Posted on February 19th, 2010 No comments
Play the latest What Drives Us episode
This week Danny and Russell joined by Tony Schaefer to discuss, sorry, more on the Toyota recall, ton foil hat conspiracies, why does “sudden acceleration” occur (hint: it has to do with the gas pedal), more on the Nissan Leaf and the return of Maximum Bob Lutz, GM’s prognosticator supreme. We also pass along our most sincere sympathies to the families and staff of Tesla Motors for the tragic loss of three of their engineers in a terrible plane accident.
Download it through iTunes here.
Posted on February 8th, 2010 No comments
Just my opinion.
The news. What we currently refer to as “the media”. It’s a constant vacuum on our society sucking up everything within reach of its gaping maw and yet, all we get out of the other end, as with a household vacuum, is all too frequently just hot air.
The news cycle sucks the life out every event. And what’s more there’s a false hierarchy established, the lead story is, well, the lead. It has to be important or they wouldn’t talk about it first. It’s a ridiculous and arbitrary measure. As part of a futile attempt to fill time and grab eyeballs, we see stories which are trivial rise to international publicity right next to important stories. We see the same b-roll footage and hear the same sound byte vivisected over and over again by a small pool of reporters, commentators and pundits. It’s a frighteningly inbred pool.
I think, in a world where (/Don LaFontaine) truly important things are happening we’re seeing lead off coverage, for much of the last two weeks, on Toyota. On a car. On a recall, an event which is hardly unknown to this fine land. On a recall where the documented injuries can be counted on one hand. And no, that’s not to minimize anyone’s safety or the seriousness of issues involved. Something like the Toyota story demands coverage. But it also deserves, no, we deserve, as listeners, viewers and readers, we deserve to know the facts. We deserve to not have to sift through hours of speculation just because someone has to fill in the time between commercials (or space between display ads).
All of this ranting of mine is leading up to this. I think that once some of the dust from this settles we’re going to find out that if we had given this issue some time to develop and the parties involved time to respond, I think that if we understood all the legal and regulatory issues involved, we’d find a much less dramatic story. I think we would find something much less deserving of the treatment the Toyota recall and the 2010 Prius brakes have received. And I think if we’d been told about this in a rational, succinct and informative matter, we would be better served by those organizations whose secondary mission is, after all, to inform us.
I’m not absolving Toyota of anything here. Nothing. Rather, I am creating an indictment of the media who have, once again, let us down. I’m saying that we should know about this. All of us. I’m saying the way the media has handled the news has put a false imperative on the story and created the idea that Toyota was required to communicate daily with them on the issue. We need the media to put pressure on corporations. We need a media that holds corporations responsible for what they do. Now, more than ever, we need a media that is asking the tough questions, the right questions and delivering a clear and factual narrative.
How many of you think, no matter what you think of Toyota, that’s what we have?
What we don’t need are hourly reports when, in fact, there isn’t anything to report or information will be forthcoming. There’s a ticking clock put on some news stories that may or may not be a reasonable or even sensible. It’s all out proportion to the importance of the issue.
Back to Toyota. With regard to the 2010 Prius issues in the media. I think we’ll find out that Toyota has been and will continue to do the right thing for their customers. I think we’ll find that a lot of the smoke and heat from the media was just that.
I started this site almost five years ago (it will be five years in April). I started it for one reason. I wanted to create the kind of site I wish had existed when I was looking around at different Toyota sites. That isn’t to denigrate what anyone else is doing online. I think we’re all part of the what makes the net and to an extent, citizen journalism and commentary so vital. We’re just different parts and we perform different functions. I wanted the Prius Owners Group to be, I guess pretty selfishly, a site that I would like to read and I directly borrowed organization, intent and presentation ideas from my favorite sites. The POG has always been a place I could be proud of not because it’s the best or the most traveled or the most linked to. The POG is instead the very best that I can do. And there have been a few times in the last five years when I stared to feel like I was phoning it in. I didn’t have anything really passionate to post or comment on. And if you’ve been a regular reader, one of the dozen or so of you out there, you’ve seen times when not a lot happened here. It’s those times when I’ve chosen to let the site sit fallow, for a day, or sometimes more, rather than stuff it with filler. I value my time and you know, I value your time more than that.
Thanks for coming by and reading.
More news, as we get it.
