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First Drive: 2016 Toyota Prius Four Touring

May be the automaker’s first-ever hybrid GT?

by on Mar.22, 2016

The top-line Toyota Prius Four Touring model starts at $30,000 plus delivery fees.

I’ve long been a fan of the Toyota Prius. Now in its fourth generation, the popular hybrid vehicle is offered in several trim levels, all with the mission of getting you around comfortably and safely with great fuel economy. But in what was typical for some Toyota products of the past, previous generation Prius models weren’t exactly fun to drive.

Why is this important? you ask.  After all, I just want some serious mpg returns.

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In case you haven’t noticed, oil prices have plummeted and folks are back to their giant SUV and truck purchasing ways. Not to mention a major increase in sales of performance cars that now exceed 500-700 horsepower! (more…)

Toyota Reveals Prius Tech Details

Higher efficiency, updated suspension, controversial design.

by on Oct.13, 2015

The 2016 Toyota Prius.

Five weeks after unveiling the 2016 Toyota Prius at a splashy Las Vegas event, the Japanese maker is finally filling in some of the critical details about the new hybrid-electric vehicle.

Among other things, Toyota claims the drivetrain on the 2016 Prius is significantly more efficient than the outgoing model. And buyers will not have a choice of either conventional nickel-metal hydride batteries or a more advanced lithium-ion pack. Improved aerodynamics and weight-saving measures are expected to deliver as much as 10% fuel economy.

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Toyota also is offering a bit closer look at the structure of the 2016 Prius, including details of its new independent rear suspension which is intended to improve the ride and handling of the fourth-generation hatchback.

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Toyota Counting on Diamond-Like Material to boost MPG of its Hybrids

New semiconductor chips could yield 10% better fuel economy.

by on May.21, 2014

Toyota believes new silicon carbide chips could improve the fuel economy of the Prius hybrid up to 10%.

It’s nearly as hard as a diamond, something that’s made silicon carbide a popular material for everything from abrasives to car brakes and even bulletproof vests. But Toyota thinks it’s found an alternative application that could yield huge benefits in hybrid vehicles, such as the popular Prius model.

By replacing silicon-only semiconductors in hybrid power control units, or PCUs, Toyota and partner Denso Corp. believe they can improve the fuel economy of vehicles like the Prius by as much as 10%.

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The maker says it will begin testing the new system on public roads in Japan “within a year.” It says it has already achieved a 5% increase in mileage in test vehicles but believes it can make additional gains before the technology is commercialized by 2020. (more…)

Toyota Introduces Prius Performance Package

Mean and green?

by on Jun.30, 2011

With the introduction of the Prius Plus Performance Package Toyota aims to give a little "mean" to its familiar green machine.

Who says a green machine also has to be a stone pony?

A number of makers are out to prove that clean, high-mileage battery technology can also deliver surprising performance with products like the Audi etron concept and the Mercedes-Benz SLS e-Cell.  But now Toyota is weighing in, offering up the new Prius Plus Performance Package, an alliterative way of saying a more sporty version of the world’s best-selling hybrid-electric vehicle.

The limited-edition Prius was developed with the helping hand of Toyota’s performance and racing arm, TRD, which is an immediate sign that this is more than just an all-show-no-go offering.

“PLUS is an evolution of hybrid design, where fuel-efficiency co-exists with aggressive styling and performance handling,” the maker explains.

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In practical terms, the Prius Plus Performance Package – P4, if you’ll allow us to use shorthand – starts out where the already aerodynamic hybrid leaves off.  That means a seven-piece aero package including front and rear lower spoilers, side skirts and a rear diffuser that not only add a bit of aggressiveness to the base car’s insufferably smug appearance but also improve its drag coefficient.

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First Drive: 2012 Toyota Prius v

Keeping it all in the family.

by on Jun.22, 2011

The 2012 Toyota Prius v is the first in an expanding family of Prius-badged hybrids.

There was a sense of déjà vu as we walked up to the new hybrid parked outside the Eagle Crest Conference Center.  But no wonder.  All similarities are purely intentional when it comes to the new 2012 Toyota Prius v, the first addition to what is soon to become an extended family of Prius-badged hybrids.

It’s been 11 years since the original Prius made its debut, promising an under-the-hood revolution that seems especially timely today with fuel prices nudging upwards towards record levels.  Surprisingly, though, that revolution never quite seems to take off.  Despite $4-a-gallon gas, hybrids today account for barely 3% of the total U.S. market and, all told, if you added them all up their collective sales didn’t match the May numbers for Detroit’s three most popular muscle cars, the Ford Mustang, Chevrolet Camaro and Dodge Challenger.

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Okay, maybe May wasn’t a great example, as Japanese makers like Toyota were still struggling with production cuts caused by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in Japan.  Sales of the Prius alone were off as much as 40%, company officials lament, due to supply shortages.  Indeed, for the moment, there’s barely a 4-day supply of the original Prius in U.S. showrooms.  The fact is, while American motorists have yet to embrace hybrids, on the whole, they’re in love with the distinctive little Toyota, which now accounts for about 50% of the gas-electric models sold in the U.S. (For more, Click Here.)

So, is it any surprise that when Toyota decided to roll out an assortment of new standalone hybrid models, like the new Prius v, that they would share the familiar and popular badge – and maintain a very familial appearance?

