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>> The game is Toyota's to lose. The Prius outsells every other hybrid by so much it's almost a one-car industry. But it has to compete on more than just its green drive train, so let's take a ride in the much anticipated 2010 Prius and check the tech.
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Now the first thing you'll notice in this 2010 Prius is a very different cabin, but still with that sort of Prius-centric midline focus on all the instrumentation. Out there is the eyebrow instrument panel, but notice it's been heavily redone from the previous generation Prius. You've got your gauges that you'd expect, like your MPG gauge. This car loves to brag; notice it goes up to 100 even though the car is rated 51 for its city number, which is really good. But notice when I go to the wheel here and I press any of these buttons, I get two virtual sort of mimics of what's on the wheel right there, helping me keep my eyes and my concentration on the road, or at least closer to it. Coming down to the center stack, we have what is oddly called the solar roof package; it wraps up a nav package with the roof, which we'll get to in a minute. Now as you can see, this is kind of a poor man's version of the excellent Lexus navigation system. Poor man's because it's a little bit slower on the uptake, I think, in terms of its response, but certainly it has a cruder graphics interface in terms of just the fineness of resolution. Four-disc CD changer on this package, auxiliary jack of course, including, as you see, Bluetooth streaming audio, so not just a dumb aux jack but auxiliary also means A2DP streaming. Now down here on the shifter you've got a lot of the character of this vehicle that makes it a more sophisticated hybrid. EV mode forces it into more of an electric vehicle operating curve, so run silent as often as possible. And then Eco and Power mode bias the power train to either of those directions -- in other words, use the least fuel or have the best power. The shifter here is interesting. It's the same layout as we've seen on Prius before: reverse, neutral, drive, and then more advance brake regeneration is another drive position over on the right. Now up here is the solar roof option I told you about which is also bringing us that fancy head unit. This panel's kind of like a rear sunroof, but it's not a movable panel; as you can see it's a fixed photovoltaic array. What this does is power a ventilation system that keeps the car cool when it's parked. They do that so the air conditioning system doesn't have to work as hard, as long, or as much when you get back in the car and you want things cooled off as you're driving home or what have you. You've also got a remote button here on the key fob that lets you activate this system from thirty feet away, I think. And of course the Prius is all about its hybrid power train. Here it is: Hybrid Synergy Drive is the way they do it on these cars, which means it's got the ability to run significantly on electric only or gas or blend the two nicely. 98 horsepower, 1.8 liter inline four -- a very high compression engine by the way. You wouldn't want to drive a car like that. Those are crappy numbers. But that's before you add the electric motor in, which has a lot more horsepower to add and most importantly, a lot more torque. Specifically, about 80 more horsepower from the electric motor, and 150 foot-pounds additional torque. Well, you can't just do simple additive math. Bottom line is, things get pretty good and responsive here in the combination of both power sources.
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Now the big headline on the road for 2010 is the 51 MPG city number and a real-world average of 50 miles per gallon. That number is always going to grab car buyers' eyeballs. If you buy the base Prius, you're looking at a price that's very close to a Honda Insight, which is a much less sophisticated car, certainly in terms of drive train. But Toyota did the right thing in terms of making its price competitive to go against that upstart Honda, and both the cars tend to drive about the same. Driving this one is what a Prius is supposed to be: utilitarian transportation. Not a car you're going to get a big grin from piloting, unless you get a grin from piloting it while smugly thinking how green you are. Toyota's Hybrid Synergy Drive is very good at running gently and in electric mode when it can. But that also makes the car feel like it kind of doesn't really want to go much of the time. Those EV and Eco modes I showed you, they really underline the pokeyness, and the Power mode, while it does make things noticeably more responsive, isn't why you buy a Prius. The cabin, even on our trim level-four car, still says inexpensive car, part of that owing to the odd shape of things that just don't say luxury car ethic and part of it due to the amount of plastic you're just going to get in a vehicle of this price that has to put so much of its MSRP toward its elaborate drive train. Now you can get a 2010 Prius for as little as 22,000 dollars, but that's the base, stripped car. You want to do it CNET-style, so start with a level-four ride like we have here, and then add the package that has the audio, the nav, the solar roof, the backup camera, the Bluetooth streaming -- that's going to add 3600 bucks, making it about a 30,000-dollar car.
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