Posted on October 23rd, 2009 1 comment
Look for new things coming from the Prius Owners Group soon. A whole new idea. All the stuff you love, news and my blather and some really cool new stuff.
Stay tuned. It will be good.
Posted on May 11th, 2009 No comments
I’m out sick today. I’m almost able to post this. Almost.
So while the lovely and talented Mrs. Priusownersgroup was out procuring some things to make my sickbed a little less miserable this happened,
Some sort of weird grouping was taking place. Sure, it’s 2009 and Prii aren’t the unusual sight they once were but still, three, right next to each other?
She talked to one of the other Prius owners (who was kind enough to snap this shot) while she was out.
And by the way, that awesome white 2005 Prius in the middle…it’s for sale. Yes, you can now buy the official Prius Owners Group Prius. Only 41,500 miles with a few nifty extras and new tires. If you’re seriously interested and somewhere near Lancaster, PA, drop me a line: email@example.com
And why, you may ask, am I selling my Prius? My new 2010 Prius should be delivered around the beginning of June.
Posted on February 13th, 2009 No comments
Like everyone in 2009, the Prius Owners Group is struggling in what looks like will be a very tough economic year. The Google ad revenue that once paid the bills has dropped so precipitously that it’s almost not worth having. Advertising sponsors have also slowed down. Luckily, the POG remains a one person operation and it’s hardly my means of support. I put a lot more money into the POG than I’ve ever managed to get out of it. Which is fine, the goal of this site wasn’t to fill my wallet it was just to give one Prius owner, me, a place to share my experiences and thoughts and to provide a place for other owners to share their thoughts when they wanted to.
And with all that said, there’s a little Paypal donation button to the upper right. If you find value here, if you learn something or every once in awhile I manage to make you chuckle over something I’ve written, please consider making a small donation (either one-time or recurring). It would help a lot and trust me, I appreciate every cent.
Thanks very much.
Posted on February 4th, 2009 No comments
I attended the Washington D.C. Prius Connection gathering on Monday night. Held in the spectacular atrium of the Ronald Reagan building a stone’s throw from the White House, the event was, well, pretty spectacular. I got meet a lot of D.C. Prius owners, one man claimed he was the first Prius owner (still has his 1999 G1 Prius with 92K miles on it!). The D.C. gathering was for local Toyota owners, dealers as well as a place for legislators and their staff to get afirst glimpse of the new car.
You can view the complete gallery from the event here. Below are some sample shots. I’ll be in New York for the NY Prius Connection on Thursday, look for pictrues and a report later on Friday and then, next week, it’s off to Chicago!
Here’s Mr. Irv Miller, Toyota Motor Sales Group VP, Environmental and Public Affairs and I at the gathering. My thanks to Mr. Miller for being willing to be photographed with the least photogenic guest at the party (that would be me and that’s why I normally take the pictures rather than model for them).
You can click here to see everything I shot Monday night and as I mentioned above, look for reports from the New York Prius Connection and Chicago coming very soon!
Posted on December 15th, 2008 No comments
Every new Prius driver will be happy to see this on his/her door.
Posted on August 17th, 2008 1 comment
Hart Seely of the Syracuse Post-Standard coughs up all the cliches and misinformation in this little tome to the Hummer. I’ll add some commentary interspersed with Seely’s tedious reportage…
Is it smug vs. smog?
By Hart Seely
These days, it’s not easy being king of the road.
Consider the Hummer H2, the four-wheel, four-star hotel. The thing goes anywhere with the quaint modesty of a Pershing tank. Of course, there is that 11 miles-per-gallon gas problem. Now and then, somebody accuses the owner of wrecking the planet.
Even Hummer dealers will say the Hummers get about 8-10, assuming you’re very lightfooted on the gas pedal. Nothing like driving your Hummer around town at 20 MPH to save fuel.
Then comes the Prius or, as some prefer, “Dorkmobile.” It fits into “green” parking spaces at the Carousel Center shopping mall and can ride in some cities’ carpool lanes. But now and then, somebody accuses its owner of secretly being happy about the price of gas.
Yes, because Prius owners don’t but gasoline. Why would Prius owners be happy about high gas prices? That’s about as stupid an accusation as I’ve read yet but I will say, at least it’s original.
Prius owners may not be impacted as much as Hummer owners by gas prices but neither group is cheering on $5 a gallon gas.
