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2013 Toyota Prius Persona Series

2013 Toyota Prius Persona Series

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…

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Video: Toyota Shows Us its Race Simulator

Video: Toyota Shows Us its Race Simulator

Toyota managed to climb itself back into road racing with the development of the TS030 prototype, but it wasn’t without its issues. The entire project was delayed by a month, due to damages caused to its monocoque from a wreck during a round of practice.

Some people may think that Toyota is haphazardly testing these cars without the drivers being properly trained, but they would be sorely incorrect with that thought. Since before Toyota pulled out of road racing, it has had a racing simulator to allow drivers to get a good feel for the car they will be driving and the track they will be on.

The simulator, according to TMG driver, Kazuki Nakajima, has all of the pedal and steering wheel feel of the real cars, as well as the real feel of the track. Much like the simulator rides that were popular in the early-1990s and are still around today, the simulator is on a hydraulic base that bounces the car and moves it along with the driver‘s input through the steering, brakes, and gas.

The simulator includes 20 different tracks, including the 24 Hours of Le Mans track that you see in the above video. It also includes a slew of cars, so that drivers can get the feel of the varying cars TMG uses in races. Mild adjustments are made to the simulator to compensate for changes in the vehicle’s suspension, aerodynamics, horsepower, etc., making for a very real experience for the drivers.

Have a look at the above video and see the simulator in action yourself.

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New Details Emerge About Toyota-BMW Sports Car Venture

New Details Emerge About Toyota-BMW Sports Car Venture

Short of learning the fact that Toyota and BMW planned on developing a sports car together and the fact that BMW loves Toyota and vice-versa, we didn’t learn much from the press conference where the two automotive giants announced their joint venture. Fortunately, BMW recently held an interview with Automotive News and released a good bit of information to shine a little clarity on the deal.

The first thing cleared up is the fact that at least two sports cars will come from this joint venture – one for Bimmer and one for Toyota. Now, if you are starting to see similarities to the Toyota-Subaru deal that spawned three identical cars – the Subaru BRZ, Toyota GT 86, and Scion FR-S – that just wore different badges, you can scratch that nasty idea.

The BMW spokesperson made it very clear that any vehicles developed from this venture will each bear completely unique styling. That’s music to our ears, as even though we love the end result of the Subaru-Toyota deal, we really wish they would have given each model its own styling, so as to not water down the market.

In addition to the details revealed above, the BMW went on to let us know that Bimmer’s resulting sports car from this partnership will be a sustainable model – not needing gasoline – that will boast eco-friendly technology. This leads us to wonder if maybe Toyota might take part in the future development of the i8’s drivetrain, or will there be yet another i model that sits above or below the i8 that boasts Toyota technology.

Needless to say, we are pretty excited to see what in the world these two companies can come up with in the coming years. We’re not so much excited about the BMW end, as sports cars are nothing new to it, but the Toyota end is truly intriguing, as seeing Toyota take this sudden shift back toward sports cars is surprising. We have about had our fill of seeing nothing but Camrys, Corollas, and Priuses on Toyota lots, so it’s a refreshing change.

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Toyota TS030 Hybrid Has a Successful Debut at Cirque De La Sarthe

It looks like Toyota, after a very huge hiccup, is set to return to the world of Lee Mans racing. Its pair of TS030 Hybrids have completed their first testing run at Cirque De La Sarthe – the name of the 24 Hours of Le Mans track. This test wasn’t just any test either. The all-new hybrid tested very well, as both cars finished the 10 laps required to qualify and the fastest lap amongst the two was 3:27.204, which was only 1.277 seconds slower than the fastest car (the Audi R18 E-Tron Quattro).

