five years. So when I ask myself, “How much will people pay for the electric version of today’s luxury cars?” I now have a solid answer. And I have a second answer to a different question. The question is: “When will electric cars outsell gasoline-powered cars in the American marketplace?” The answer?

“Not as long from now as you think.”

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Toyota Delivers Increased Incentives For Prius Models In April http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/toyota-delivers-increased-incentives-prius-models-april/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/toyota-delivers-increased-incentives-prius-models-april/#comments Thu, 09 Apr 2015 11:00:29 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1041001 Live in California and shopping for a Toyota Prius? Your bank account will love this news. CarsDirect reports Toyota has dropped a number of rebate incentives on the hood of the hybrid and its siblings for the month of April, going as high as 9.8 percent off MSRP. Thus, one could come away with not […]

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Live in California and shopping for a Toyota Prius? Your bank account will love this news.

CarsDirect reports Toyota has dropped a number of rebate incentives on the hood of the hybrid and its siblings for the month of April, going as high as 9.8 percent off MSRP. Thus, one could come away with not only a Prius c, but also a $2,000 discount off of the price, beginning at $20,365 before the dealer discounts come into play.

Alas, that incentive is for the 2014 model; the 2015 version comes with a $750 rebate. Meanwhile, the original Prius, as well as the Prius v and Prius Plug-in, come with a $500 boost in incentives. The incentive campaign will come to a close May 4.

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NYT’s Bilton Finds Vehicle Broken Into Via Wireless Technology http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/nyts-bilton-finds-vehicle-broken-via-wireless-technology/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/nyts-bilton-finds-vehicle-broken-via-wireless-technology/#comments Tue, 07 Apr 2015 14:00:36 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1039361 Locking the doors may not be enough to deter would-be thieves now, thanks to wireless technology. According to Jalopnik, New York Times tech blogger Nick Bilton watched from afar as his Toyota Prius’ defenses — specifically, the door locks — were disabled wirelessly by two youths before they entered the vehicle to steal whatever they […]

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2014 Toyota Prius

Locking the doors may not be enough to deter would-be thieves now, thanks to wireless technology.

According to Jalopnik, New York Times tech blogger Nick Bilton watched from afar as his Toyota Prius’ defenses — specifically, the door locks — were disabled wirelessly by two youths before they entered the vehicle to steal whatever they could find. Bilton then chased down the two to ask what they used to break into his car, only to come away with nothing but a description and a price tag: a $100 device that broadcasts RF signals to unlock the doors.

Similar instances include a slew of break-ins in 2013 linked to devices pressed against new car doors, cycling through remote-entry codes before happening upon the correct code to unlock the vehicle, and a demonstration at a Blackhat conference with a setup involving a laptop and $1,000 of radio equipment.

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The Honda Insight Is Dead: Here’s Why http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/honda-insight-dead-heres/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/honda-insight-dead-heres/#comments Fri, 29 Aug 2014 12:32:29 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=900858 More than two years after American Honda last produced meaningful sales volume with its first Insight, a second Insight arrived to tackle the Toyota Prius head-on. Only it didn’t, because it couldn’t. The Insight’s death was reported here at the end of last month. There was no accompanying shock, surprise or horror. Though it has […]

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2012 Honda Insight greyMore than two years after American Honda last produced meaningful sales volume with its first Insight, a second Insight arrived to tackle the Toyota Prius head-on.

Only it didn’t, because it couldn’t.

The Insight’s death was reported here at the end of last month. There was no accompanying shock, surprise or horror.

Though it has competed with a much lower base MSRP than the core Prius model, the Insight is a 42 mpg car fighting against the hybrid, a 50 mpg Prius.

Those are the numbers that mattered most to potential customers, not cargo capacity or horsepower or airbags. (The Prius, incidentally, has more cargo capacity behind the rear seats and with seats folded, more horsepower, and more airbags.)

Think of this way. The Prius was akin to the establishment candidate for the ruling party, a guy who’d led the country for years, a policy wonk with a certain charm. In comes Insight, somebody who was once known as a revolutionary politician but disappeared for a few years before returning with fewer baby kisses, less foreign affairs awareness, and no real plan for reducing the deficit.

In 2008, the Toyota Prius was America’s tenth-best-selling car. In 2009, the Insight arrived to take on this hugely popular car but brought with it significant on-paper disadvantages.

The results were as anticipated. Honda sold 20,572 Insights in 2009; Toyota sold 139,682 Prii. Prius sales rose slightly to 140,928 in 2010; Insight volume rose to 20,962 units. Insight volume plunged 26% to 15,549 in 2011; Prius volume fell 9% to 128,064. Prius volume then jumped 15% to 147,507 units in 2012 while Insight sales plunged again, falling 62% to just 5846. Insight sales fell again, 18%, to just 4802 units in 2013. Prius sales slid slightly, just 2%, to 145,172 in 2013.

Through the first seven months of 2014, Insight sales have fallen 6% to 2624 units. Prius sales have fallen 18% to 75,903 as we approach its turn into a fourth-generation iteration.

There won’t be an immediate, overlapping replacement for the Insight. It’s not that Honda needed to sell the Insight at Prius-like levels for the model to succeed. Honda doesn’t sell as many Accords as Toyota does Camrys, and there’s no one implying that the Accord ought to be killed off.

Yet during the time period in which the Insight has steadily waned, Toyota has expanded the Prius lineup. There’s a plug-in variant of the regular Prius that has sold 10,671 copies this year, quadruple the volume Honda has done with the Insight. Toyota USA has also sold 101,715 Prius C hatchbacks since February 2012 and 101,276 copies of the Prius V wagon since the fourth quarter of 2011.

Toyota is trading off the Prius’s name brand to generate genuinely high U.S. sales. There was equity in the Insight name, but by introducing an underwhelming half-measure in 2009, Honda may have extinguished that equity along with the car itself.

The Insight, of course, isn’t the company’s only hybrid. Honda has reported 8250 U.S. sales of the Accord Hybrid through the first seven months of 2014, 221 Accord Plug-Ins, 2904 Civic Hybrids, 263 Fit EVs, 306 Acura ILX Hybrids, and 2355 CR-Zs.

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Fourth-Gen Toyota Prius To Receive AWD, New Battery Packs http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/fourth-gen-toyota-prius-to-receive-awd-new-battery-packs/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/fourth-gen-toyota-prius-to-receive-awd-new-battery-packs/#comments Tue, 15 Jul 2014 12:00:20 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=866362 Though it may be a while before the fourth-generation Toyota Prius leaves the assembly line, it may be worth the wait as far as batteries and drivetrains are concerned. Automotive News reports the new hybrid will have two choices for battery power. According to senior managing officer of powertrain development Koei Saga, both a low-cost […]

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2014 Toyota Prius

Though it may be a while before the fourth-generation Toyota Prius leaves the assembly line, it may be worth the wait as far as batteries and drivetrains are concerned.

Automotive News reports the new hybrid will have two choices for battery power. According to senior managing officer of powertrain development Koei Saga, both a low-cost nickel-metal hydride unit and a larger-capacity lithium ion pack — for longer electric-only range — will help provide power. Though Saga was cagey regarding economy numbers, he claimed that the new packs’ economy would “surprise everyone.”

Meanwhile, the power won’t be directed toward just the front wheels. Saga says there’s a possibility that AWD could be in the cards for the new Prius, which will be underpinned by the company’s Toyota New Global Architecture.

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Fourth-Generation Toyota Prius Production Delayed Six Months http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/fourth-generation-toyota-prius-production-delayed-six-months/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/fourth-generation-toyota-prius-production-delayed-six-months/#comments Tue, 01 Jul 2014 10:00:21 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=856489 Once set for production in the spring of 2015, the fourth generation of Toyota’s Prius will instead enter production beginning in December of said year. Automotive News Europe reports the delay is due to engineers wanting to massage as much fuel economy as possible, along with adjustments to the chassis and body. The confirmation model […]

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2014 Toyota Prius

Once set for production in the spring of 2015, the fourth generation of Toyota’s Prius will instead enter production beginning in December of said year.

Automotive News Europe reports the delay is due to engineers wanting to massage as much fuel economy as possible, along with adjustments to the chassis and body. The confirmation model of the new hybrid is expected in November 2014, 12 months before production is set to begin; the plug-in variant will follow in October 2016.

Though Toyota declined to clarify the reasons behind the delay, managing officer for product planning Satoshi Ogiso said the new hybrid will serve as a test bed for the automaker’s modular Toyota New Global Architecture and a new hybrid system that will be more compact and lighter than the current system while delivering a thermal efficiency rate above 40 percent. The system will also support a wider range of engines and vehicles beyond the Prius and Camry hybrids.