“There is the group that dislikes the Hummer and the group that dislikes the Prius,” said Ray Wert, editor of Jalopnik.com, a Web site that covers the auto industry. “And it’s for almost the same reason: the marketing of lifestyles that are almost nonexistent.”
Blather. Jalopnik is consistently one of the dumbest auto blogs running. And what does, “marketing of lifestyles that are almost nonexistent” mean anyway? I can’t comment on the Hummer lifestyle, whatever that is supposed to be but I know why I bought my Prius. I wanted a five passenger car that eat me alive in gas costs. It’s not a lifestyle, it was a very practical need that I had.
So goes the invisible duel between America’s two most loved and hated cars.
It’s Hummer vs. Prius, smog vs. smug, HOG vs. POG. (FYI: that’s Hummer Owners Groups v. Prius Owners Groups.)
On the nation’s paved and social highways, the two cars embody starkly different views of patriotism, opulence, personal freedom, ingenuity, lifestyle and say both sets of owners misunderstandings.
Honestly, this is grievously stupid. The idea that these two vehicles somehow embody the totality of the owners feelings about the issues above is ridiculous. It’s a car. It’s a transportation tool.
Take the anti-Hummer crowd, which includes environmental groups, left-leaners and mischief-makers. Web sites such as ihatehummer.com encourage motorists to give Hummer owners the one-finger salute. Last year, vandals smashed up a Washington, D.C., owner’s Hummer and scrawled an environmental message on its side. They denounced the car as a symbol of decadent wealth and waste.
Nice. Although, I have to admit I did think the Hummer salute thing was funny. For the first few minutes.
Never having been in the “I express my sense of self through my vehicle” crowd I really don’t understand a lot of this.
“They don’t know us,” said Joseph Contini, of Jordan, who runs Hakuna Matata Tanning Salon in Solvay and loves his 2005 H2. “That’s the biggest problem. They don’t know us.”
Then there are the anti-Prius legions. They include Rush Limbaugh, who once called Prius owners “phonies.” Web sites such as ihatetheprius.com rail about political correctness and pretentious Hollywood celebrities. Last spring, somebody in Santa Rosa, Calif., went on a Prius-bashing spree over several nights. To some, the hybrid symbolizes smugness.
Smug. Smug. Smug.
Seriously, it was funny once, when it was South Park. Since then, it’s like the annoying five year old that repeats something over and over again.
“All I can say is if anybody knows me, they won’t think that,” said Lois Bolton, 69, of Liverpool, who loves her 2004 Prius.
The notion of cars as socio-political icons goes back decades, says Syracuse automotive historian Walter Miller. In the 1960s, the Cadillac embodied wealth and conservatism, while the Volkswagen mini-bus became the hippie van of choice. In the 1980s, as U.S. car plants began closing, a cultural divide grew between people driving American made cars and Japanese imports.
Miller, who founded the now-closed Museum of Automobile History, says both cars could be future museum exhibits. The Hummer will fall to high gas prices, the Prius to technological advances.
Which will be most remembered?
“Probably the Hummer, assuming that we don’t ever go back to $10 a barrel gas,” Miller said. “It’ll be just like the ridiculous big fins of the 1950s that people kind of laugh at now. . . . It’ll be, ‘Those foolish Americans, look what they did!’ ”
Over the last 12 months, Hummer sales have plummeted 59 percent, despite a slimmed-down H3 model that gets better mileage than a few SUVs. General Motors might sell the Hummer line.
But Priuses are in such demand that Toyota upped their price last spring and still has a waiting list. The Prius gets an estimated 48 mpg in city driving.
The 2008 H2 15 feet long, nearly 7 feet wide, and with a chrome grill the size of a snow plow retails for $58,325, according to the Kelley Blue Book directory. But gas prices are taking their toll. A 2005 H2 with 60,000 miles is worth half the current price $28,665, a drop of 51 percent according to the Blue Book.
A new Toyota Prius Touring Hatchback costs $23,700. The used 2005 version, with the same mileage, comes in at $19,230 a drop of 18 percent.
Actually about $21K used. It depends on the source you’re quoting and whether you’re looking at retail or trade-in value but that’s a hair low.
As Hummers grow rare and Priuses common, their enemies likely will move on. Congress in 2003 closed a Hummer tax loophole that infuriated the anti-Hummer crowd. Since 2005, the tax breaks have gone to the Prius, with other incentives.
