Preview: 2010 Toyota Prius and my personal race for the worst possible mpg (part 2)

Prius5x

Here are the answers to the most important question that you probably have about the all new 2010 Prius from reading part one of my preview.

1) Yes—a lot

2) No—you should not

3) You bet—I did

4) A "untold" basket

So what are the questions?

1) Is the new 2010 Prius a better car than the car current generation Prius?

The word "substantially" comes to mind when describing the new car as in "substantially" improved. 

– Bigger engine

– Better fuel economy

– Richer interior

– Better ergonomic layout

These
just some of the improvements, but what really stands out is that the
new Prius feels much more substantial. The old car sometimes tended to
drive like a bit of a Toyota science experiment. The new car, in stark
contrast, feels refined and ready for prime time.

Now that the
official news embargo has been lifted I can report the driving the car
is still boring. Let's face facts folks the Prius is not designed to
handle like a sports car. But don't get me wrong there is nothing wrong
with boring when speeding along in the HOV lane to work passing all of
the other cars inching along in traffic.

There is noting wrong with boring when you're stuck in traffic listening to XM's Doctor Radio with the air on and the engine not burning a drop of gas.

There is nothing wrong with boring when getting a range of nearly 500 miles from $20 fill-up at the local discount gas station.

There is nothing wrong with boring
when sitting in the cushy and comfy new heated seats (the old cars
seats were designed by fundamentalist Amish who felt wood seats were
just a tad too soft) and playing with the various video game-like
displays that the new Prius brings to the party.

And speaking of
party tricks, the coolest feature the new car offers are two secondary
round dials mounted on the steering wheel that actually appear(as if by
magic) on the dashboard when you hover your thumbs over them. According
to Toyota the idea is allow you to keep your eyes on the road, or in
this case the display.

I suspect the real reason for this fun gee
whiz solution is that the old cars secondary controls were so poorly
lit that you needed a seeing-eye-owl to work them at night.

2) The second question you might want answered is should you buy the top of the line Prius?

I
was able to test drive the loaded car (Prius 4) and I can recommend
that you purchase one of the less loaded models. The top of the line
car does come with bigger wheels and some really funky technology, but
because of all of these features the car comes sans sunroof.

Toyota
says that all of the new technology, as well as the sunroof, would make
the premium car too heavy to meet the high mileage numbers.

I say
do you really need a car that can park itself? In about three test runs
of the self parking Prius party trick I found it to be interesting, but
painfully slow and complicated.

The lane departure warning works
as advertised in that the car identified the painted road lanes and
actually auto corrects (read turns the steering wheel) when you leave
your lane. Which worked great except that as soon as the car turned the
wheel to the left to keep me from careening into the nearby shoulder it
lost the lane lines and sent me careening into on-coming traffic.

If
your goal in life is to be able to fall asleep at the wheel on the
highway and have the car save you from a crash, you probably need
better goals and the next generation of technology.

On the other
hand, I did find the radar based adaptive cruise control useful, as
long as you are awake and on the highway. I suspect Toyota would agree
with these two criteria as the system will not bring the car to a
complete stop if the car in front of you stops. When the car ahead
starts to slow down the system will brake the Prius to keep a constant
distance between you and traffic, but at some point the system throws
up its hands, beeps loadly at you, and tells you to take over—at
which point you better be wide awake.

3) Did I get the worst gas mileage?

You
bet I did. I did everything possible including opening all the windows,
tuning on the air, and playing the all Elvis XM channel at full blast.
What's really amazing is that I still manged to get an impressive 42.5
mpg on the mileage loop.

When you think about it that speaks
volumes about the technical capabilities of the new Prius. I drove like
a lead footed bat out of hell and still the Prius returned an amazing
42.5 mpg.

Most of the other automotive journalist got mileage in
the 60-70 mpg range. Dan Byant, the hypermiler ringer that Toyota
brought to the party got 90.6 mpg with an average speed of 21 mph on
the 38.8 mile loop with the new car. You can read his fascinating
report HERE.

You'll
note however that he managed an equally impressive 89.6 mpg with the
current Prius on the same loop. But given the choice between the old or
new car, I'd jump at the new Prius in a heartbeat.

4) What was the untold prize for the highest mpg loop?

It
heard through the grapevine that it was a very nice basket. And so what
if I didn't win it. I won a much better prize. I managed put a huge
smile on my Toyota co-drivers face and prove that boring can fun and
even cool.

Previous articlePreview: 2010 Toyota Prius and my personal race for the worst possible mpg
Next articleLet the green cars roll
Roman Mica is a publisher, columnist, journalist, and author, who spent his early years driving fast on the German autobahn. When he’s not reviewing cars or producing videos, you can find him training for triathlons and writing about endurance sports for EverymanTri.com as our sister blog’s publisher. Mica is a former broadcast reporter with his Master’s Degree in journalism from Northwestern University. He is also a presenter for TFLcar’s very popular video review channels on YouTube.