Toyota still leads the pack when it comes to electrified models and is asserting that lead with a new contest, the Prius Plug-in MPG Challenge, which pits 30 New York metro region drivers against each other to log the highest MPG over a one-month loaner period. The program kicks off its first wave of contestants today at a key hand-off in New Jersey.
The MPG Challenge underscores Toyota’s confidence in their Hybrid Synergy Drive’s ability to deliver amazing real-world returns, something that marks their models apart from pure EV’s like the Nissan Leaf and Tesla Model S as well as conventional economy hatchbacks like the Hyundai Elantra GT and Ford Fiesta. Toyota’s point of view in the efficiency debate is valuable. They’re betting that their Prius Plug-in can entice normal drivers to "hyper-mile," a term meaning to maximize potential range through creative (and very slow) driving.
Can the Prius Plug-in Hybrid resolve the range anxiety of EV drivers and the disillusion felt by buyers of small gasoline-powered cars that can barely get near their official EPA stats – no matter how slowly they drive. The idea is to use the MPG Challenge as both a sales promotion and consumer education platform, while also highlighting the latest tech advancements in the 2013 Prius Plug-in Hybrid in the hands of real-life potential buyers.
How is Toyota positioned to weather the current state of evolving eco-car priorities? As the hard-core greens adopt full EV models, will Priuses start coming factory-direct in Taxi-cab yellow with barf-proof vinyl upholstery?
Click past the jump for the full review of the Prius Plug-in Hybrid, including detailed info on ordering dedicated chargers from Toyota’s new home-electricity partner Leviton. Full story
Toyota will offer proof that the hybrid technology is "no barrier to creating eye-popping custom concepts" at the 2013 Tokyo Auto Salon the. It will achieve this with the unveiling of the Aqua G Sports — a concept car based on the Prius hatchback — a model that quickly become one of Japan’s best-selling cars since its launch last year.
The new Aqua G Sports concept adds a more aggressive appearance to the exterior and interior, plus a re-tuned suspension and body-reinforcing braces to strengthen its sporting character and handling. Despite these updates, the Aqua concept keeps the usual hybrid powertrain found in the Prius. This means the new Aqua concept will be powered by a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine that delivers a total of 99 horsepower combined with an electric motor that adds another 82 horsepower.
Full details on the new Toyota Aqua G Sports concept will be unveiled during its official debut at the Tokyo Auto Salon.
NASCAR driver Clint Bowyer should be feeling good these days. Fresh off of his third NASCAR Sprint Cup win of the season in Charlotte, Bowyer is ready to conquer another challenge.
Instead of riding to another victory on the track, Bowyer was part of the Toyota Racing Dream Build Challenge where he went up against fellow NASCAR driver Kyle Busch, NHRA Funny Car driver Alexis DeJoria, and NHRA Top Fuel points leader Antron Brown to build the ultimate race car.
For Bowyer, his offering is called the "Tekked-Out" Prius, which as the name suggests, is far from the mundane Prius you see gallivanting on the streets these days. Together with RKM Performance Center, Bowyer went to work on the Prius, describing the theme of his creation as a "young, sophisticated global thinker meets a connected, socially conscious traveler."
As far as modifications go, the "Tekked Out" Prius received two custom body kits, a new custom Toyota grille and intake inserts, custom airbrush graphics and stenciling, and a set of EVOD wheels.
The folks at RKM Performance also performed major electronic modifications on the Prius, highlighted by a new 17-inch custom touchscreen with a built-in Windows 7 computer, two ASUS 12-inch tablets, and a side-view camera system that takes the place of the old factory mirrors. On top of that, Bowyer and RKM Performance also installed 45 feet of fiber-optic lighting, and a 16-speaker JBL audio system with two amplifiers and six crossovers to help brighten the mood and please the eardrums inside the Prius.
The interior also received a number of luxury touches, including 10 hides of custom leather, two hides of premium designer suede, 9 yards of Alcantara suede, 5 yards of imported German carpet, and two spools of electric blue stitching accents.
Finally, Bowyer wanted to give his creation some racing attitude and set out to do so by installing a set of Megan Racing springs and shocks to bring the hybrid down to a ride height "lower than a Sprint Cup car."
