I good friend of mine drives a 2011 Toyota Prius. She is a woman, mid-forties, liberal, mother of three, an environmentalist and a Democratic lobbyist. She cares about her carbon footprint. She cares about gas mileage. She’s a good Democrat. So she bought a Prius. I’m a man, mid-forties, a liberal, father of two, and an automotive journalist (a lawyer in a former life). I am an average Democrat and I recycle, but I don’t consider myself an environmentalist. My daily driver is the Roadfly Black Bear Jeep Wrangler Unlimited which got around 16 mpg before we got our hands on it – now that we put a 4.5 inch suspension lift, steel bumpers, a winch, LED off-road lights and 37 inch tires it gets around 12 mpg. My other car gets around 8 mpg (it’s a ’69 convertible Camaro SS). So I’m not that concerned about gas mileage. But I wanted to spend some time in the 2016 Toyota Prius Four to see if maybe I should be.
My Prius Four came in a new-for-2016 color, Hypersonic Red, which I instantly thought will really stand out as a drive past gas station after gas station. At an average mpg of approximately 60 I didn’t figure I would be stopping very often. I would have to fill up the Roadfly Black Bear about 5 times for every one fill up with the Prius. That’s a lot of gas. And a lot of stops at the gas station. It got me thinking a little more about mpg’s.
The second thing that was very noticeable was the interior. The layout of the dash is very practical, just like my friends older Prius. The 4.2-inch color dual multi-info display features a digital speedometer on one side and other data on the other, however, both are totally customizable. The 7-inch infotainment touchscreen is clear and easy to use as it should be. What’s a bit curious in the interior, however, is Toyota’s choice of materials and colors. My Hypersonic Red Prius came with a black interior, which looked great against the bright red exterior color. The center console area, however, was somewhat curiously covered in a stark hi-gloss white plastic with the same white plastic on the bottom spoke of the steering wheel. It looks a little like a futuristic spaceship. It wasn’t really my cup of tea but it did give it a clean and efficient look, which really fits the Prius Four.
For 2016, Toyota made the Prius longer, lower and wider on the outside. Under the hood, Toyota installed its newly developed hybrid system that allows the Prius to operate more efficiently and quietly then its prior systems. The new hybrid system and improved aerodynamics results in a 10% improvement in fuel economy over prior models. The Prius now claims the title of best fuel economy of any mass-produced passenger vehicle available without a plug (at around 60 mpg that’s pretty impressive). Much better then the 12 mpg of my Jeep and the 8 mpg of my Camaro. Even after improving its already awesome fuel economy by 10%, Toyota was able to increase the cargo capacity of the 2016 Prius from 21.6 to 24.6 cubic feet for models with a spare tire and to 27.3 cubic feet for models with a tire repair kit.
There are two new-for-2016 safety technologies. Intelligent Parking Assist uses ultrasonic wave sensors that will steer your Prius for you into and out of parallel parking spaces as well as while reversing into regular spaces. Intelligent Clearance Sonar provides visible and audible warnings when obstacles are too close to the sides of the vehicle. Other safety features previously available in the Prius and found on the 2016 are blind spot monitors with rear cross traffic alert, heads up display, and brake assist for when you get a little too close to your garage wall when parking (which happened to me – thankfully a large red “BRAKE” sign showed up on the 4.2-inch color dual multi-info display and the car automatically kept me from hitting the wall). I tested the brake assist again with my garbage can to see how well it worked and it kept from hitting my garbage can every time. Really useful technology!!!
Charlie took the Prius Four on a 400-mile road trip and averaged 58.2 mpg at highway speeds Charlie tends to drive (I won’t mention what these speeds are but the picture says it all). The road trip was 75% highway and 25% city with the highway driving actually hurting during the mpg a little. Toyota reports combined/city/highway mpg at 52/54/50 so we exceeded Toyota’s reported mileage numbers by 6.2 mpg. That pretty impressive mileage!!! Gas on the corner in McLean, VA today is $2.15 per gallon. At 58.2 mpg, Charlie’s 400-mile road trip used 6.87 gallons for a total cost of $14.77. If Charlie had taken the Roadfly Black Bear Jeep on the same trip (at 12 mpg), he would have used 33.3 gallons of fuel costing a total of $71.66. By taking the Prius Four there was an aggregate savings of $56.90. Wow!!! And that’s just for one road trip. If any of you know Charlie very well, you know why he took the Prius Four and not the Roadfly Black Bear Jeep on that road trip. I wasn’t really a mileage guy before I had the Prius Four, but now I’ll think twice before I take the Roadfly Black Bear Jeep on a long road trip.