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Piston Slap: Brooklyn’s Dream Machine? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/piston-slap-brooklyns-dream-machine/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/piston-slap-brooklyns-dream-machine/#comments Wed, 11 Jun 2014 12:29:52 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=840273 Dave writes: Hi Sajeev – I live in Brooklyn and I have a 2011 Prius that I still owe about $10k on. Before mocking my choice of personal transportation, remember that driving dynamics mean next to nothing when you live in a place where it’s hard to go above 40 MPH at any given time […]

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Dave writes:
Hi Sajeev –

I live in Brooklyn and I have a 2011 Prius that I still owe about $10k on. Before mocking my choice of personal transportation, remember that driving dynamics mean next to nothing when you live in a place where it’s hard to go above 40 MPH at any given time and the roads resemble 1990’s Kosovo. That said, my best friend is the service manager at a Volvo dealership and she just received a 1993 Volvo 940 wagon on trade.

It has 124k miles on it, and it’s been garaged and meticulously maintained with new tires, new muffler, new brakes, etc. She’s having her shop give it a once-over and she can sell it to me for $3k and I’m impulsively forking over the money without giving it a second thought. I’ve always wanted to own a Volvo wagon; perhaps it’s because in 1993, our family owned a 1986 Nova and a 1991 Saturn and I was always painfully aware of the better options on the road. Psychoanalysis aside, I’ve been a ‘car guy’ my entire life but I don’t know the first thing about fixing a Volvo.

Here’s my plan: keep both the Volvo and the Prius for the summer and decide to sell one of them at the end of August. Forge a good relationship with a local, well-reviewed Volvo repair shop. Be honest with myself and realize that the Prius will likely get the boot come August.

Since I’m currently paying $300/month in car payments, I could save that much and presumably spend it on the Volvo (which I wouldn’t mind, knowing that I’d be driving my dream car). I don’t depend on my car to get to work and would put less than 10k/year on the Volvo were it to become my daily driver.

I can’t tell if this is the best or worst idea I’ve ever had and I’d love to get your thoughts.

Sajeev Answers:

Aside from parking availability, this is one of the smartest things I’ve seen in months. Here’s why.

One of my closest friends lives in Brooklyn, and I’ve spent a few days there with his family.  I kinda loved it, as so many things were within walking distance from their apartment. So I see where you’re coming from. And your assessment of the Volvo and your need to find a reputable mechanic implies you’re covering all the bases. Considering the roads and availability of public transportation in NYC, having an old Volvo as your only mode of transport isn’t a bad idea.

It’s kind of a great idea. Plus, if you fill the cargo area with crates of PBR, you’d be the coolest cat in your borough.  Sorry, I couldn’t resist making a hipster joke. 

Get the Volvo, find a good indie mechanic, register on the brickboard forums and be an active lurker, sell the Prius and live a happy life with your dream car.  Many of us will be jealous, but we’ll be happy that you are happy.

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice. 

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Piston Slap: The Straw that broke the Hybrid’s Back? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/piston-slap-the-straw-that-broke-the-hybrids-back/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/piston-slap-the-straw-that-broke-the-hybrids-back/#comments Wed, 23 Apr 2014 11:48:14 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=805330 Marc writes: Hi, I haven’t seen this addressed anywhere. I have 2006 Lexus RX400H with 106,000 miles. The vehicle is bulletproof never having a repair, it even has it’s original brakes. I traded in a 2000 RX 300 for it. The 300 also never had a repair. My question pertains to the hybrid batteries. Multiple […]

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Marc writes:

Hi, I haven’t seen this addressed anywhere.

I have 2006 Lexus RX400H with 106,000 miles. The vehicle is bulletproof never having a repair, it even has it’s original brakes. I traded in a 2000 RX 300 for it. The 300 also never had a repair.

My question pertains to the hybrid batteries. Multiple Toyota and Lexus dealers have stated to me, that they have seen few hybrids if any needing replacement batteries yet some Prius’ have been on the road for over 10 years but there doesn’t seem to be much said about the expected life of the battery packs. My battery warranty just expired. Is it time to trade it in to avoid the eventual high battery replacement cost or am I worrying about a problem that could be many years down the road.

Sajeev asks:

Hi there. Where do you live and how many electronic items on the cat do you regularly run? (A/C, stereo, heated seat, etc.)

Marc replies:

I live in Southern California. The AC is almost always on, music always on, NAV always on.

Sajeev concludes:

The series has indeed covered hybrid battery fail, Toyotas in particular.  Your location’s warm climate shall be easy on hybrid batteries, not taxing them with a ton of power robbing heater load. Or, to a lesser extent, the A/C load of hotter parts of the country.  But your battery will fail, and there are companies willing to help.

If you want the help.

Considering the lack of needed repairs (original brakes? Impressive!) on this RX, selling it while the going is good is quite logical. If you want a new vehicle! If not, find a hybrid battery vendor, get a brake job, fluid changes, etc. that will eventually be needed.

All this work could be the straw that broke the camel’s back, yet none of it scares me like a TDI+DSG Volkswagen product that’s out of warranty.  This stuff just needs to happen.  I’d wager it’s worth it, if you like the RX and wouldn’t want to pay for a new vehicle. Which is always gonna be your call, son.

 

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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Uchiyamada: Hybrids Soon Reaching 20 Percent Of Global Sales http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/uchiyamada-hybrids-soon-reaching-20-percent-of-global-sales/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/uchiyamada-hybrids-soon-reaching-20-percent-of-global-sales/#comments Tue, 11 Mar 2014 15:00:23 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=769666 The father of the Prius and Toyota chairman Takeshi Uchiyamada foresees hybrid sales climbing from 13 percent of global sales today to 20 percent in the near future. Automotive News Europe reports that while hybrids make up a good part of sales in the United States and Japan, they are currently a niche market in […]

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2014 Toyota Prius v

The father of the Prius and Toyota chairman Takeshi Uchiyamada foresees hybrid sales climbing from 13 percent of global sales today to 20 percent in the near future.

Automotive News Europe reports that while hybrids make up a good part of sales in the United States and Japan, they are currently a niche market in Europe in the face of equal- or better-performing diesels with lower price tags. However, Uchiyamada believes so strongly in his forecast that he didn’t factor plug-in hybrids in to his forecast, nor give a separate outlook for plug-ins.

Speaking of plug-in hybrids, Uchiyamada believes the key to success lies in higher volumes, especially among suppliers:

Suppliers need higher volumes to slash costs of components specific to plug-in models, including batteries that should be bigger and more capable than the ones used in traditional hybrids.

Regarding the Prius, Uchiyamada said the project — known as Project G21 — was a challenge, beginning with the proposal that the future Prius would net “one and a half times better fuel economy than anything that had existed before,” only to be told by top management to double the proposed number. Then, after a successful debut at the 1995 Tokyo Auto Show, he and his team spent 49 days trying to get the proto-Prius to move, finally doing so near the end of that year, “but only for 500 meters.”

Today, with 25 hybrids between Toyota and its premium brand Lexus, as well as a global total of over 6 million hybrids sold, Uchiyamada may have aged out of the title bestowed unto him regarding the Prius:

Maybe I am the grandfather by now.

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Review: 2014 Lexus GS 450h http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/review-2014-lexus-gs-450h-with-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/review-2014-lexus-gs-450h-with-video/#comments Mon, 03 Mar 2014 14:00:25 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=750313 Last time TTAC looked at the Lexus GS Hybrid, Jack and I descended upon Vegas, drank too much, shared too much and one of us got purse-slapped (it wasn’t Jack). In other news, Jack found the GS a willing partner on the track, I kept drawing comparisons to the Volvo S80 T6 and Hyundai Genesis, […]

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2014 Lexus GS 450h Hybrid Exterior-004

Last time TTAC looked at the Lexus GS Hybrid, Jack and I descended upon Vegas, drank too much, shared too much and one of us got purse-slapped (it wasn’t Jack). In other news, Jack found the GS a willing partner on the track, I kept drawing comparisons to the Volvo S80 T6 and Hyundai Genesis, and both of us agreed the GS 450h would be the car we’d buy. Despite telling you all that we would have a full review in “a few months,” it has in fact been “a few years.” Since that pair of articles hit, the luxury hybrid landscape has changed dramatically.

2014 Lexus GS 450h Hybrid Exterior-001

The GS used to be the only hybrid game in town, but times have changed and nearly everyone has joined the party. BMW has their turbocharged ActiveHybrid 5, Mercedes just launched the E400 Hybrid, Infiniti has re-badged their M Hybrid the Q70 Hybrid, Acura is finally selling the all-wheel-drive RLX Hybrid and Audi has announced the A6 hybrid will come to America “soon” . This means that the S80 T6 and Genesis are no longer on my list, because we have head-to-head competition now.

Exterior

Lexus used to be known for restrained styling but the current generation GS marked a change for the Japanese luxury brand. In addition to taking on more aggressive front end styling, the GS was the first Lexus to wear the new “spindle” grille. The schnozz that seemed so controversial three years ago seems downright demure today, especially since this form has been adapted to the enormous (and some say questionable) LX 470. Perhaps because the GS was the first to wear the corporate grille, the styling seems slightly awkward from the front 3/4 shot (seen at the top) but looks better in person. Unlike the IS, which gets some sheetmetal swooshes on the side, the GS’s profile and rump are luxury car restrained. Overall I think the Infiniti Q70 hybrid, despite being a little long in the tooth, still wins the beauty contest. The Lexus and BMW are a bit too sedate for my tastes, and the RLX and A6 suffer from decidedly front-wheel-drive proportions when compared to the rest and the Mercedes lands smack in the middle.

