Counterpoint: Toyota Prius

Editor’s note:  We kind of liked the Camry Hybrid when we orignally tested it, but Kevin Miller didn’t like the one he rented.  When we first tested the Prius, we didn’t like it, but in George Straton’s commentary below, he has a soft spot for the car, in spite of his status as a performance car enthusiast.

By George Straton

08.31.2009

shelby_mustang_gt-h_convt_04For a short weekend vacation at a Florida resort it would actually be nice not to have to drive at all.

The new, vastly improved Southwest International Airport, located in Fort Myers, is pitched as the “Gateway” to Florida’s [ritzy] southwest resort areas – namely Naples, Bonita Beach and Marco Island, even Sanibel further north. Yet no one can explain the conspicuous absence of any regularly scheduled ground transport from the “gateway airport” to any of those destinations.

It could not possibly have anything to do with the available limousine services (which charge $100 each way for the 40 mile trip) and the car rental companies which have virtually their own terminal building?

For about the same money I would have expended for the limo service, I could have rented a Hertz Edition Shelby Mustang GT-H. Having owned a black 1986 5.0 (4.9L) Mustang GT (a car that put the Mustang back on the hi-po map) as my first sporty car the Shelby Mustang GT-H sure was tempting.

toyota_prius_2009_cBut for less than half that money I was offered the opportunity to sample what may be the global automotive standard within the next 10 years, the gas-electric hybrid vehicle, in this case a Gen. II Toyota Prius. (For a quick write-up of the 2010 Gen. III Prius click here). That the black with gold striped Hertz Shelby Mustang was parked next to the gold colored Gen. II Prius didn’t make the choice any easier.

To state that the rental desk clerk was quite keen on the Prius is an understatement. (She claimed that a family member owned one and obtained 700 miles on the interstate with one 12 gallon tank). Her enthusiasm even spilled over when it came time to explain the Prius’ hybrid operation its utter lack of obtrusiveness. That and the lack of canyon roads in Southwest Florida sold me.

For someone who traditionally relished performance the likes of the original Taurus SHO, the E36 BMW M3, and the Infiniti G35 coupe, the Prius is an impressive piece.

Sure the Prius wallows a bit (following N.A. Toyota’s interpretation of ride/ handling compromise) and has squishy seats (as opposed to Volvo’s firm foam). The hugely deep dash cover makes perpendicular parking a bit tricky.

toyota_prius_2009_d_info_screenBut who can argue with 60 mpg seen cruising on Interstate-75 at 74 mph? 74 mpg at 50 mph on suburban expanses? Even 99 mpg (all battery power) while coasting?

With its 110 combined gas-electric produced horsepower propelling the 2900 lb family sized hatchback with little difficulty from either dead stop or passing on the interstate? And the gasoline engine activating in a manner barely noticeable? With plenty of utility (meaning room) and clean contemporary styling to boot?

In 150 miles of driving, I had to force feed two gallons of unleaded. After the first gallon the fuel filler sensor cause two separate pump nozzles to register full – the ubiquitous clicking. Assuming that the vehicle was short a gallon when accepted at the airport, the Consumption Display was right on when it registered 46 mpg in combined fuel consumption for my trip. And, to satiate the curious, NO, I was NOT “hypermiling” in the Prius.

toyota_prius_2009_f_twinsWhen I arrived back from my brief Florida holiday I went for my first morning run. During that run through my near northwest suburban Chicago I made an observation. I must have made the same observation before but just failed to attach any meaning to it. That is I saw at least one Toyota Prius on each and every solitary block. That fact belies the huge in-roads this remarkable machine has made into transforming science-fiction into fact for an entire culture which relies on or appreciates the automobile. Indeed Mercedes Benz, BMW and Porsche owe the impending introduction of the gas-electric hybrid versions of their flagship models to the success of the Prius.

With my apologies to Ford and Carroll Shelby, I’m glad I chose the Toyota Prius.

COPYRIGHT Autosavant – All Rights Reserved

Author: George Straton

Share This Post On

1 Comment

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published.