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Toyota Already Planning Production Increase of New Prius V Hybrid

Dealer orders outstrip Toyota projections - but will consumer demand keep pace?

by on Jun.08, 2011

Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda with the Prius V.

Strong, early demand is leading Toyota to sharply increase production of its all-new Prius V hybrid, the second model in an all-new brand-within-a-brand of gas-electric vehicles.

The maker – still struggling with production cuts due to the March 11 Japanese earthquake and tsunami – hopes to start rolling out 5,000 of the Prius V hybrid wagons by August or September, up from initial plans to build 3,000 a month.

Toyota is hoping that the Prius V will help sales of its hybrid models rebound from an unexpected slowdown in the key U.S. market once it goes on sale in the fall.

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Known in the U.S. as the Prius V, but sold elsewhere as the Prius Alpha, the new hybrid will be the second model to bear the familiar Prius badge.  Toyota plans to create an entire line-up of gas-electric models sharing the Prius name, including a small hybrid, tentatively dubbed Prius C, due to reach market about a year from now.  A plug-in version of the original Prius will also be introduced in 2012, and the maker hints other hybrid models could follow.

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Toyota Repairing 650,000 Prius Hybrids

by on Nov.30, 2010

Is that steam? The Toyota Prius faces another snag.

The big number recalls continue at Toyota, more than a year after the maker announced the first safety campaign caused by runaway vehicles.  The latest action involves 650,000 of Toyota’s third-generation Prius hybrid due to a defective coolant pump that can cause the vehicles to overheat and lose power.

Nearly 60% of the Prius hybrids involved in what is officially a service action were sold in the United States, according to Toyota, which says it will cover the cost of any repairs conducted at one of its dealerships.

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The maker says the problem involves an electric water pump that can slowly permit air bubbles to enter the coolant lines.  As that happens water circulation slows and temperatures rise, resulting in overheating  of the hybrid-electric componentry.

Initially, that should trigger a warning light, but if the problem is left unattended, the vehicle would drop into a “fail-safe” mode where power would be reduced.  It is not clear from Toyota’s statement whether permanent damage to the vehicle might result if the problem were still ignored.

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Toyota Delaying U.S. Prius Production Until 2016

Technology “not mature enough for local production.”

by on Jul.29, 2010

Toyota will delay until at least 2016 plans to produce the Prius hybrid in the U.S.

Toyota has reversed directions on its plan to produce the popular Prius hybrid here in the United States, and will now delay that move until at least 2016, according to a senior company official.

Despite growing demand for alternative propulsion – and increasing production by its North American-based competitors – Toyota’s production chief, Atsushi Nimmi, told reporters the technology for key hybrid components is “not mature enough” to take out of Japan.

Making the move to an American plant, he suggested, would have to wait until the next-generation Prius is ready, something now scheduled to happen until 2016.

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The decision comes in sharp contrast with previous Toyota pronouncements.

During the gasoline price spike of 2008, when fuel costs topped $4 and sales of the Prius and other hybrid-electric vehicles also set new records, Toyota said it would begin building the distinctive, high-mileage sedan at a new plant near Tupelo, Mississippi.

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Toyota Suggests Runaway Prius Incident a Hoax

Backed by NHTSA, Toyota says no evidence James Sikes' Prius was out of control.

by on Mar.15, 2010

James Sikes is now at the center of the Toyota sudden acceleration crisis.

Toyota is casting further doubt on the claims of a Prius hybrid owner who last week claimed his vehicle suddenly accelerated to 94 mph on a California freeway, racing out of control until he was assisted by a highway patrol officer.

The automaker said it was unable to find a cause for the sudden acceleration incident motorist James Sikes claims occurred on March 8th.  The automaker’s position is lent support by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, whose investigators joined Toyota to analyze Sikes’ Prius last week. (Click Here: Another Report of a Prius With a Stuck Pedal?)

“While a final report is not yet complete, there are strong indications that the driver’s account of the event is inconsistent with the findings of the preliminary analysis,” the maker announced during a news conference Monday afternoon.

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A statement from NHTSA did leave open the possibility that the claim was valid and a cause might never be found, however.

“We would caution people that our work continues and that we may never know exactly what happened with this car,” the safety agency noted in a statement.

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Toyota Not Ready With Fix for Prius “Carpet Entrapment” Recall

Maker focusing on other safety campaigns first.

by on Mar.11, 2010

Toyota has yet to begin repairing '07 - '10 Prius hybrids for a "carpet entrapment" problem.

Though Toyota announced the recall of 2007 through early 2010 Prius sedans, back in October, to fix a problem with so-called “pedal  entrapment,” the maker says it is still not ready to start making repairs to the hybrid.

There is no set date, but “we’re hoping very soon” to notify owners to begin bringing their Prius sedans into service centers for repairs, Sean Gilligan, a Toyota field technical specialist, tells TheDetroitBureau.com.

Part of what is known internally as the “90L” recall, the broader recall campaign was announced last October. It targets vehicles where accelerator pedals can inadvertently be jammed open by loose carpet or mats.  Originally, Toyota said that 3.8 million vehicles, including Camry and Avalon, as  well as Prius, were affected by the problem.  Since the beginning of the year, the automaker has expanded the number of models covered by the recall to more than 5 million.

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There were several challenges, Gilligan explains, before the recall can be completed.  First, Toyota has had to identify the problem, then develop a fix which can vary by model.  The carmaker started by focusing on higher-volume models, like Camry and Avalon.

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