2014 Lexus GS 450h Hybrid Interior

Interior

The GS’ interior is dominated by a large and tall dashboard with a strong horizontal theme highlighting a large 12.3-inch LCD. The interior arrangement is certainly dramatic, but causes the cabin to have a slightly oppressive feel in the black shades our tester was cast in. While other car makers are moving to stitched leather dashed, Lexus seems content to blend stitched pleather and injection molded parts together. The combination of textures and  “un-lacquered” bamboo (exclusive to the hybrid) make the interior look Scandinavian. The light wood is more attractive in person than pictures might indicate, and while I question the “renewable resource” marketing on a large luxury sedan, like the hybrid drivetrain, I’m sure it will make shoppers feel special.

Base hybrid models get very comfortable 10-way power front seats, but most of the GS 450h sedans I saw on the lot were equipped with 18-way seats. The high-end throne sports the same types of articulation as BMW’s excellent “sport seats” with an articulating back, inflating bolsters, adjustable thigh support, four-way lumbar and  “butterfly” headrests. Needless to say, if you have trouble finding a comfortable seating position, you’re not human. This puts the GS hybrid at a distinct advantage in front comfort over the Mercedes, Audi and Infiniti models. Out back the GS’s rear seats are spacious, comfortable and optionally heated. While the Lexus and Infiniti fail to offer a folding rear seat, the Mercedes E400 hybrid has a generous cargo pass-through behind its optional 60/40 rear thrones.

Infotainment

Wide-screen infotainment systems are all the rage, so Lexus dropped a 12.3-inch LCD in the dash. The system ditches the intuitive touchscreen interface Lexus used for the better part of a decade for the Lexus joystick (it’s officially called Lexus Remote Touch) but importantly doesn’t alter the software to adapt to the input method. I hate it. It occupies a great deal of room on the center console, and it takes far more hand-eye-brain coördination than a touchscreen. Every time I am in a Lexus I find myself glancing at the screen and fiddling with the little control pad far more than when I’m in a competitor’s luxury sedan. This increased distraction hasn’t gone unnoticed by my better half who constantly nags me about keeping my eyes on the road. Want to enter an address using the on-screen QWERTY keyboard? It’s obvious why Lexus won’t let you do that in motion.

To soften the blow Lexus throws in the same media device voice command interface as the other Lexus and premium Toyota products receive. The system is snappy, managed to figure out every command I threw at and has a more natural sounding voice than MyLincoln Touch. Helping counter the nagging LRT caused (see how that’s not my fault now), the available Mark Levinson sound system can drown out even the most shrill mother-in-laws.

Perhaps reinforcing that Lexus focuses on the “meat” of the luxury segment and not the one-percent, you won’t find the same level of gee-wizardry in the GS as some of the Euro competitors, even in this top-end hybrid model. You won’t find night vision, a full-leather dashboard, expensive ceramic knobs, massaging front seats, or LCD instrument clusters. Instead, Lexus doubles down on perfect seams, quiet cabins, a high level of standard equipment and quantities of bamboo that would Lumber Liquidators make blush.

2014 Lexus GS 450h Hybrid Engine-001

Drivetrain

While the GS 350 recently got an update in the form of a new Aisin 8-speed automatic, the GS 450h continues with just a minor software update. This means under the hood you will find the same direct-injection 3.5L Atkinson-cycle V6 engine and RWD hybrid transmission that launched in 2011. Combined with a 1.9 kWh NiMH battery pack in the trunk the system is good for 338 combined horsepower, 286 of which come from the gasoline engine. This is essentially the same engine found in the Highlander and RX hybrids, but the transmission is more similar to what Lexus uses in the LS 600hL. The unit combines the two motor/generator units with a 2-speed planetary gearset to improve efficiency at high speeds (as in on the Autobahn) but without the AWD system standard in the LS 600hL. The 2014 software update improves “sportiness” in sport mode and now imitates an 8-speed automatic instead of a 6-speed. While 338 horsepower compares well with the 6-cylinder competition, the GS 450h has the unenviable task of trying to be both the most efficient GS and the performance version as well. For reasons nobody knows, the more efficient GS 300h which uses a 2.5L four-cylinder engine is not sold in America.

By design, the Lexus hybrid system is very different from the competition. The two motor/generator units and the electrical circuitry combine with a single planetary gearsest to “act” as a continuously variable transmission. This setup allows the drivetrain to act as a serial hybrid (kind of), parallel hybrid, electric generator, or a pure EV at low speeds. In contrast Mercedes, BMW and Infiniti combine a traditional transmission with a single electric motor that replaces the torque converter. Transitions between electric and gasoline drive modes in these systems aren’t as smooth as the Lexus system because of the clutch packs involved in reconnecting the engine. Meanwhile Acura combines a dual-clutch robotic manual transmission with a twin-motor pack in the rear for the only AWD hybrid luxury sedan in this category.

2014 Lexus GS 450h Hybrid Interior-002

Pricing

GS 450h pricing starts at  $60,430 which is a considerable jump from the $47,700 GS 350, but in true luxury car fashion, you may be disappointed with what $60,000 buys you. Unlike BMW and Mercedes which offer plenty of ala carte options, the GS hybrid comes in three feature levels.  Base models don’t get navigation or snazzy LED headlamps. If you want those toys plus the 18-way front seats, semi-aniline leather, steering headlamps, heated steering wheel, 3-zone climate control, black and white heads up display, blind spot monitoring and a trunk mat, be prepared to lay down $72,062. A fully loaded $76,726 example gets the buyer heated rear seats, headlamp washers, a “high intensity heater” (an electric heater that will heat the cabin faster in cold weather), a windshield de-icer, water-repellent glass, radar cruise control with pre-collision warning, lane keeping assistant, remote engine starter, glass breakage sensor and a rear spoiler.

76 large may sound like an expensive buy, but the ActiveHybrid 5 takes the cake with a starting price of $61,400 and a fully loaded price of $87,185. Acura has been cagey about RLX hybrid pricing but their presentation at the launch indicated they plan on following Lexus’s pricing structure quite closely. Meanwhile, the Mercedes E400 hybrid delivered an unexpected value proposition with a low $56,700 starting price and when fully equipped with features not available on the GS it manages to still be slightly cheaper at $76,095. The Infiniti hybrid hasn’t changed its value proposition despite the name change and the Q70’s $55,550-$67,605 is the lowest in the group. Audi hasn’t announced A6 hybrid pricing but I expect it to slot in around the E400.

2014 Lexus GS 450h Hybrid Exterior-003

Drive

To put things in the right perspective, I have to go back to the GS hybrid’s conflicted mission. Since Lexus decided to kill off the V8 GS sedan in this generation, Lexus doesn’t have a direct answer to the BMW 550i, Mercedes E550, Audi S6, or even the Infiniti Q70 5.6 (formerly known as the M56). This means the GS 450h has a secondary mission as the top-end GS trim while the other hybrids (except for the RLX) are middle-tier options and this puts the GS in an odd bind. Lexus tells us that the reason the GS lacks a V8 is that only 5% of the Germans are shipped with one. While that may be true in Europe, it certainly doesn’t seem to be the case in California.

The split mission is most obvious when it comes to the performance numbers. Despite having more power than the GS 350, the GS 450h is slower to 60 than its gasoline-only stable mate and considerably slower than the BMW, Infiniti, and even the Acura with the only the Mercedes being slower to highway speed. Still, 0-60 in 6-seconds is hardly slow and the GS performs the task with the silence and serenity you expect from a luxury sedan. Although Lexus describes the transmission as an eCVT, this isn’t a belt/pulley CVT like you find in economy cars. As a result, it feels more civilized and less “rubber-bandy.” I found the CVT manners throughly appropriate for a luxury car and the smooth acceleration befits a brand built on smooth drivetrains. Unlike a “real CVT,” engaging the eight imitation speeds is quick and easy with fast shifts from one “gear” to another. Unfortunately this does little for the GS hybrid’s sport credentials and in no way helps it compete with the V8s from the German competition.

2014 Lexus GS 450h Hybrid Exterior-009

Although the GS gives up plenty in the thrust-department, it really shines in the bends. The GS’s chassis is well sorted and nearly perfectly balanced. All GS hybrid models get a standard adaptive suspension system with several levels of damping, but unlike the air suspension in the Lexus LS, the GS’s adaptive suspension is based on electronically controlled struts much like the BMW system. This eliminates the “disconnected” and “floaty” feeling you get with air suspensions found on full-size luxo-barges. When pushed in the corners the GS quite simply feels better than the BMW. Yep. I said it. Today’s 5-series has a more luxurious mission in mind, so the little it gives up to the GS shouldn’t surprise anyone. The Mercedes and Infiniti feel very accurate, although heavy, and the Audi and RLX are a mixed bag. Unless Audi works some unexpected magic, the A6 hybrid will remain decidedly nose-heavy. The Acura RLX, although it has a similar weight distribution problem as the Audi, has a slick torque vectoring AWD system in the back. Not only can the RLX torque vector in power-on situations like a electronically controlled conventional rear axle, but it can torque vector in “neutral” and “power off” situations as well. Although the RLX feels by far the most “artificial” in the group on winding mountain roads, it is one of the better handling sedans and at the moment the only AWD hybrid in this category.