Eh? That credit, for the Prius, expired some time ago and, as far as I know, there are not any other current federal rebates or credits on the Prius. There are possibly some state incentives but none that I am aware of.
Last year, the Carousel Center in Syracuse as part of Destiny USA’s vision of an energy-efficient shopping mall began offering hybrid and economy cars choice parking slots near the entrances. Soon, protest letters to The Post-Standard singled out the Prius. Their owners caught the blowback.
“green” parking spots? Come on, that’s just childish. I understand what they’re saying but that’s really a terrible application.
“I used to get the comments like, ‘You stupid tree-hugger,’ ” recalled Richard Pietrafesa, a managing director of Destiny, who drives a Prius. “Now, people are a little more reserved.”
Pietrafesa said he’s sensed at times a view that Prius owners are smug. He gets it at the gas pump, from the 12-mpg crowd. Pietrafesa says he has no right to be smug, because his wife drives a big, gas-chugging Chevrolet Suburban.
“You look at the amount of gas she uses to get our family from one place to another, compared to what I use, and it’s ridiculous,” Pietrafesa said. “Either one, we’re just getting to the same place.”
Of course, no motorists endure more hairy eyeballs than those in the Hummer. Some develop a stock answer to critics.
“I’m 75 years old, and I didn’t get my first car until I was 55,” said Nancy Rifken, of Fayetteville. “As far as I’m concerned, I have about 30 years of gas coming to me. . . . I never had a chance to use up my portion.”
May as well take all that nasty oil with you, eh? A wonderful paean to the use it before you die crowd.
And don’t get me wrong, Rifken can use whatever she can afford. But I don’t have to respect her consumption for consumption’s sake attitude.
At 5 feet tall, Rifken said she enjoys being able to see the road in her H2.
“When I get out, what I usually find are guys laughing at me,” she said.
Many owners view their Hummer as more than a car.
“Some people spend their money on a boat, or an ATV, or on a camp,” Contini said. “Our thing is the Hummer and, believe me, it’s a lot of fun.”
Last January, he and his wife Kris bought a used H2 for about $32,000. It had just 13,000 miles on the odometer. They travel to off-road trail parks, where they drive a style called “treading lightly,” no easy feat in a 6,614-pound beast. Their CNY Hummer Club (http://cnyhummerclub.com) attended a Hummer jamboree this summer in central Pennsylvania. They plunged through mud holes, rolled down hills and up huge boulders, boldly going where no Jeep can go. They went places they couldn’t go having to pull each other out.
“There’s nothing like it, when the water is coming right over the top of the hood of the Hummer,” Contini said. “It’s amazing the power that these things have.”
But with $4.20-a-gallon gas, one owner brought his H1 to the Pennsylvania jamboree on a trailer, rather than drive it.
On a trailer? There’s a message there.
Contini and Brewerton Fire Department Chief Michael Stassi hope to launch a local chapter of HOPE: Hummer Owners Prepared for Emergency. The group can serve as a backup force to help public agencies during disasters, such as remote area searches. They trained at the Pennsylvania event.
At a Hummer Club meeting, members wore Hummer shirts, caps an entire Hummer line of gear. And behind Driver’s Village in North Syracuse, there is an obstacle course just for Hummers.
“I have a love for these vehicles in my heart,” said Mike Sweetman, sales consultant at Burdick Hummer at Driver’s Village, as he swerved an H2 around the steel gate and onto the course. He navigated a set of steel rollers, ascended a 16-inch vertical wall, then climbed a 60-degree peak, a mini roller-coaster ride.
“I could drive up onto the hood of that car, if somebody would let me,” he said.
For the record, he was not pointing toward a Prius.
But Hummer owners have taken their share of grief from the hybrid crowd.
“Wait until they have to replace the battery,” Contini said. “I’d like to see how these hybrids will hold up after a few years.”
Dumb. Dumb. Dumb. The classic ignorant comment about the Prius. The batteries we use last a very long time and all of us have great warranties on the hybrid systems in our cars. If it helps t believe something else, please, feel free to. Just don’t delude yourself that you’re making a salient comment.
Two years ago, Hummer owners rejoiced when an Oregon-based research company claimed that, over the course of the cars’ lives, the Prius actually used more energy than the Hummer. The study didn’t hold up. Last year, the company refuted its findings.
