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Two more weeks and the Toyota Prius long-term loan goes back home and already there is a sense of sadness building up. I've always been under the impression that in order to love a car, it must have a soul, character, flare and make you feel alive. Frankly, it doesn't.
I've spent the last two weeks driving the Prius to and from Brisbane CBD morning and afternoon and I think I've finally realised that perhaps, I am actually attached to this car on more levels than one.
When I drove a Bentley Supersports a few weeks ago, I had that immediate sense of falling madly in love with a machine that made me feel like I was 12 again. It was a treat, everyone needs to feel like that every once in a while. Then I came back to Brisbane and jumped back in the Toyota Prius and to my surprise there wasn't that sense of disappointment.
It's a bit like this, you know how women say there are two types of men, the one type which is like a caveman, big, built and generally mostly used for a short romantic encounter, then there are the humble family men, you know the type, practical, loving, caring, etc etc. I think cars such as the Bentley fulfil the first criteria, they are Sunday cars, only because you love them more that way. The Prius, on the other hand, is the epitome of an everyday car. You can't fault the bloody thing.
If I had all the money in the world I can assure you there would be a Prius i-Tech sitting in my garage (along side other cars such a Bugatti Veyron, Aston Martin V12 Vantage and an ABT tuned Audi R8).
So far the only things that have annoyed me with the Prius are the somewhat limited rear-vision due to the cars oddly shaped backside, the lack of native iPod support and the resulting distortion experienced through the auxiliary port and most importantly, the high pitch beeping noise it makes when you're reversing (I know I am reversing, there is no need to remind me every half a second).
All minor issues to say the least. On the other hand, it's one of the most comfortable cars I've travelled long distances in, it's incredibly quite to the point that pedestrians don't hear you behind them when you want to get past. It's packed full technology that you absolutely cannot find in any car for a similar price.
I think Toyota should attempt to market the Prius to the gadget lovers as well as the environmentally conscious as it has enormous appeal from a technological point of view. You can read more about its technological features in my previous updates.
I have now completely mastered the art of using the Prius' radar cruise control, the second I hit the highway, the speed is set and the Prius locks itself on to the car in front and takes over, it has never failed so I have grown comfortable with trusting it completely.
Although this is perhaps not its purpose, having a car driving itself is very handy. For example if the car in front suddenly brakes and you happen to be fiddling with the stereo (not that you should be) the Prius' super smart computers will react faster than you and hit the brakes.
If it detects that there may be a potential collision (e.g. a car merges infront of you) it will alert you by making lots of noise and warning you through the centre console as well. It will also do this even if cruise control is not set but you are travelling too fast towards the object in front.
Previously I haven't really talked all that much about the Prius' handling and acceleration, mainly because it seems almost irrelevant. However it's worth knowing that being based on a Toyota Corolla, it's actually not that bad. It corners well enough and when required, it will accelerate its way out of trouble. Remember it does have a 100kW petrol engine and a 73kw electric engine plus a massive 349Nm of torque (combined)!
Another concept I've mastered is letting the Prius drive on its electric engine only, if you're actively being kind to the accelerator you will notice that you can easily get up to 50 or even 60km/h with no need for the petrol engine turning on. Unfortunately given how hilly Brisbane is, this can be hard to do. The Prius does have this peculiar habit of insisting that it uses its electric engine when it gets up my rather steep driveway, which is entertaining as its climbing up a hill with no noise.
The Toyota Prius really is the beginning of all cars to come (notice how many clones are about to hit the market), if all cars on the market today featured the technologies found in the Prius we would have fewer accidents and perhaps less stress as well.
I am currently in the process of organising myself to attend the next Prius Club of QLD meeting. Having been a member of numerous car clubs in the past (mostly performance cars), I am fascinated to see what the folks get up to at the Prius club.
As a side note for all of you wondering regarding the current issue with the the Prius' braking system it's fair to admit that the unusual brake feel over bumps and rough surfaces has occurred for me a few times now.
It seems to be that delicate few milliseconds when the computer works out if it should use its electric or hydraulic brakes. It's apparently caused by the ABS kicking in (due to uneven surfaces) but it's a non-issues as far as I can tell.
Next update will be my conclusion which will hopefully feature comments by current Prius owners that have had their car for much longer than me.