Of course the primary reason for buying a hybrid is to save on gas. Right? Maybe. With a 29 MPG City, 34 MPG Highway and 31 MPG combined rating there’s no doubt that the GS 450h is a fuel sipping 338 horsepower luxury sedan. However at more than $10,000 more expensive than a similarly equipped GS 350 it would take you more than 20 years to “save money.” We did average an excellent 31.5 MPG over 800 miles with the GS hybrid, a notable improvement over the Infiniti hybrid and the short time I spent in the RLX hybrid. Although we haven’t extensively tested the BMW and Mercedes hybrids yet, brief spins in both indicate they will slot in under the GS. There’s one more problem for the GS: Mercedes’ new E250 diesel. No, it’s not a speed daemon, but at 34 mpg combined it not only makes up for the higher cost of diesel with the higher fuel economy, it starts around $9,000 less than a GS 450h as well.

The GS 450h is without a doubt the best Lexus GS sedan available. It gives up little in terms of performance while delivering excellent fuel economy, a quiet and comfortable cabin and most of the gadgets and gizmos a luxury shopper could buy. Trouble is, unless the Lexus dealer is the only game in town, nearly every other alternative in this segment has a list of reasons to buy it over the GS. The RLX has a trendy AWD system despite the discount brand association, the Q70’s brand image isn’t quite as premium but it’s thousands less, the Mercedes takes the sweet spot in the middle known as “value” (how’s that for a surprise?) and the BMW offers the best performance and the biggest list of options if you can afford it. As the top end trim for the GS line the 450h also has troubles coming in just about as expensive as the competition’s V8 offerings but offering no better performance than the GS 350. The biggest problem for the GS however is the price. If the GS 450h was $5,000-$7,000 less expensive,  this would be an easy win. As it is, the GS manages to be the car I liked the most in this segment, but the one I’d be least likely to buy.

 

Lexus provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.88 Seconds

0-60: 6.01 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 14.49 Seconds @ 104 MPH

Average observed fuel economy: 31.5 MPH over 800 miles

Cabin noise at 50 MPH: 68 dB

2014 Lexus GS 450h Hybrid Engine 2014 Lexus GS 450h Hybrid Trunk-001 2014 Lexus GS 450h Hybrid Trunk 2014 Lexus GS 450h Hybrid Interior-012 2014 Lexus GS 450h Hybrid Interior-011 2014 Lexus GS 450h Hybrid Interior-007 2014 Lexus GS 450h Hybrid Interior-008 2014 Lexus GS 450h Hybrid Interior-009 2014 Lexus GS 450h Hybrid Interior-010 2014 Lexus GS 450h Hybrid Interior-006 2014 Lexus GS 450h Hybrid Interior-005 2014 Lexus GS 450h Hybrid Interior-004 2014 Lexus GS 450h Hybrid Interior-003 2014 Lexus GS 450h Hybrid Exterior-011 2014 Lexus GS 450h Hybrid Interior 2014 Lexus GS 450h Hybrid Interior-001 2014 Lexus GS 450h Hybrid Interior-002 2014 Lexus GS 450h Hybrid Exterior-010 2014 Lexus GS 450h Hybrid Exterior-009 2014 Lexus GS 450h Hybrid Exterior-008 2014 Lexus GS 450h Hybrid Exterior-007 2014 Lexus GS 450h Hybrid Exterior-003 2014 Lexus GS 450h Hybrid Exterior-004 2014 Lexus GS 450h Hybrid Exterior-005 2014 Lexus GS 450h Hybrid Exterior-006 2014 Lexus GS 450h Hybrid Exterior-002 2014 Lexus GS 450h Hybrid Exterior-001 2014 Lexus GS 450h Hybrid Exterior 2014 Lexus GS 450h Hybrid Engine-001

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Piston Slap: Overhyped Hybrid Analysis Paralysis? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/725066/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/725066/#comments Tue, 28 Jan 2014 16:02:01 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=725066 Mishie writes: Hi – I love your blog. Its been an invaluable resource in my efforts to purchase a car. I have a pretty long daily commute and I’m a bit of a greenie so I’m really interested in purchasing a hybrid. I’ve looked at a number of models including the new Honda Accord hybrid […]

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Click here to view the embedded video.

Mishie writes:

Hi –

I love your blog. Its been an invaluable resource in my efforts to purchase a car. I have a pretty long daily commute and I’m a bit of a greenie so I’m really interested in purchasing a hybrid. I’ve looked at a number of models including the new Honda Accord hybrid but I’ve hesitated in buying the model I really wanted – the Prius – because of reports of acceleration and braking issues. Do those issues still persist?

I’m also pretty partial to the Lexus RX450 but since its a Toyota, I’m guessing its plagued with the same issues. I’ve looked at the Ford Fusion (not entirely sold on its reliability), the Honda Accord (too new and no room for a spare tire), and the Hyundai Sonata (read about their braking issues also). Is there a reliable hybrid out there? I have very little aptitude for mechanics so feel free to respond as if I’m ten. LOL!

Thanks,
Mishie

Sajeev answers:

Don’t worry, there are no stupid questions…provided they aren’t addressed to Sanjeev. But I digress…

That said, drop everything and go buy a Prius now!  Are you letting recalls and the media frenzy around unintended acceleration stopping you?  If on the remote chance this happens, put the vehicle in neutral and regain your sanity.  Because unintended acceleration can happen to anyone.  Try to kill the panic as fast as possible, and get the car under control with a flick of the shift lever. Okay?

And what of the Prius braking problems?  Done.  Over.  They certainly replaced a bad part/design and “bled” the brake lines to make sure everything works correctly. For decades now, braking systems incorporate safeguards (like multichannel brake fluid distribution) to keep this from being a life threatening problem. And they don’t call it an emergency brake for no reason!

Stop worrying about problems commonplace in the car biz, or continue to worry and take the bus. Put another way: there are NO BAD CARS. Even the Smart Car isn’t necessarily bad. And while Land Rovers are unreliable wallet killers and Corollas are perfect to the point of boredom, the differences between a “good” car and a “bad” car are nearasdamnit to statistically insignificant.

 

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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The Case For Killing Scion And Setting Prius Free http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/the-case-for-killing-scion-and-letting-prius-live/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/the-case-for-killing-scion-and-letting-prius-live/#comments Sat, 18 Jan 2014 18:30:29 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=702442 As I bent down to get a better look at the FT-1’s rear three-quarter, I could see the Scion display in the background, far away and slightly out of focus-an ironic metaphor for a brand that had nothing new on display at the show. Their product line, aside from the FR-S, was aging and seemed […]

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Scion-Lead

As I bent down to get a better look at the FT-1’s rear three-quarter, I could see the Scion display in the background, far away and slightly out of focus-an ironic metaphor for a brand that had nothing new on display at the show. Their product line, aside from the FR-S, was aging and seemed to lack any of the real quirkiness the brand had when it was launched.

This got me thinking – what exactly was the point of Scion today? Toyota’s marketing of the Corolla seems targeted at the same buyer that would have traditionally considered a Scion – fun, youthful, charismatic and a bit on the odd side. (Notice, I didn’t use ‘hipster’!)

The Sales Data

Screen Shot 2014-01-18 at 12.16.06 PM

Scion isn’t doing well. Actually they’re doing horrible.

Sales in 2013 were down 60% from a high in 2006. But not to worry Mr. Toyoda, I have a solution!

1. (Quietly) Kill Scion.

Yes, it’s time to cut the brand loose. Sales are faltering and other than FR-S, the brand doesn’t appear to have any product that will save it.

2. Replace Scion with Prius

Prius has become synonymous with fuel-efficiency and being green. Since the brand expanded the lineup with C and V, they’ve dwarfed Scion’s best year by 60,000 models. Making Prius a standalone brand will allow Toyota to further define and hone the consumer message on efficiency and explore new product offerings.

3. Build Prius CUV, Prius FR-E (EV FR-S) and small (very) light-duty ‘van’

Now that Prius is a standalone brand it needs just a few more products. The first is a capable CUV that could be loosely based on the RAV4, but should be redesigned to maintain the Prius aerodynamics and style as best as possible.

Second, consider an EV-powered version of the FR-S. Replace the Subaru engine with a performance-oriented EV package. Allow FR-S to fall under the Toyota brand during its mid-model refresh as a medium-priced ‘fun’ car to set under whatever the FT-1 will become.

If Toyota can make a business case for a larger MPV, designed more for delivery (Postal Service, delivery, etc) explore a bare bones HFE-MPV (50MPG+) delivery vehicle.

Have you lost your mind?