The only issues with the run that Toyota Motorsport GmbH reported were a few bits of “minor bodywork damage,” which the team didn’t elaborate on in its press release. Other than that, the test was a complete success for the Toyota team, but it was down its main driver, Stéphane Sarrazin, who is recovering from injuries sustained in a bicycling accident. Sarrazin is expected to be ready to resume driving duties before the race starts next week, so everything is looking good for Toyota. With Sarrazin missing, Alex Wurz, Nicolas Lapierre and Kazuki Nakajima were behind the wheel of the No. 7 car, and the No. 8 car had Anthony Davidson and Sébastien Buemi piloting it.

With all of the new cars, like the Toyota TS030 and the extremely intriguing Nissan DeltaWing, this 24 Hours of Le Mans is sure to be a fun one to watch. The race starts on Saturday, June 16th and the green flag drops at 3:00 p.m. Le Mans time, which is 7:00 a.m. EST.

Click past the jump to read Toyota Motorsport GmbH’s full press release on the debut.

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2010 Toyota NORI Concept

2010 Toyota NORI Concept

Toyota has always prided itself on being an industry leader when it comes to building eco-friendly vehicles that not only look past the current norms of today’s industry, but challenge them to address the growing need of building economical and efficient yet technologically advanced vehicles. This year, the LA Design Challenge, an annual fixture at the LA Auto Show, is looking for the best concept that addresses these specific needs; to build a lightweight car while minimizing the dependence on using natural resources.

You could say that Toyota is right at their element with this year’s competition and they’re bringing a concept vehicle that answers all of the event’s requirements.

Calling it the NORI Concept, Toyota envisioned its concept as a car that infuses cutting-edge technology with the emissions and fuel economy standards set up by the contest’s guidelines. To prove its point, Toyota built the NORI concept with a unique podular feature wherein the car’s body and its chassis are built as one instead of two separate parts, making it stronger, lighter, and aesthetically more appealing. As a supplemental energy, the NORI concept harnesses solar technology that’s captured through solar cells woven into the concept’s PODULAR, serving as energy back-up should the situation call for it. The podular body is also strengthened using ‘nori’ to create bioplastics technology while combining it with carbon fiber weave to create a sturdy body that can withstand the environment. The specific use of ‘nori’ – in Japanese, it means “seaweed” – reduces the vehicle’s weight.

Full story and press release after the jump

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Toyota to produce a $50,000 hydrogen sedan by 2015

Toyota has announced that they have been able to cut costs on their fuel cell vehicles by about 50% since the mid 2000s and what this translates into is the first retail hydrogen model with a price tag of only $50,000. The costs were accomplished by limiting the amount of platinum used in the fuel cell vehicles and finding cheaper ways to produce the thin film used in the fuel cells and the carbon-fiber hydrogen fuel tanks.

Hydrogen vehicles have received much criticism due to their expense and this news may bring along some needed support for the advanced technology and, possibly, more funding. Hydrogen vehicles have had bouts of decreased funding due to the criticism and have fallen behind the funding for electric cars in the U.S.

Hit the jump for the full story.

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Initial thoughts: 2010 Toyota Prius

Initial thoughts: 2010 Toyota Prius

We have just received a brand new third generation Toyota Prius into the Top Speed test fleet. Wile we are usually about high horsepower rides that are in contention to set land speed records even we must bow out and admit that these little Hybrid commuter cars are only going to become more common as time goes on. Now this is not quite the prototype we saw back in May, our 2010 Prius didn’t come with the very trick sunroof mounted solar panel and we didn’t even get leather. But that’s OK, because we do have the same 1.8 Liter Hybrid Synergy Drive engine that was in the previous Prius we saw. In an effort to improve fuel economy Toyota has decided to increase the engine’s displacement giving it more torque across the rev band meaning that it won’t have to work as hard getting the Prius moving to the tune of 50 MPG.

