Nearly a decade and a half after its 1997 launch in Japan, the Toyota Prius is the undisputed king of hybrid vehicles. If someone shows you the silhouette of a Prius, you likely know the shape. The Prius has sold more copies in its history than all of its competitors combined. In fact, the Prius continues to outsell its combined competitive set, even today. But is it the king of the plug-in vehicles as well? We spent a week one of the newest members of the Prius family, the Prius Plug-in, to see how it stacked up against both the regular Prius and its most obvious competitor, the Chevrolet Volt.
Believe it or not, there are some people in the world who do not care for chocolate. This never ceases to stun us when we witness it, but our children often choose a starburst mint over a small chocolate bar. Even as a card-carrying fan of chocolate, when I am presented with a choice between chocolate or vanilla birthday cake, sometimes I’ll choose vanilla. (Birthday cake is all about the icing, anyway). For those who lean toward the vanilla side of the spectrum more often than not, your dream car is here: the 2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid XLE.
Ford has officially unveiled the final pricing and official mileage estimates for the upcoming 2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid MPV which, along with the Focus EV, is the company’s response to Toyota’s successful family of Prius models.
Yesterday, we posted a review of the 2012 Chevrolet Volt, a car that is controversial for a number of reasons, from GM’s bailout, to the huge expectations heaped on the car, to the giant pre-release hype that GM built for it. I thought it might be interesting to look at what the Volt might need in order to be more successful in the marketplace. Continue Reading →
GM CEO Dan Akerson was told Congress this past January that the Chevrolet Volt is a “political punching bag.” He’s right, of course. The car has not come close to meeting GM’s previously-stated sales targets (which have since been unceremoniously dropped), and part of the blame does lie at the feet of the fact that GM accepted a taxpayer-funded bailout. But could there be other reasons the Volt isn’t selling well? We borrowed a 2012 model for a week to find out. Continue Reading →
The Prius C? I could own one. And to think that I once disparaged the average Prius owner as a dork, or worse! Not entirely without reason, mind you. The original Prius was undeniably dorky in appearance, a kind of bizarre science project lacking in automotive virility or style. It was the kind of car you’d drive only if you didn’t like cars, and dorks don’t like cars. I’d have never owned a Prius back then. But now I would. Well, I might. What changed? The Prius itself, for one thing. The family has grown to four members: the original liftback Prius; the Prius V, a pleasant wagon version; the plug-in Prius; and now, the brand-new miniaturized version, the C. I’ve changed, too, having become something of an armchair expert on these cars after test-driving all iterations, plus close relatives in disguise. Like many others who initially disparaged the Prius, I’ve come, albeit grudgingly, to admire its efficiency, packaging, reliability, and, of course, fuel economy—real-world fuel economy, that is, not the vaporous fantasies of PR departments. Plus, the newer models just look better; there’s more design esthetic there.
By Roger Boylan
All hail Prius V! Actually, that’s “V,” the letter, not the Roman numeral. The various trimlines of the Toyota Prius were once designated in dynastic fashion—Prius I, Prius II, etc.–but the new V designates “versatility,” or “versatile.” Certainly not “Vroom.” Of course, the Prius was never intended to be a driver’s car.Toyota’s market demographic is the no-nonsense general public with a penchant for frugality and right thinking and no interest in cars except as A to B appliances. With over 2 million Prii sold since 2001,that seems to be a good business model.
By Chris Haak
I just finished reviewing a large, seven-passenger Chrysler Town & Country minivan, and now find myself moving onto my next task. In the Town & Country review, I laid out my argument for why minivans are really the ultimate family vehicles: they’re comfortable, safe, and efficient given the size of their interior.
Now, I want you to forget about everything I said about minivans, because really, you are looking at all the car an American family of four needs.
By Roger Boylan
The Lexus CT200h is a luxury economy car. At first I didn’t know what to make of it. In the old days, this would have been a contradiction in terms. If you had the dough, you bought a luxury car with a purring V8 and plush leather sofa in front, and if you were poor,like most of us, you pedaled your econobox to and from the workhouse. In the first instance, you were resigned to having a gas guzzler on your hands, because that was the price of luxury; in the latter case, “economy” meant a raucous interior and bouncy ride, but at least you were getting good mileage. And that was that, for a long time. True, there were attempts over the years to winch faux “luxury” onto an economy platform: ”Cimarron by Cadillac” and the Chrysler-Maserati TC come to mind, although I wish they wouldn’t.
Then, in the ‘90s and early ‘00s, the market expanded and SUVs became crossovers and pickups acquired leather interiors and suddenly just about every form of automotive cross-fertilization was fermenting in the lab, from the Suzuki X90 to the Porsche Cayenne. But the CT200h trumps all thosebecause it’s not only a luxury economy car, it’s a luxury hybrid economy car, and a cheap—or should I say “inexpensive?”—Lexus, to boot, with a starting sticker price a hair under $30K (and going up to just under $40K, with all the bells and whistles). OK, that’srelatively inexpensive, but it’s still miles less thanother Lexi.
By Chris Haak
So, it was about the floormats and pedals after all.
More than a year after Toyota’s reputation for quality and safety was damaged by a tsunami of recalls (18 million vehicles worldwide) to repair sticking accelerator pedals, and after a cloud of suspicion that Toyota’s electronic throttles were somehow at least partially to blame for the runaway Priuses and Camrys featured on the six o’clock news, it turns out that there apparently aren’t any electronic gremlins causing the problems. At least, that’s the findings after a 10-month study done by the US Department of Transportation, with the help of NASA engineers.
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