Slide Show: 10 Things You Should Know about Toyota's New Prius Hybrid

Ten things to look for in the new Prius hybrid sedan
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Driving to maximize fuel economy is called "hyper-miling". During a test drive last month in Napa Valley, Calif., my driving partner and I managed to get more than 72 miles per gallon (30 kilometers per liter) by setting our Prius to "Eco" mode, driving ridiculously slow, coasting when possible, taking sharp curves faster than normal, and even trying to draft behind other vehicles.....[ More ]


A wireless remote control for the Prius' air-conditioning system enables motorists to cool the interior of the parked vehicle before entry, a handy item when hot weather makes entering the cabin nearly unbearable.....[ More ]


Even though Honda's all new Insight hybrid is smaller than the midsize Prius, many observers consider the Insight to be the Prius' biggest competitor. The fact that Toyota has reportedly slashed the Prius's price by as much as $4,000 to match the Insight's $20,000 price tag seems to confirm that view.....[ More ]


The new Prius comes equipped with a device called a "Touch Tracer Display" that eases the use of the steering wheel–mounted controls that set audio volume, radio frequency, cabin temperature and the like.....[ More ]


Another nod to environmental concerns is the Prius's use of "ecoplastics" in certain components such as scuff grids, side trim and seat cushions. Composed of recyclable polymers made with 15 percent plant-based oils from corn and castor beans, ecoplastic parts emit roughly 20 percent less carbon dioxide over their entire life cycle when compared with the overall CO 2 output of their petroleum-derived counterparts, Toyota estimates.....[ More ]


In keeping with the car's ecofriendly theme, the new Prius includes solar power. An optional moonroof incorporates silicon solar cells that power an air-circulation fan/vent that lessens the need for air-conditioning on start-up.....[ More ]


Despite the new vehicle's green focus, "We're happy if the customer thinks of the Prius as a regular midsize sedan," chief engineer Otsuka says. To do so, his team addressed several shortcomings of the previous Prius model, such as inadequate rear seat headroom for tall passengers and marginally comfortable seats.....[ More ]


The desire to encourage motorists to adopt economical driving habits led Toyota to develop dashboard displays that provide real-time feedback on fuel and energy consumption. Motorists can choose to switch from normal driving operation to a gas-saving "Eco" mode, which cuts gasoline use by dampening the engine's throttle response, Otsuka says.....[ More ]


To raise the fuel economy of the Prius's time-tested Toyota Synergy Drive propulsion system, Otsuka's team reworked 90 percent of it. The enlarged high-efficiency engine, he says, boosts highway mileage because the power plant's greater torque output allows it to run at lower average rotations per minute at high speeds and thus consume less fuel.....[ More ]


To ensure that the new, third-generation Prius hybrid gets 50 miles per gallon (21 kilometers per liter) combined in EPA tests, Toyota engineers smoothed the aerodynamics of the familiar egg-shaped exterior while squeezing every bit of energy efficiency from the hybrid power train, which combines a gasoline engine, an electric motor and a battery, says Prius chief engineer Akihino Otsuka.....[ More ]

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