Ah yes, the fully debunked and ridiculous CNW Marketing piece. Nice call. Just in case I wasn’t sure that the writer here was intellectually atrophied and otherwise off their game, now I can be sure.
But there is still the smugness. The TV show “South Park” has skewered Prius owners for contributing dangerous levels of “smug” to the environment. The car has relentless critics online.
“What is a Toyota Prius good for?” asked a headline in the popular Web site fark.com. “Target practice.”
-No one is required to buy a Prius.
-I shoot back.
Wert said the Prius’ popularity stems from what has always sold cars: image. “You’re not saving the environment by driving a Toyota Prius,” Wert said. “There is an internal combustion engine under the hood, just like there is one under the hood of a Hummer. The question is, is one car really morally superior? I don’t really know the answer. But I do know that if you talk to strong proponents of mass transit, or of really green living, they’ll tell you that it’s just a way to make people feel like they’re doing something for the environment.”
Morality? Of the Prius? You’re joking. Look, I can only speak for myself. I bought the car because it was, by far, and still is, the very best alternative for me to move adults around in reasonable comfort and not chew up a bunch of gas doing so. If you want Hummer, more power to you. You obviously have more money to waste than I do. But this isn’t a moral issue insofar as one person being better than another merely by owning a particular vehicle. There’s much more to it than that. So reducing this all down to cartoon proportions is not only simplistic but really rather childish.
Saving fuel, being more environmentally conscious isn’t a game one wins or loses. At least I think the idea is to improve where you stand. Do a little better. Contribute less waste, save a little more. It’s not a shallow contest where one person is crowned “green” and the rest of us are terrible people.
But maybe that’s just me.
And then there is the secret dream of Hummer owners: The mini-tank that gets 50 miles to the gallon the cross between the Hummer and the Prius.
It would certainly get their attention in the Middle East.
Hart Seely can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 470-2247.
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Posted on July 28th, 2008 1 comment
It’s my birthday today! At this point in my life I really don’t look all that much forward to adding another year to the cumulative total. Granted, having a birthday is vastly preferable to the alternative, still, when you’re nearing a half century of in service, the gloss of b/days tends to wear a bit.
All that said, today is a one day fund drive to help support the POG and the first fund drive of this 2008.
I’ve set up two ways to donate. The top button allows you to make a one time donation in any amount you wish. The button below that is set up for a recurring $5 per month donation (which you can cancel at any time).
With more traffic and interest in the Prius means that POG server costs going through the roof. This month those costs doubled. I love the traffic, the emails and the higher visibility. Hopefully the POG has given you, the reader, something of value. Would you please be kind and generous enough to kick back a few cents in our direction to help keep the prius owners group going?
Make a very important donation to the POG in any amount you choose by clicking on the button below.
You can donate a recurring $5 per month by clicking on the button below.
Just as a warning, coming in September will be our second and final fund drive of the year. I’m trying to put together another long distance POG Road Trip and I’ll be asking for help then as well. Come on, two fund drives per year, one lating only a day isn’t too bad, is it?
Posted on July 28th, 2008 No comments
Thank you for donating to the Prius Owners Group. Your contribution means a great deal to me and it is critical is helping me keep this site up and running. As costs to maintain an ever more popular increase a few dollars from you each month help me keep the POG going.
Thank you again.
If you want to cancel an existing subscription, click the button below…
Posted on April 11th, 2008 No comments
It’s Friday. That means another week at the Prius Owners Group is in the can.
I’ll be back on Monday with more Prius news and commentary.
Have a great weekend. Have fun and drive safe.
Posted on February 26th, 2006 No comments
Russell’s Prius Pages…
February 26, 2006
It occurs to me I haven’t added anything to this in some time (as the dates above indicates). Of course, if you’re reading the main POG pages, you know that’s not true. But I should record some things here as well. So let’s do a little review of where I am at with regard to my Prius some ten months and 11k miles after getting it.
It’s still winter here in Lancaster though it’s hard to tell sometimes. Today it was 48 and sunny. Tonight, it’s 22. This is certainly the mildest and most snow-free winter since we moved here almost three years ago. But I think it’s reasonable, given the regular email questions that I get, to talk about how the Prius does in winter, and in snow.