No,well, maybe.  But Toyota certainly has if they think they can revive Scion to any level of relevancy. The FR-S was a valiant effort, but lets be real, it’s a niche product whose supply will soon meet demand.

Fuel economy isn’t only important for CAFE, but also for consumers. With an almost inevitable gas tax increase and some form of global conflict always on the horizon, fuel economy will always be important to those who think beyond the now. But high MPGs is just a small part of what the Prius brand could become.

In my vision, Prius would become a sustainable lifestyle brand, offering not just cars but other products and technologies in the area of transposition, sustainability and overall efficient/green living. The goodwill benefits of running a sustainable lifestyle brand would outweigh what, if any, benefits Scion could currently offer Toyota Motors Corporation.

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News Flash: Prius Pokes Pedestrians, Bimmers Bump Blithely, Ladies Catch A Break http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/news-flash-prius-pokes-pedestrians-bimmers-bump-blithely-ladies-catch-a-break/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/news-flash-prius-pokes-pedestrians-bimmers-bump-blithely-ladies-catch-a-break/#comments Wed, 14 Aug 2013 15:15:05 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=499340 You’ve always suspected that BMWs don’t respect pedestrian safety. Now there’s a survey that confirms what you already believed, making you feel very warm and fuzzy inside. The NYT is reporting some details of a study of motorist behavior and courtesy to pedestrians. It confirms much of what you’d expect: The study also found that […]

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impact

You’ve always suspected that BMWs don’t respect pedestrian safety. Now there’s a survey that confirms what you already believed, making you feel very warm and fuzzy inside.


The NYT is reporting some details of a study of motorist behavior and courtesy to pedestrians. It confirms much of what you’d expect:

The study also found that male drivers were less likely to stop for pedestrians than were women, and that drivers of both sexes were more likely to stop for a female pedestrian than a male one.

“One of the most significant trends was that fancy cars were less likely to stop,” said Mr. Piff, adding, “BMW drivers were the worst.”

Stupid fancy cars and their fancy-pantsy drivers, probably wearing ascots and whatnot as they drive their $219/month 320i Sportronic X Drives home from their soul-destroying cubicle jobs! But it turns out the narcissists behind the Roundel aren’t the only villains:

In the San Francisco Bay Area, where the hybrid gas-and-electric-powered Toyota Prius is considered a status symbol among the environmentally conscious, the researchers classified it as a premium model.

“In our higher-status vehicle category, Prius drivers had a higher tendency to commit infractions than most”

AHA! We all know why that is, right? It isn’t lack of courtesy or consideration. It a concern with regeneration. Stopping for pedestrians in a hurry necessitates wasteful use of the brakes, decreases fuel economy, and causes the planet to cry out as if a thousand BTUs were suddenly silenced or something like that. Every time you save a life near People’s Park, a polar bear winds up floating on a tiny little iceberg! And nobody wants that. I mean, you could wind up stuck on that iceberg with that polar bear. And then we all know what happens next.

Note: Listening to this video, even at home, will cost you your job. It has the F-word in it. At least twice. Don’t watch this video unless your mom says it’s okay and you are independently wealthy and have already heard the song and know what to expect. Other songs from this group, “Method of Destruction”, are offensive to people of all lifestyles and make light of the tragic incident in which Jim Gordon, the guy who wrote the piano coda to “Layla”, murdered his mother. Also there are jokes about Ethopia. I really cannot emphasize enough that you don’t want to watch this video. YOU’VE BEEN WARNED.

It’s also no surprise that men are more likely to both commit and receive motorist-on-pedestrian offenses, unless you really and truly believe that men and women are alike in all ways, in which case it will be a surprise. Last but not least, although the survey’s authors speak in reverent terms about the pedestrian courtesy displayed by “beaters”, I wouldn’t step out in front of anything labeled “Eurosport”, “Brougham”, or “Ghia” while within the city limits of Detroit, Michigan.

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Review: 2013 Chevrolet Volt (Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/07/review-2013-chevrolet-volt-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/07/review-2013-chevrolet-volt-video/#comments Mon, 22 Jul 2013 13:00:21 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=495593 The Chevrolet Volt may be the most maligned and least understood car on the market. After a week of strange questions and bipolar reactions to GM’s plug-in hybrid, I came to a conclusion. GM’s marketing of the Volt stinks. By calling the Volt an “Electric Vehicle (EV) with a range extender,” a huge segment of […]

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2013 Chevrolet Volt Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

The Chevrolet Volt may be the most maligned and least understood car on the market. After a week of strange questions and bipolar reactions to GM’s plug-in hybrid, I came to a conclusion. GM’s marketing of the Volt stinks. By calling the Volt an “Electric Vehicle (EV) with a range extender,” a huge segment of the population can’t get past “Electric” and immediately cross the Volt off their list. There is also [strangely] a segment of the population that says, “that’s great but I want a hybrid.”  Guess what? The Volt is a hybrid.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior

Aerodynamics dictate the shape of modern high-efficiency cars, and as a result, the Volt has a profile very similar to the Honda Insight and Toyota Prius. Like the Japanese hybrids, the Volt is a liftback design which is more practical than your typical trunk lid for carrying large items from the home improvement store.

The Volt’s styling isn’t for everyone, but I find the overall style aggressive and attractive. There is a caveat. Since the shape is dictated by wind-tunnel testing (just like the Prius and Insight) the Volt reminds me of NASCAR cars. Why? Because they all have the same shape and teams paint / add decals to “brand” their car. The Volt/Prius/Insight reminds me of this tactic and parked next to one another in the dark you’d be hard pressed to differentiate them by silhouette.

For its first refresh since it launched as a 2011, GM decided to ditch the somewhat awkward black roof and black painted liftgate opting for a more harmonious body-matching hue. There are also subtle tweaks to the rear tail lamp modules this year.

2013 Chevrolet Volt Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Interior

Hybrids have long suffered cheaper looking and feeling interiors than their “normal” counterparts. That is true for the Prius, Insight and the Volt. The reason is two-fold. The first is obviously cost. Motors and batteries aren’t cheap and the Volt has 288 batteries jammed into a “T” shaped battery pack that runs the length of the car and across the back of the car behind the rear seats. With a nominal 16.5kWh capacity, this battery is about four times larger than the Prius Plug-In’s pack and nearly twice the size of Ford’s Energi. The second reason is weight. Hard plastics weigh less.

Hard plastics included, the Volt is a nicer place to spend your time than a Prius but Ford’s C-MAX takes top position in terms of interior parts feel. Style is subjective, but I would rank the Volt between the Prius’ funky interior design and the C-MAX’s mainstream interior. Part of this is because 2013 brings more sedate and mainstream choices to the Volt’s interior. Gone are the funky orange door panels with “circuit board” patterns replaced by a dark silver plastic panels on the black interior. New for 2013 is some brown love, a color combo that brings the Volt’s interior feel up a substantial notch without actually improving the quality of the plastics.

Front seat comfort slots between the Ford and Toyota alternatives up front, in the rear there is less headroom and legroom than in the Prius or C-MAX. There is also one less seat. The lack of a 5th seat seems to be a common reason given for choosing something else over the Volt, but the battery had to go somewhere so the Volt trades more cargo room with the seats in place vs the C-MAX Energi for that 5th seat. Pick your poison.

 

2013 Chevrolet Volt Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Infotainment & Gadgets

When it comes to infotainment and trendy gadgets, the Volt scores big. Sure the 7-inch LCD gauge cluster isn’t as snazzy as Land Rover’s 12-inch readout, but the Prius is stuck in a 1980s Chrysler LeBaron electrofluorescent-time-warp and one 7-inch readout trumps Ford’s twin-4.2″ display setup in my mind. That’s before I comment that the Volt’s gauges are where they belong, in front of the driver…

The Volt gets Chevy’s latest MyLink infotainment system with some slight tweaks for 2013. GM’s mid-market  entertainment operating system is one of my favorites. The graphics are slick, the display is easy to read and GM offers a touchscreen and a joystick/knob controller so you can use whatever comes naturally. Unlike MyFord Touch and Cadillac’s CUE, the Chevy is virtually crash-free and always responsive. 2013 brings improved voice commands for your USB/iDevice allowing you to command your tunes at the press of a button, and unlike Toyota’s similar system, MyLink doesn’t have a problem with large music libraries. If you opt for nav software, destination entry is quick and the map software uses high-resolution maps with satellite traffic info.

On the safety gadget front 2013 brings collision and blind spot warning systems from the Cadillac XTS. The system is camera based so you can’t get radar adaptive cruise control, a system that is offered on the Prius and the Fusion Energi but not on the C-Max Energi.

2013 Chevrolet Volt Drivetrain, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Drivetrain

Before we dive into the Volt, it’s important to know how hybrid systems work. GM’s Belt-Alternator-Starter, Mercedes’ S400 Hybrid and Honda’s IMA hybrids are all systems where the engine is always connected and even if the car is capable of “EV” mode, the engine is spinning. Porsche, VW, Infiniti and others use a pancake motor and clutch setup to disconnect the engine from the motor and transmission allowing a “pure EV” mode. Honda’s new Accord has a 2-mode setup where the motor drives the wheels via a fixed ratio gearset, the engine drives a motor and above 45MPH a clutch engages, linking the engine and motor together at a ratio of roughly 1:1. Ford, Toyota and the Volt use a planetary gearset “power splitting” device. Yes, the Volt uses a hybrid system that although not identical, is thematically similar to Ford & Toyota’s hybrid system.