Toyota is slowly announcing the trim levels for the Prius’ 2013 model year and it has been relatively “blah” so far. Toyota is at least attempting to spice things up – or at least mailing in its attempt – by releasing a :ahem: “Special Edition” model that it has dubbed the Prius Persona Series.
This so-called special edition has pretty much just two things that are special about it. The first is a black-cherry paint job that can only be found on the Persona Series model. Also unique to this model are the darker-finished 17-inch wheels and the “Persona Series” badges on the outside. In addition to the black-cherry paint, you can also opt for black and Blizzard Pearl.
On the inside, Toyota will fit the Prius Persona Series with black SofTex seats with red accent stitching. For those that don’t know, SofTex is imitation leather that Toyota patented earlier this year. Also wrapped in charcoal-colored SofTex with black accents and red contrasting stitching is the steering wheel.
Lastly, the Prius Persona Series gets dark chrome accents throughout the interior, including on the steering wheel, gear shifter ring, arm rest, door handles, and front cup holders. Other than those additions, the Prius Persona Series comes with the same 134-horsepower, 1.8-liter engine that the base Prius Two comes with.
Toyota has priced this special model at $27,890, which is about $1,300 more than the 2013 Prius Three. At least this is a step in the right direction for the Prius, but we are still waiting for Toyota to find a way to really make the Prius “cool.” The wait shall continue…
Looks like states are finally jumping on the autonomous-driving bandwagon, but this time it has a little “oomph” behind it. Having Nevada pass a bill specifically to allow and regulate automated driving was great, but this time it’s California that gave it the green light. California’s driving and automotive laws have always had a big influence on federal laws – except lane splitting, thank goodness – so chances are more states will follow and the NHTSA will eventually jump on board.
The thing to remember here is that this bill was not to allow autonomous cars to drive on California roads, as California has no laws barring self-driving cars. This law is to govern the production and testing of these cars in hopes of giving manufacturers a clear set of rules regarding these cars, which may press more automakers into this realm.
The first thing that California cleared up is defining an autonomous vehicle. This is any vehicle that can drive without any human intervention, so this eliminates Cadillac’s self-driving car for now and leaves only the Google car (seen in the above video). It also specifies that it is legal to manufacture your own autonomous car and drive it on California highways, which is an interesting topic of debate.
The bill goes on to state that the car must have a licensed driver in the driver’s seat and that driver must be designated by the car’s builder as a legal driver for said vehicle. The only exception to this rule is on a closed course. The manufacturer must also have an insurance policy or bond in the amount of $5 million prior to testing the vehicle. From there the bill goes on to define what safety issues the manufacturer, car, and driver must comply with.
Keep in mind that this is only the first step for this bill, as it must pass the State Assembly next. Given the bill passed 37 – 0, we doubt it will be held up.
Click past the jump to read the bill. Yes, it is in regular English, not “politicianese.” Full story
Autonomous cars have been gaining a lot of headlines recently with all of their testing and new state laws being enacted to allow their testing. One of the forerunners in this technology is, of all companies, Google. Google has been in the autonomous car testing project since 2010 and has logged more than 200,000 miles of automated driving.
That’s not the impressive thing, as Google recently had its first ever non-Google-employed test driver. To boot, this driver only has about 5% of his vision remaining. That’s right, Steve Mahan, this brave blind man, took a Toyota Prius fitted with Google’s automated driving doodads and went out for a spin.
Now, if you were legally blind and were driving for the first time in many years, where would you go? Maybe you would head to a nice restaurant, to visit relatives, or even to a friend’s house. Nope, not Steve, he immediately rode in the driver’s seat of this automated Prius to the nearest Taco Bell drive-thru, maybe that’s all Google has left in its testing budget for these cars. He grabbed a Taco, then headed off to pick up some dry cleaning.
The car performed well and Steve seems very happy to be in the driver’s seat again. He even added in the obligatory “Look mom, no hands” joke. The only thing we could see that this Prius did poorly was park, as it seemed to be parked at an angle when it stopped at the dry cleaners and when Steve parked it in his driveway.
Autonomous cars are cool, but will people ever warm up to them? We would be pretty nervous about the chances of the computer suddenly crashing and deciding to run the car head-on into traffic. Then again, if Toyota fills the Prius with foam during an accident, like Demolition Man, you’d never have to worry about getting hurt.
When we first saw the Subaru BRZ GT300 race car at the 2011 Tokyo Motor Show, the immediate question that popped into our heads was, "What’s Toyota’s answer for this?"