It seems that everything about the Prius was made so that the car could cut through the air with the least amount of resistance. The bulges on the sides of the front bumper push air away from the turbulent rotating wheels at speed, which are covered with some pretty interesting plastic covers that were almost certainly included as a fuel-saving afterthought. The design team even incorporated finlets at the rear of the flat paneled under tray that are more functional that the majority of the diffusers bolted to the bottom of a rear bumper. Toyota engineers go to countless measures to squeeze every last ounce of efficiency from their flagship hybrid. A number that was being thrown around when we first spoke to a Toyota representative was one million, because that is how much the Japanese automaker spends every hour of every working day conducting drag reduction research which has led to the Prius’ .25 Cd.

Continued after the jump.

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The 2010 Toyota Prius has a new market: the dead

The 2010 Toyota Prius has a new market: the dead

If you had a choice on what car you’ll most likely want to bring you to the doorstep of the Pearly Gates, why not go take the eco-friendly route?

The Japanese – ridiculously awesome trendsetters that they are – have outdone themselves once again. Their latest brainchild is a 2010 Toyota Prius hearse, and by all accounts, it’s going to be making the rounds in funeral homes all over Japan anytime soon.

Now we’re not exactly sure how the Japanese people perform their funeral services over there, but at the very least, you can say that they’re making every effort in providing their dead the chance to ride in the finest of posthumous eco luxury one last time.

Anybody who might want to own their own Prius hearse will have to dole out $80,000, which, by all accounts, does not include a coffin inside. But hey, at least you’re getting your money’s worth with this car. It’s not too often you see people stopping for gas in a hearse, let alone a Toyota Prius hearse. The bewildered looks you’re almost certain to get should be enough reason to grab one of these bad boys.

And if you can’t afford them, you can at least tell your loved ones that when you die, you’d want to make a good impression and score some points with St. Peter by ‘going green’ one last time – even if you won’t live long enough to see it.

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Video: 2010 Toyota Prius preview

Video: 2010 Toyota Prius preview

Top Speed recently had the pleasure of speaking with Southeast Toyota representative Mike Herring about the third generation, 2010 Toyota Prius. The all new hybrid features a larger 1.8 Liter engine, a more shapely figure and a very trick solar panel that will cool your car down for you. Check it out.

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Third Generation Toyota Prius Prototype Preview

Third Generation Toyota Prius Prototype Preview

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.

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Toyota to start leasing fuel cell vehicles

Toyota to start leasing fuel cell vehicles

Toyota is now showing up to the hydrogen fuel cell vehicle party. In Japan, the company will start leasing its FCHV-adv to Japan’s Ministry of the Environment and other governmental agencies. The leases, which will start in September, will cost a little over $7,500 per month.

While it may seem like a Japan-only hydrogen vehicle is a few steps behind Toyota’s rival Honda (Honda’s FCX Clarity sedan has been leased internationally since earlier this month,) Toyota seems to bring something new to the fuel cell car world. The FCX Clarity is only leased to Southern California not only because it is the only place with any kind of hydrogen refueling infrastructure, but also most likely because most hydrogen fuel cell cars do not work in cold temperatures. Toyota’s FCHV-adv has the ability to work in 22 degrees below zero Fahrenheit.

So why is a Japan-only fuel cell making news? Because just like the Prius, Toyota tests its products at home before it releases them to the world.

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2008 Toyota Highlander Hybrid

2008 Toyota Highlander Hybrid

If you have been following our video reviews, you know we have already featured the Toyota Highlander. But this is the Toyota Highlander Hybrid, and it’s full of enough technology to make it worth its own review. This is Toyota’s second generation of both the Highlander model and the available hybrid engine. Along with the Prius and the Camry Hybrid, this makes up Toyota’s gas-electric group. The new Highlander Hybrid is powered by a 3.3-liter double overhead hybrid engine, which produces 209 horsepower. This advanced Hybrid Synergy Drive System has the fuel economy of up to 27 MPG city, and 25 MPG highway. It comes standard with four-wheel drive, equipped with intelligence drive. Just like the gasoline powered Highlander, the hybrid is available with the choice of a Base or Limited trim. The price for the 2008 Highlander Hybrid starts at $33,700.

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