Say what? I thought GM said it was a serial hybrid? Yes, GM did at some point say that and I think that has caused more confusion than anything else about the Volt. The bankrupt Fisker Karma is only a serial hybrid. The engine drives a generator, the generator powers the battery and the motor to move the car forward. At no point can the engine provide any motive power to the wheels except via the electrical connection.

The Volt’s innovation is that it can operate like a Fisker Karma or like a Prius. It is therefore both a serial and a parallel hybrid. To do this, GM alters the power split device power flow VS the Ford/Toyota design. Then they add a clutch allowing the gasoline engine to be mechanically isolated from the wheels. And finally they add software with a whole new take on a hybrid system.

volt-tranmission, Courtesy of MotorTrend.com

The Volt has four distinct operating modes.

  1. Starting off from a stop, the Volt draws power from its 16.5kWh (10.8 usable) battery pack to power the 149HP main motor.
  2. At higher speeds, the car will connect the 72HP secondary motor/generator via the planetary gearset. This is not to increase power, but to reduce the main motor’s RPM therefore increasing efficiency. Maximum horsepower is still 149.

When the battery is low, or when “hold” or “mountain modes are engaged, the system switches to one of two hybrid modes.

  1. The system starts the 1.4L 84 HP gasoline engine and uses it to turn a 72HP motor/generator. The system feeds the power to the battery and primary motor. Maximum horsepower is still 149. When more than 72HP is being consumed, the balance is drawn from the battery.
  2. When more power is required, the system disengages the clutch pack and the system functions very much like a Ford/Toyota hybrid with the gasoline engine assisting in the propulsion both mechanically and electrically via the power split device. Maximum horsepower is still 149 BUT this mode alters the torque curve of the combined system and in this mode acceleration is slightly faster than in any other mode.

2013 Chevrolet Volt Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Drive

Why do I mention the four modes? Because you can easily encounter all four modes in a single trip. Which mode the Volt uses is determined by the car, it is not user-selectable. Starting off at home with a full battery, I was able to drive 32 miles in EV mode. That’s about 22 more than the Prius Plug-In and 18 more than the C-MAX Energi. How is that possible with a battery that is so much larger? Allow me to digress for a moment.

GM takes an interesting and very conservative approach to battery life. Rather than charging and discharging the battery nearly completely as Nissan and Tesla’s EVs do, the Volt will only use the “middle” 65% of the battery. This means that when the display says it is “full,” the battery is really only 85% charged. When it reads empty, the true state of charge is around 35%. Why? Because batteries degrade more rapidly when they are at high or low states of charge. By never operating the battery at these extremes and having an active thermal management system, I expect the Volt’s battery to have a longer life than other vehicles on the market with the same battery chemistry.

Back to those modes. We clocked 0-60 in 8.72 seconds when the Volt was operating as an EV (slightly faster than the C-MAX Energi and much faster than a Prius). In parallel hybrid mode, the broader torque curve dropped this to 8.4 seconds. Transitions between modes is practically seamless unless you are driving the Volt aggressively on mountain roadways. On steep inclines when you’re at a lower state of charge, the Volt will switch from serial-hybrid to parallel-hybrid modes to keep from draining the battery below the minimum threshold. Transitioning from one mode to the other causes a momentary delay in power application as the transmission disengages the clutch pack and synchronizes the speeds of the motors and engine. This transition is more pronounced than a typical gear shift in a traditional automatic.

2013 Chevrolet Volt Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

When it comes to road holding, the porky 3,899lb C-MAX Energi is the winner thanks to its wide 225-width rubber and the chassis’ Euro origins. The Volt is a close second at 3,781lbs with the standard 215 low rolling resistance rubber. The Prius? A distant third despite being the lightest at 3,165lbs. Admittedly handling better than a Prius isn’t a terribly high bar to leap, but in the grand scheme of things the Volt handles as well as the average compact sedan. Overall wind and road noise slot (yet again) between the quieter C-MAX and the noisier Prius.

Fuel economy is the most important part of a hybrid, and this is the area where the Volt starts having problems. Starting with a full battery (at my rates, this cost $1.52) the first 32 miles were in EV mode followed by 26 miles in hybrid mode. My average economy was 90 MPG, a few better than the Prius plug-in’s 72 on the same trip and 60 for the Ford. Being unable to charge the Volt at my office due to construction, these numbers fell rapidly on my way home. On this single-charge round trip, the Prius averaged 62 MPG, the C-MAX averaged 50 and the Volt dropped to 46. What’s going on? Once under way the Volt’s four-mode hybrid system seems to be less efficient than the C-MAX. The exact reasons for this I’m not sure, but on a round-trip commute without charging, I averaged 32-33 MPG vs the 40.7 in the C-MAX Energi and 52 in the Prius Plug-In. The longer you drive your Volt without charging it, the more it will cost to run than the Ford or Toyota.

2013 Chevrolet Volt Charging Port

On the flip side if your commute is within 30-35 miles of a charging station you will almost never use the gasoline engine. (The Volt will run it now and then to make sure the gasoline doesn’t go bad in the plumbing.) Unlike the alternatives, the Volt will also stay pure electric even under full throttle acceleration giving you a driving experience that is very much like a LEAF/Tesla until you deplete the battery.

This brings us full circle to the EV vs hybrid question. What is the Volt? In my opinion it’s a plug-in hybrid. I also think this is the best marketing angle for GM because when you explain to people that there is no range anxiety in the Volt and you can use the HOV lane in California solo, they seem to “get it.” The fly in the ointment is the price, The Volt starts at $39,145 and ends just shy of 45-large. The “that’s too much to pay for an electric Cruze” is a hard rep to shake, and even GM throwing cash on the Volt’s hood isn’t helping. Factor in the $8,000 premium over the C-MAX Energi and Prius Plug-In and you start to see the rest of the problem. At the end of my week with Chevy’s car with a plug I came to the conclusion that the Volt is the most misunderstood car on the market right now. But with a high sticker price and only four seats I’m not entirely sure that understanding GM’s conflicted EV/Hybrid will help them sell.

 

 General Motors provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review

Specifications as tested

0-30: 3.285 Seconds (EV Mode)

0-60: 8.72 Seconds (EV Mode), 8.4 Seconds (hybrid mode)

1/4 Mile: 16.66 Seconds @ 84 MPH (EV Mode)

Average Observed Fuel Economy: 48MPG over 565 miles, 32-33MPG hybrid mode

 

2013 Chevrolet Volt Charging Port 2013 Chevrolet Volt Drivetrain 2013 Chevrolet Volt Drivetrain, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chevrolet Volt Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chevrolet Volt Exterior-001 2013 Chevrolet Volt Exterior-002 2013 Chevrolet Volt Exterior-003 2013 Chevrolet Volt Exterior-004 2013 Chevrolet Volt Exterior-005 2013 Chevrolet Volt Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chevrolet Volt Exterior-007 2013 Chevrolet Volt Exterior-008 2013 Chevrolet Volt Exterior-009 2013 Chevrolet Volt Interior 2013 Chevrolet Volt Interior-001 2013 Chevrolet Volt Interior-002 2013 Chevrolet Volt Interior-003 2013 Chevrolet Volt Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chevrolet Volt Interior-005 2013 Chevrolet Volt Interior-006 2013 Chevrolet Volt Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

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Prius Sales To Fall Short Of Expectations http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/07/prius-sales-to-fall-short-of-expectations/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/07/prius-sales-to-fall-short-of-expectations/#comments Wed, 03 Jul 2013 14:03:52 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=494063 Talk about timing: On the day Toyota announced that cumulative sales of the Prius passed the 3 million mark, Reuters says Toyota may fall short of its goal to sell 250,000 of the Prius in the U.S. this year. “The 240,000 to 250,000 range is kind of where we’re settling our sights for the Prius […]

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Picture courtesy motorafondo.net

Talk about timing: On the day Toyota announced that cumulative sales of the Prius passed the 3 million mark, Reuters says Toyota may fall short of its goal to sell 250,000 of the Prius in the U.S. this year.

“The 240,000 to 250,000 range is kind of where we’re settling our sights for the Prius family,” Toyota’s U.S. sales chief Bill Fay told the wire.

U.S. sales of all Prius models fell 5.1 percent during the first six months of 2013, while Toyota’s overall U.S. sales rose 6 percent. The Prius usually gets a lift from rising gasoline prices. The reverse is also true.