If nothing else, the Winter Road Trip to Quebec earlier this month proved to me the Prius can handle whatever Ol’ Man Winter wishes to dish out. It snowed about 40cm during our four days there and we managed to get wherever we needed to go without incident. No sliding. No digging out. All this on stock tires. If nothing else, that’s impressive. And don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a “winter car”. It doesn’t perform like a four wheel drive vehicle. However, it’s not supposed to. I think the important point here is that for the vast majority of owners and potential owners in the wintry realms, the Prius will do whatever you need it to do.
My mileage is down this season. Anywhere from 10-20% depending on the activities, temperature and driving conditions. That’s a bit disappointing but not surprising. I was told and read that the mileage goes down in the winter. Still, I’m maintaining a seasonal average of about strong 40MPG, which satisfies me.
I think the only thing I’m disappointed in is the heater. It’s not electric, it gets warmth, as most heaters do, from the ICE. This means the interior of the car doesn’t warm up until the ICE is warm. For me, who is prone to taking short trips, on the average of a couple of miles or so, most of the time I’m halfway to my desitnation by the time the car warms up. Not a huge deal really. It does make me miss my remote starter (though I’m not sure how that would function, if one could be installed on the Prius at all, anyway).
I guess the thing that still keeps amazing me about this vehicle is that it’s filled such a mutli-function role in our family. Since we got the Prius, a four door vehicle with ample stowage in the hatch, my wife felt as though she could get rid our of our Jeep (and I agreed with her). So she got the car she’s wanted for a long time, an Audi TT. Which means if sometime or someone needed to be hauled around, the Prius was our go-to car. And it’s performed admirably. Whether it was taking five adults to New York City (about three hours each way) or loading it full of firewood, the Prius can do it. It’s comfortable with people in it and it has an amazing amount of interior storage space. So when I needed to haul lumber, I used the Prius.
I think what’s interesting about much of my positive thinking about this car is that it has nothing to do with the prime motivation for getting it, it’s hybrid nature. That’s a given. I don’t even think about it anymore (and not feeling a pang of pain as I drive into a gas station is a nice thing indeed). I just use it and it works for whatever I want. That’s just good basic design that has nothing to do with it being a hybrid. For me, that’s a quite a testament indeed.
August 2, 2005
I know it’s an odd reccommendation but one of the best things I can say about this car is, it’s just a car. Sure, it’s a hybrid. It’s got all this drive by wire, computerized stuff going on it all the time. But day in day out, the really important thing is, it’s a pleasant, fuel efficient way to navigate between points A and B.
As far as observations a few months into my ownership, well, aside from the gushy stuff, nothing. And that’s good. We’ve cut down our family fuel expenditure by a ridiuclous amount. We have a Jeep Liberty and the Prius. The Liberty goes with my wife to work five days a week, the Prius does everything else.
It’s nice to be able to go on driving trips again with my wife. We love to travel by car and Pennsylvania is still new to us so there is always something to see. So our destination is an hour or two away. No big deal We hop in the car and go. There’s a freedom to that you don’t get in a lot of other cars (unless someone else is making payments on your gas card). It gives us time to spend together doing something we love and we didn’t have sacrifice comfort for it.
June 11, 2005
Another week has passed and nothing of note really happened. I put a couple of hundred miles per week on the car and it performs, well, as one would expect a car to perform, just with better gas mileage. And I think that’s the real obvious secret you don’t see mentioned much about the Prius. It is, in the end, a car. That’s the marvel, the triumph of the Prius. It;s an excellent vehicle. That it happens to be fairly radical new technology that uses energy so efficiently is important but it misses the main mission of the product. The Prius is, first and foremost, an excellent car.
Overall, going into my third month of ownership, I’m still very satisfied with the Prius. Its’ mileage is excellent. It’s a fun car to drive and it’s comfortable.
June 6, 2005
Well, we did over five hundred miles in the new Prius over the last 36 hours. My wife and I picked a friend at BWI, then took straight to Manhattan for the evening, then, yesterday (Sunday, June 5) went back home to Lancaster. The golf cart got 51.6 MPG the whole time and performed most adrmiably. I got a little scared getting stuck in midtown traffic on Saturday. A typically hot and sticky New York day where the AC was working overtime. The battery level was down to two purple bars while sitting there. I had no problems mind you, just the anxiety of knowing the batteries were low. Be that as it may, the Prius was a joy in New York. Its’ size made parking and driving simple and while some of the roads in New York were tough on the car (and its’ inhabitants) I know this is equally true of many other vehicles.