Images of the Toyota 86 built to Super GT specifications immediately entered our imaginations, but from what we’ve been hearing, the Japanese automaker will be fielding a different Super GT car for next season.
There have been no official statements from Toyota yet, but a sketch in the Japanese publication, Auto Sport Magazine, gave us clues as to what Toyota is preparing for the 2012 Super GT season.
It’s a Toyota Prius GT300 race car.
At first, it was hard to recognize the Prius-ness of the race car because it looks so wonderfully beautiful, but if you look a little closer, hints and traces of the Prius are clearly visible. The Prius GT300 is expected to be tweaked to adhere to Super GT regulations, so you can expect the full boat of racing modifications. That includes a tweaked powertrain that will produce 300 horsepower, as well as a stripped down interior that will only feature racing elements like the sport sets, transmission, and the full body roll cage.
Further details of the Prius GT300 race car are expected to be announced soon. In the meantime, you can check out the sketch that was published in Auto Sport Magazine to give you an idea of what the car is going to look like.
Set among the many debuts Toyota has planned for the 2011 Tokyo Motor Show is the G’s Prius, a sportier and far more aggressive take on the Japanese automaker’s resident hybrid car.
Toyota has yet to reveal the full specs regarding the car, but it certainly looks like this model is an evolution of the Prius G Sports Concept that the company unveiled at the 2009 Tokyo Motor Show.
Of the details we do have of the G’s Prius, we can tell you that the model has a White Pearl Crystal Shine exterior finish with red and black decorated stripes running along both sides of the car. One thing we’re thankful of, as far as the G’s Prius is concerned, is that Toyota opted for a more traditional look as opposed to the oddly-designed, rear-tire covered Prius G Concept. The interior of the G’s Prius also got a few styling tweaks in the form of a revised steering wheel, Recaro sport seats dressed in black leather with matching red stitching, a new information display, and aluminum pedals.
Under its hood, the G’s Prius will come with the same power train as that of a standard Prius so expect a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine mated to an Electronic Continuously Variable transmission. This setup produces 99 horsepower and 105 lb/ft of torque matched to an electric motor that produces 82 horsepower.
While everyone’s eyes are focused on the 2011 Los Angeles Auto Show, Toyota has announced details on their line-up for the upcoming Tokyo Auto Show. One of the models to be displayed in Tokyo is a new version for the Prius family. After its debut in Tokyo, the Prius C will be making its North American debut at the 2012 Detroit Auto Show.
The new Prius C will be using Toyota’s renowned Hybrid Synergy Drive technology and will deliver a fuel economy of 50 mpg in the city, which is the highest city mpg of any non-plug-in vehicle. The new Prius C will bring a more youthful expression and a sportier dynamic character that offers a more fun-to-drive experience.
The model will also be offered with Bluetooth hands-free phone connectivity, steering-wheel audio controls, and nine airbags as standard features. That being said, one of the most impressive features of the new Prius C is the addition of the new Toyota Entune multimedia system that allows users to connect with popular apps such as Bing, OpenTable.com, and movietickets.com.
UPDATE 02/08/2012: Toyta has announced that the new Prius c will go on sale on the US market in March 2012. The Prius c One will be priced at $18,950, the Prius c Two at $19,900, the Prius c Three at $21,635, and the Prius c Four at $23,230.
Toyota will be expanding the Prius family with the addition of three new models set to be launched in the next three years. This decision has been made in an attempt to make the Prius a standalone brand. All the new models will be put on sale by 2014 and will consist of a sports coupe, an SUV, and a replacement for the current sedan.
The new Prius hatchback has already been seen in concept form at the 2011 Detroit Auto Show. It will be stripped of the current blade-like headlamps and distinctive LED running lights, as well as the bold indent running down the flanks, to maintain a more conversation design.
The new Sports Coupe model will be built on the same rear-wheel-drive platform as the next generation Lexus GS. It will get a new plug-in hybrid set-up featuring lithium-ion batteries, and will be offered with a manual gearbox. It will be easily recognized as a Prius, but it will feature a more conservative design and a sportier appearance. The new Prius SUV will also be arriving and will be based off of the Toyota RAV4. It will come with either the latest Hybrid Synergy Drive set-up or a modified version of the future Sports Coupe’s plug-in drivetrain.