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Tales From The Cooler: Disregarded Dreadful Drivers http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/tales-from-the-cooler-disregarded-dreadful-drivers/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/tales-from-the-cooler-disregarded-dreadful-drivers/#comments Thu, 09 May 2013 01:07:21 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=487855 We are bombarded with messages about the dangers of drunk driving, of the hazard of talking and texting on cell phones while driving, and the need to give a wide berth to folks driving Zipcars. We think there are many other varieties of unsafe motorists that get no attention from the media. As a public […]

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Left Lane Priuses courtesy zazzle.comWe are bombarded with messages about the dangers of drunk driving, of the hazard of talking and texting on cell phones while driving, and the need to give a wide berth to folks driving Zipcars. We think there are many other varieties of unsafe motorists that get no attention from the media. As a public service, let’s take a look five subtle, but equally scary, drivers that make the highways a real challenge.

Prius Drivers NOT Blocking The Left Lane

These drivers scare me the most: Prius pilots running 20 miles per hour under the flow of traffic while in the right lane of a freeway, eyes glued to their fuel consumption gauge. They clearly did not read their owner’s manual, which spells out they are required to hold up traffic in the left lane. They are an unpredictable lot, prone to uneven speeds and sudden braking, unlike their left-lane brethren who you know are never going to yield to faster cars and thus you can adjust accordingly.

Drivers With Cars With Too Many Bumper Stickers

Van with bumper stickers Courtesy commons.wikimedia.org

Question: When was the last time you saw a vehicle with more than two bumper stickers running quickly and unobtrusively through traffic? Answer: You never have. To these motorists, a car is not even an appliance – it is a bulletin board used to express their political views. I don’t think they realize that people cannot read their messages due to the clouds of blue smoke belching out the tailpipes of their beaters.

Driver Who Insist On Holding Fluffy In Their Lap

Dog in Car Courtesy gopetfriendlyblog.com

Your cell phone won’t poop or pee in your lap or yap at other cars. Besides distracting the driver, dogs can and do get injured or die by falling out of vehicles. The state of Hawaii has already banned motorists from holding animals while driving and three other states can ticket you under distracted driving laws. If they sport more than two bumper stickers, call the highway patrol.

Drivers Of Dump Trucks And Gravel Trucks

I hate gravel trucks courtesy ladiesofthegrove.blogspot.com

I have the greatest respect for professional truck drivers. These are not professional truck drivers. They are usually minimum wage, minimum brain and, in my neck of the woods, minimum English speaking individuals. Whether cracking your windshield – always directly in your line of sight – by shooting up an errant rock or mowing down a group of motorcyclists, these goons may be the very worst drivers on the road. And good luck going after the trucking company to replace your windshield: did you ever see a dump truck with a readable license plate?

Drivers Who Brake With Their Left Foot

Audi braking Courtesy montecarloforum.com

Anytime you spot a car with its brake lights stuck on, you can bet the driver is resting his or her left foot on the brake pedal. (I give Land Rover drivers a pass on this one, as their taillights may genuinely be stuck on permanently.)  If you are behind one and they slam on the brakes, you will have no way of knowing they are stopping and if you hit them you will be deemed responsible. Any old-time used car manager can tell you they used to judge brake wear by the scuffing on the left side of a brake pedal. I really thought these folks had all died off, as the teaching of left footed braking in driver’s education ended decades ago, but it appears to be making a comeback.

I know you can add many other obscure terrible drivers to this list…

 


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Review: 2013 Ford C-MAX Energi Plug-In Hybrid (Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/01/review-2013-ford-c-max-energi-plug-in-hybrid-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/01/review-2013-ford-c-max-energi-plug-in-hybrid-video/#comments Fri, 25 Jan 2013 13:48:51 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=474057 In 2005, ABC News Polls claimed the average daily commute in America was 16 miles, a number borne out in our own Facebook poll. If you have a commute like that and want an EV for commuting and a hybrid for road tripping, you’re the target demographic for a plug-in hybrid. Since I’m not a […]

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In 2005, ABC News Polls claimed the average daily commute in America was 16 miles, a number borne out in our own Facebook poll. If you have a commute like that and want an EV for commuting and a hybrid for road tripping, you’re the target demographic for a plug-in hybrid. Since I’m not a trust fund baby, and neither are most of TTAC’s readers, I’m going to forget about the Karma while we dive deep into Ford’s first (and interestingly spelled) Energi.

Click here to view the embedded video.

C-MAX and C-MAX Energi

“Energi” is Ford-speak for “plug-in hybrid.” On our shores, the C-MAX competes with the Prius V and to some extent the Prius, while the Energi targets the Prius Plug-in and Volt. Let’s cover the basics first. “Our” C-MAX is an Americanized version of the European C-MAX. Aside from making the requisite changes for American safety legislation and some bumper cover tweaks, the difference boils down to one major change: the American C-MAX is hybrid only while its Euro twin get a traditional gasoline/diesel mix.

The C-MAX strikes an interesting pose on American roads looking like the product of crossbreeding a Focus and a Windstar. The hatchback’s tall greenhouse, tall roof-line and crossover styling cues were no doubt penned to confuse entice the suburban set. I find the design as a whole more attractive than the Prius, but less exciting than the Volt. At 173 inches long, the C-MAX is 2 inches longer than a Focus hatchback, but 3 inches shorter than the Prius and 3.5 inches shorter than the Volt. Exterior dimensions are a tough comparison however since the Prius and Volt have a more sedan-like profile.

Interior

The Energi shares most of its dashboard with the new Escape. The only major change is a unique instrument cluster with twin LCDs like the Fusion hybrid. Since this cabin wasn’t designed with weight savings in mind, it has a more premium feel than the Prius or Volt thanks to Ford’s dedication to squishy dash bits and color matching plastics.

Perhaps due to the non-hybrid roots, you won’t find anything futuristic or weird in this cabin. There are no centrally mounted gauges, no acres of touch-buttons and no all-LCD instrument cluster. That’s not to say the Energi has a sumptuous cabin per se, but it is the only cabin in this trio that could pass muster in a “normal” $37,000 vehicle. Barely. (Our tester rang in at $37,435.) The Prius on the other hand is full of plastics and fabrics more at home in a $16,000 econo-box.

Ford offers two interior colors on the Energi: black-on-black-on-black, or a greyish tan and your choice of fabric or leather. (I recommend the lighter shade as it makes the cabin feel less claustrophobic.) Front seat comfort is good thanks to an upright crossover-like seating position, wide seats and a decent range of motion. The tilt/telescopic steering wheel extends further than I had expected and made finding a comfortable driving position easy for a variety of driver sizes. The tall cabin and upright seats didn’t fool me into thinking the Energi was a crossover, but my back and legs appreciated the seating position and it means the Energi offers considerably more headroom than the Prius or Volt.

The rear seats are a bit close to the floor for adults but are the right height for most children. Despite looking narrow, the Energi is more than 3 inches wider than the Prius and 1.5 wider than the Volt which translates into a wider cabin. Sitting three abreast is more comfortable in the Energi than the Prius and more legal than the Volt which only has belts for four. If you routinely carry adults in the rear, the Energi provides 4 inches more headroom and a 2 inches more legroom than the Volt.

When cargo schlepping, the C-MAX’s non-hybrid roots are obvious because of where the battery is located. As you can see in the photo above, the battery pack takes up the entire spare tire well and about 7 inches of the trunk floor as well (4 more than the C-MAX without the plug). The reduced hold is a few cubes smaller than the Prius Plug-in (19.2 vs 21.6) but about twice the size of the Volt’s 10.6. Keep in mind that 19.2 cu-ft is larger than most sedans, but because Ford didn’t adjust the roller-cargo-cover position, you can only put three carrry-on roller bags under the cover. Without the cover it was possible to fit four such bags (rotated 90-degrees) and still see out the rear window.

Infotainment

All Energi models come with Ford’s MyFord Touch system with SYNC voice commands. The system combines climate, entertainment, telephone and navigation chores into one integrated system that looks snazzy and responds to your every whim via voice commands. When it landed in 2010 the press (and owners) soon discovered the system had more bugs than a bag of 5-year-old flour, thankfully Ford has corrected the majority of the flaws although the system remains sluggish at times. Ford’s system used to be unique in its ability to voice command your tunes and climate control but Toyota’s Entune and Chevrolet’s MyLink systems now offer very similar features without the bugs or “laggy” graphics.

Ford’s decision to make the C-MAX look and feel like a normal car has a downside. While the “normal” displays will make hybrid virgins feel at ease, they do little to tell you what’s going on under the hood. Instead of a tachometer you’ll find a configurable kW gauge showing how much power the engine and motor are providing. You’ll also see a small battery icon that displays your state of charge and your EV range. The system provides a “braking coach” display that grades you on your ability to recover energy but it does so after the fact rather than helping you adjust your foot while braking.

Drivetrain

The heart of the C-MAX and the C-MAX Energi drivetrain is a 2.0L Atkinson cycle four-cylinder engine producing 141HP and 129lb-ft of twist and a Ford designed hybrid transaxle that combines a 118HP traction motor and a smaller motor/generator. When working together, the system delivers 188 system horsepower and a TTAC estimated 200-220lb0ft of torque.This is considerably more than the Prius’ 134 system HP and the Volt’s 149HP. Like the Prius, the Ford sips regular unleaded while the Volt demands premium.