One thing of note, we saw of bunch of Prii while there. And I do mean a bunch. Clearly the Prius has proven itself to be a good car for New York, and why not? At one point, parking in Greenwich Village for dinner, we counted two other Prii in the single block stroll to the restaurant (Benny’s Burrito, not bad either). Three Prii in one block. I think things are catching on.
May 15, 2005
Today marks the conclusion of my third week of ownership of the 2005 Prius, now designated, “The Golf Cart” (or more likely, the dirty golf cart attesting to the near constant appearance of any white vehicle even if Toyota does have the hubris to refer to this particular white as “Super White”). I wanted to wait a few weeks into ownership to set down my initial impressions rather than write something, as I was sorely tempted, right away. I’ve just made the appointment for my 1,000 mile service (this Friday, May 20th) so I think now is good time.
No, unless you modify the vehicle or have some extremely Zen-like driving attitudes you won’t get the 55 average MPG the EPA sticker claims. That said, I’ve been driving like shit and I get a strong 44 for the last two tanks. And I’ve done this purposely to see what the car would do when I wasn’t trying to slipstream behind every SUV and tractor on the freeway (which, by the way, works extremely well). I live in downtown Lancaster Pennsylvania. It’s a five to ten minute drive to the freeway (depending on traffic) so the heart of my driving is stop and go. Accelerate and brake. In one sense, this plays to the strengths of Prius and it’s Synergy Drive. For most vehicles, this is the worst place to try to get mileage. All in all, mileage-wise, given the manner in which I’ve had occasion to drive the vehicle, I’m ecstatic about the mileage. At 44 MPG on the low end I know I could get fifty easily but why? I can now drive around like a proverbial banshee and still save a prodigious amount of fuel. Or drive even somewhat sanely and do even better. I think for now I’ll be avoiding the high mileage tricks and just enjoying the vehicle.
Comfort and convenience.
The 2005 Prius is large. It’s not a small car, it’s in the mid-size category and the interior is, by any estimation, spacious. Even with the front seats adjusted fully towards the back of the vehicle I’ve had a six foot four inch individual in the back seat (and another friend) with no problems. The seats are firmly comfortable. The hatchback and folding rear seats mean I can carry very large items in this car with no problem. It compares favorably in every way with our Jeep Liberty, a comparison which, by its size, weight, mileage and price, should have much more room than the Prius. Most amenities are within easy grasp. I’m not a huge fan of the center console. It’s difficult to open while driving (I probably should not be doing that anyway). I wish the car had an ashtray.
I’ve taken the car on four trips in the four-hour range, each time I exited the vehicle not feeling as though I had spent the last few hours in “the rack”. The legroom is ample.
One extremely trivial thing, I hate the little “nub” that the floor mats mount on. I’m constantly dragging my foot across it and of course, since it’s a new vehicle, I figure one of these times I’ll be breaking it off thus sending my floor mats on an endless journey around the floor of the vehicle.
The cup holders are not adjustable but they are well designed if a little bit “floppy” with some beverages. I like the fact that they disappear when not being used and very sturdy.
The upper seat belt has a height adjustment that is nifty.
I’ll include the audio/video system in “comfort” since it is hardly a necessity. I have “package 2″ which means I have the basic Prius plus SmartKey, Anti-theft system and self-dimming rear view mirror. No audio upgrade (more on the other stuff below). It’s a basic Toyota system. Six speakers, tweeters in the front above the dash (in the pillars on each side of the windshield), six inch woofers in the lower front door and something in the back. How would I know what is back there? I’m always driving. Overall it sounds good. It’s not the loudest thing in the world and I would bet money they have intentionally tuned the amplifier gains down to preserve the longevity of the speakers. Single disc in-dash CD with AM/FM radio. The controls are split between the MID and the in-dash unit itself. This can be a confusing at times but neither unit is out of reach. The steering wheel controls are great though I am not all that enamored with their location. This is one area where my wife’s Jeep excels. The steering wheels controls on her Liberty are really more ergonomic in my opinion. Still, it’s nice to be able to fully control the audio system without taking your hands off the wheel even if to does mean some “full octave” reaches.
