The third generation Toyota Prius is a sleeker and more aggressive machine than its predecessor. The hybrid electric vehicle gets 50 MPG with an affordable price south of around $25K, bringing the fuel-efficient drive train closer to the reach of the masses. The hybrid is packed with futuristic technology like microwave radar transmitters hidden behind the new for 2010 Toyota badges. This forward thinking five seater also won’t make any sacrifices when it comes to creature comforts either.
The vehicle we were introduced to is officially a 2010 Prius prototype, however the vehicle did have a VIN, so maybe after the dealership changes out the wheels for a set of the slick 17’s being offered, this car could see some street action.
Continued after the jump.
Speaking of the wheels, they had some pretty interesting plastic covers that appeared to be some sort of aerodynamic fuel-saving afterthought, left for the purpose built prototype. Toyota engineers go to countless meassures to squeeze every last ounce of efficiency from their flagship hybrid. A number that was being thrown around was one million, because that is how much Toyota spends every hour of every working day conducting drag reduction research.
The futuristic technologies that come with the Prius are not all about hyper mileage; Toyota knows that in order to make a customer happy you first must make them comfortable. Which is why they added features like dome illuminating lighting, one touch opening and smart key convenience. But the largest single space age creature comfort, a cue borrowed from the international space station, is the solar panel sunroof combination that when remote activated will ventilate the hot stagnant air from the interior for up to three minutes, not quite the icebox effect but good enough to make the inside of the Toyota more comfortable on a 90+ degree day, don’t worry it won’t kill the battery.
The space ship theme continues into the Prius’s interior. Sitting behind the wheel I feel more like Captain Kirk than Mario Andretti. I could be on the bridge of the Star Ship Enterprise with the straightforward controls and the illuminated instruments. There is a heads up display and center mounted instrument cluster that lights up in green LED fashion ala Star Trek. The modern blue shifter is another piece could have been lifted from Commander Zulu’s control station. The split center console that it is mounted on is a nice touch, like the design found in the new Ferrari California. However on the Prius the opening is large and makes for functional storage space. The driver sits on new-plastic, a non-petroleum based synthetic product that Toyota only used in few select locations. New-plastic is denser than the traditional polymer so the added weight was an issue and therefore used only in select locations, but it is another environmentally friendly nod for the Japanese automaker.
A first for the 2010 Prius are the all LED head and taillights that significantly reduce electrical consumption, it’s worthy to note that this feature is only found on one other car in the world. The new Audi R8, not a bad crowd to be running with.
On the outside the spaceship-like features continue with microwave radar emitters behind the new Toyota sombrero badge at the nose of the vehicle. The sensor works in conjunction with the adaptive cruise control, to make sure you don’t get to close to the object moving along in front of you.
The exterior is sleeker and more aggressive than before, resulting a lower coefficient of drag (.25 vs .26). The Prius’s profile is more of a smooth arc than before, with the A-pillar moved up and the windshield benefiting from a few more degrees of rake. The apex of the roof moves back a little further to make a an even more slippery shape than in 2009. The rear spoiler also juts out further and is more pronounced than before, it is now sharp enough to take somebody’s eye out. The sides of the front and rear bumpers bulge to help motivate air away from the drag inducing wheels when spinning at highway speeds.
I really like the fact that under the hood, Toyota upped the displacement on the conventional side of the gas electric hybrid. There is now a decently sized 1.8 Liter four cylinder engine motivating this 50 MPG machine. The engine has variable valve timing on both the intake and exhaust side that are able to seal off the combustion chamber to reducing pumping loss when the engine lies dormant.
The electric motor is now more powerful and is connected through a planetary gear set, providing a much more maintenance free hybrid ownership experience than with a belt driven motor like on the Honda Insight.
With the test batteries that were first produced back in 1997 nearing the end of their life cycles. The units in the 2010 Prius benefit from over a decade’s worth of technological improvements, like liquid cooling and reprogrammed power cycles. There is no reason why these batteries will not last reliably for the next 15 to 20 years.
The third generation Prius is a beast a new nature. More aggressive to make it through these tough times and more efficient to win the hearts of hyper miler’s everywhere. This Prius is the perfect solution for an environmentally minded family of five. Priced at around $25,000 it is affordable by that same family as well. There is no reason why this Prius will not be in higher demand than the previous generations, and with all the technological improvements I believe that the third generation Prius is the kind of car you will be seeing on used car lots in 2030.