The Energi model uses a 7.6kWh battery pack (7.2 usable) which slots between the Prius Plug-in’s 4.4 (4.2 usable) kWh and the Volt’s 16.5kWh (10.8 usable) packs. If you look at those numbers you’ll notice something, the Volt has a bigger battery but uses less of it. There’s a reason. Battery life is reduced by a number of factors but one of the big ones is being at either a high or low state of charge. By using a “larger” battery and never charging it beyond 85% or discharging it below 20% GM is treats their cells with kid gloves. Because of this I believe the Volt’s battery is likely to last longer than the competition. Ford claims the Energi is good for 21 miles of EV driving while the Volt claims 38 miles and the Prius lasts only 11. In my testing, the real world numbers drop to 16 for the Energi, 29 for the Volt and 9 for the Prius.

Charging times for the Energi vary from 7 hours when plugged into a regular 120V outlet to 2.5 hours if you have access to a 240V “Level 2″ charging station. This (yet again) slots between the Prius Plug-in’s 2.5/1.5 hours (120/240V) and the Volts 16/4 hours (120/240V). As with the Prius and the Volt, you don’t have to charge the car if you don’t want to. (Although why you would spend $8,500 for the bigger battery and never use it is beyond me.)

On the road

Like the Prius Plug-in, what allows the Energi to operate as an EV has nothing to do with what’s under the hood. The battery’s discharge rate is what limits EV travel. The C-MAX’s battery tops out at 46HP while the Energi increases the discharge rate to 91HP. As with the rest of the drivetrain metrics, the Energi’s output slots between the Prius Plug-in’s 51HP and the Volt’s 149HP. Think of the Volt vs Energi in this way: In normal EV driving they operate very similarly, but while the Volt delivers 149HP with or without the engine running, the Energi offers 91 or 188 ponies depending on how far you press the go pedal.

As a result, the Energi isn’t a “Ford Volt” but it is “more EV” than the Prius Plug-in. Unlike the Volt, the Energi will also use its engine to augment cabin heating rather than relying solely on its electric heater in cold weather. While this exacts an MPG toll, defrosting is considerably faster than in the Volt. However, unlike the Prius plug-in, the Energi doesn’t need to run the engine to accelerate to highway speed or climb a mountain pass. The Energi is part of a new breed of car where locomotion blends fuel sources allowing you to trade a portion of the gasoline you pay $4.35 a gallon for in California for electricity at $0.10-$0.15 per kWh.

The C-MAX already heavy at 3,600lbs. Add 6.2kW more battery and the Energi’s 3,860lb curb weight is a cheeseburger shy of a Jaguar XJ. In comparison, the Prius Plug-in weighs a svelte 3,165lbs and even the porky 3,781lb Volt is lighter. The C-MAX’s cub weight and 225/50R17 tires define every aspect of on road performance from how it handles to how it sips fuel.

Thanks to its Focus roots, the C-MAX proved a competent handler with a well composed ride when we had it for a week in November. Thankfully the Energi doesn’t depart much from this formula, simply feeling like a C-MAX that has an extra 260lbs in the trunk. While the extra battery weight no doubt improved the weight balance, no vehicle equipped with low rolling resistance rubber is going to be a corner carver. That being said, it is more engaging than the Prius or the Volt. On the bright side, the Energi rides like a larger vehicle displaying none of the “crashy” tendencies the Prius is known for. While the electric power steering robs the hatch of 99% of its road feel, it manages to be more engaging than a Prius – admittedly not high bar to jump.

Stomp on the Energi’s go-pedal and 60MPH arrives 0.86 seconds later than the C-MAX Hybrid. If you keep your foot on the gas, the Energi recovers some composure finishing the 1/4 mile 0.6 slower. Any way you slice it, that’s considerably faster than any flavor of Prius. While we haven’t had a Volt in our garage to test, most publications seem to place it around 8.5 seconds to 60.

Hybrid systems, batteries and plugs can’t change the fact that weight and fuel economy are mortal enemies. While the C-MAX wears a decidedly optimistic 47/47/47 MPG (city/highway/combined) badge, the Energi model drops that figure down to a more believable 44/41/43 MPG. On my commute the C-MAX averaged 41.5 MPG and the Energi averaged 40.7 MPG without charging the battery. On the same commute, a regular Prius scored 50 and the Prius Plug-in scored a slightly higher 52 (thanks to its ability to recapture more energy on my mountain commute.) Meanwhile the Volt delivered a somewhat unimpressive 34 MPG in the same test.

With a full battery on either end of my 60-mile one-way commute, the numbers jump to 72 MPG for the Prius, 60 for the Energi and 45 for the Volt. The observant will note that a regular Prius delivered 50 MPG. If saving money on gasoline is your goal, consider the payback time vs a standard Prius is going to be decades.

According to my calculations, if your commute is under 25 miles total, at $0.15/kWh, the Volt is cheaper to run, but only by a few cents. According to the EPA, 25 miles would cost you $1.31 in the Volt, $1.37 in the Ford and $1.47 in the Prius. If your trip goes beyond 30-35 miles, the Prius is cheaper to operate because of its gasoline-only MPGs. The more expensive the gasoline, the greater the difference between the Prius and Volt (and to a lesser extent the Energi) thanks to the Volt’s lower fuel economy and thirst for premium gasoline.

With a price range of $32,950-$37,685 (not including $795 destination or the current $3,750 cash on the hood deal), Ford obviously has a limited market in mind. Still, if you’re shopping for a Prius Plug-in ($32,000-$40,285) or a Volt ($39,995-$43,750) you either want the latest in technology or you’re willing to spend nearly $10,000 to use the HOV lanes solo. There are tax incentives available, but they depend on your tax situation and I’m not an IRS insider. Be sure to consult a tax guru before you bet on credits to balance your books.

While it is theoretically possible to save money vs the standard C-MAX, it will take an Eterniti, serious number crunching, and low electricity rates. For instance, on my commute it would take around 300,000 miles, or 11 years. Assuming the battery and car last that long. If your commute is the national average, you’ll have to leave the car to your heirs. Maybe they will realize a savings. Still, there is that HOV lane to consider. On my route the HOV stickers would cut my commute time by 40 minutes or 14 hours a month. How much is that worth to you? If $8,700 is your answer, then Ford’s C-Max Energi will do nicely. Personally, I’d skip the plug and get a Fusion Hybrid.

Ford provided the vehicle, one tank of gas and insurance for this review

Specifications as tested

0-30: 3.1 Seconds (non-plugin: 2.9)

0-60: 7.91 Seconds (non-plugin: 7.05)

1/4 Mile: 16.15 Seconds @ 87 MPH (non-plugin: 15.55 Seconds @ 92 MPH)

Average Fuel Economy: 52 MPG over 523 miles (non-plugin: 41.5 MPG over 625 miles)

 

2013 Ford C-MAX Energi Plug-In Hybrid, Exterior, Front 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Energi Plug-In Hybrid, Exterior, Front 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Energi Plug-In Hybrid, Exterior, Front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Energi Plug-In Hybrid, Exterior, Grille, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Energi Plug-In Hybrid, Exterior, Energi badge, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Energi Plug-In Hybrid, Exterior, Wheel, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Energi Plug-In Hybrid, Exterior, Rear, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Energi Plug-In Hybrid, Exterior, Rear 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Energi Plug-In Hybrid, Exterior, Rear 3/4 View, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Energi Plug-In Hybrid, Exterior, Side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Energi Plug-In Hybrid, Interior, Cargo Area, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Energi Plug-In Hybrid, Interior, Cargo Area, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Energi Plug-In Hybrid, Interior,  Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Energi Plug-In Hybrid, Interior, Cargo Area, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Energi Plug-In Hybrid, Interior, Cargo Area, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Energi Plug-In Hybrid, Interior, Rear Seats Folded Cargo Area, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Energi Plug-In Hybrid, Interior, Rear Cargo Area Seats Folded, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Energi Plug-In Hybrid, Interior, Rear Seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Energi Plug-In Hybrid, Interior, Rear Seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Energi Plug-In Hybrid, Charging Connector, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Energi Plug-In Hybrid-020 2013 Ford C-MAX Energi Plug-In Hybrid, Engine, 2.0L Atkinson Plug-In Hybrid, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Energi Plug-In Hybrid, Engine, 2.0L Atkinson Plug-In Hybrid, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Energi Plug-In Hybrid, Engine, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Energi Plug-In Hybrid, Interior, Shifter and HVAC Controls, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Energi Plug-In Hybrid, Interior, Infotainment, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Energi Plug-In Hybrid, Interior, Gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Energi Plug-In Hybrid, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Energi Plug-In Hybrid, Interior, Driver's Side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Energi Plug-In Hybrid, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Energi Plug-In Hybrid, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Energi Plug-In Hybrid, Interior, Seat Controls, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Energi Plug-In Hybrid, Interior, Steering Wheel, Picture Courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Energi Plug-In Hybrid, Exterior, Charging Plug, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Energi Plug-In Hybrid, Exterior, Rear, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail

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