SmartKey is the best thing since cars themselves. No question about it. While it’s not an enormous or vital thing it’s one of the most convenient and subtle improvements on a vehicle I’ve ever seen. So far, I’ve never inserted the key in the dash to operate the vehicle. I love the fact the key can sit in my brief case (or in my pocket) and the car senses it. I never have to fumble for the key. This is especially convenient when your hands are full, let’s say coming out of a store. All one need do is stand by the door, wait one to two seconds for the beep and voila! The door opens. SmartKey is great.
The anti-theft system is nice for two reasons. So far, it’s never falsed on me yet and so far, no one has stolen the vehicle. A more elaborate or effective anti-theft system I could less about.
Finally the highlight, at least visually, of the interior of the Prius is the MID or “Multi Information Display” as Toyota rather haltingly refers to it. This six inch LCD, touch screen, display panel is centrally mounted in the dash, well within easy reach of the driver. You control the climate controls through the MID. You control the balance, fader, bass and treble of the audio system with it (as well as your station presets for the radio). It also displays the mileage computer information. While some have derided the little animation detailing where power is going to and from, I’ve rather found it informative. At least early on it’s objective and direct feedback on how to alter one’s driving habits if one wishes higher mileage. Or, perhaps more to the case point, just how detrimental some driving habits are to mileage. I like it. It’s simple. Easy to use. And while full, mid-day sunlight can wash out the display, I’ve only had this occur briefly once or twice. It’s not a problem in general.
It’s the little things.
Front visibility is good though it takes some getting used to not being able to see the front projection of the vehicle. The slope of the hood makes it appear there is nothing in front of the driver but we all know, that is not the case. Rear visibility, while adequate, is just that and no more. I may be more of a stickler on that than most. In fact, I’m pretty sure I am. I diligently check my mirrors and what not whereas I know people who can cross entire states and not look “back” once. Be that as it may, the pillars of the Prius make for, to a favorable face on it, a very “focused” view to the rear. It’s not bad mind you and I’m surely more used to my previous Volvo and my wife’s Jeep but the Toyota’s field of view to the rear is a bit narrow for my tastes. So far though, it’s not proved to be more than a very trivial annoyance.
Since my wife rarely deigns to wear her seat belt, I’m often left with the annoying blinking passenger seat belt warning light. It really should turn itself off after 30 minutes or so.
While the overall acceleration of the vehicle is fantastic (due to the Synergy Drive train) there have been a few instances where I’ve “punched it” and there was a slight delay before anything happened. Not a good feeling especially when one is used to a gas vehicle. That said, given the overall superior performance, a couple of glitches I can live with.
Other than these things, I have not found a bad thing about this vehicle. No problems with construction, no “bugs”. Nothing badly made or poorly engineered. Nothing broken. Sure, you should be to say that about any new vehicle. Exactly, you should be able to, but many new car owners can’t say it.
The best way to say it, I love this car. And I’m a car hater. I love motorcycles. Cars have never been something I’ve yearned to own and enjoy. They were tools, a means to an end, no more. I’ve come to really enjoy this vehicle. Cruising silently through the tree-covered streets of downtown Lancaster to my home is blissful. I love the idea that gas is not a major expense and now we can consider taking long road trips in a comfortable car (not that the Jeep wasn’t comfortable but it sure isn’t cheap to drive). I would highly recommend this vehicle to anyone considering a new car purchase. I did a lot of research and while I was initially attracted to the Honda Insight with it’s higher mileage rating but the overall more flexible utility of the Prius really won me over. That and Toyota’s (thus far) well earned reputation for building a quality vehicle and providing strong service after the sale.
The cool factor.
If there is something cooler than silently blasting out of your parking spot then I’m not sure what it is (at least with regard to cars). If there is something cooler than the large round “Power” button on the dash used to start the vehicle, I sure haven’t seen it in another car. And for coolly weird, the joystick “gearshift” is as disconcerting initially as it cool later on. No clunky gears, no linkage, just flip it into gear and go. The Prius has cool factor in spades. Say whatever you want about hybrid vehicles, the Prius has everything I’ve seen in its’ price class smoked for cool. Add to which, the ongoing cost of this cool is not being penalized for driving your car. The Prius certainly doesn’t make me cooler but I certainly do enjoy its little features and idiosyncrasies.
What are you waiting for? Go get on a Prius waiting list.
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