2004 Toyota Prius Long-Term Road Test

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2004 Toyota Prius: Jumpstarting a Hybrid

October 13, 2010

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How do you jumpstart a 2004 Toyota Prius? It's actually easier than one would think despite the intimidating hybrid technology under the hood.

Yes, last night our Prius was completely dead. Maybe someone left the interior light on all weekend. No one knows. In any case it needed a jumpstart.

By the way, FYI, when a Prius is completely dead, the gears don't work so you can't shift it into Neutral if you have to move it anywhere. Fortunately, our dead Prius was accessible.

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2004 Toyota Prius: Too Easy To Tame

October 07, 2010

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It's been awhile since I've driven our mega-mile Prius and it's everything I remembered. There's absolutely no steering feel. The ride is unrefined and the power is meager. In other words, it's about as far from a driver's car as modern vehicles get.

Knowing that, I'm not surprised that some Prius owners found their cars speeding beyond their control. They probably never really had control to begin with, they were just riding along.

Still, when I think back to the poor sap who said his Prius was "speeding down the freeway and he couldn't stop it" I just have to laugh. The Prius is so gutless it's hard to fathom the idea of it ever "getting out of control." The brakes are not great, but they are infinitely more powerful that the gas engine, the electric motor or any combination of the two. The idea that pushing on the brakes could not possibly overcome their propulsive force is just laughable.

Thankfully, the hysteria has died down and the incidents have seemingly vanished. Trust me, though, I wasn't the least bit worried from behind the wheel.

Ed Hellwig, Editor @ 84,988 miles

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2004 Toyota Prius: Valet Instructions Card

October 04, 2010

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Opening the center console of our 2004 Toyota Prius was like opening up a time capsule. Check it out, valet instructions. Apparently back in the day, the Prius' unconventional gearshifter was too weird to comprehend? In any case, these nifty cards, which come in a stack and have a hole in the top corner so you can attach it to your keys when you leave them with the valet, outline how to start, shift and park the car.

Searching Prius forums, it sounds like the cards were discontinued around 2005-2006. So here it is for those of you who bought a Prius that didn't come with them. Print them out and leave them for the valet or car wash attendants you're not sure of.

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor

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2004 Toyota Prius: Hot, Hot, Heat

September 27, 2010

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I try not to double-up on same-car posts in one day, but I had to share this picture of the outside temperature gauge in our 2004 Toyota Prius.

It ain't kidding. Rght now, here in Yorba Linda, California, 16 miles inland from the Pacific, it is 106 degrees F outside. The weather service is predicting a high of 108 degrees.

At least the electrically-driven AC compressor starts off strong and begins pumping cold air almost immediately after I press the "Power" button to start the car.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing

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2004 Toyota Prius: New Tires Cured Our ESC Problem

September 27, 2010

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Our 2004 Toyota Prius is wearing a brand new set of tires. The last set was badly worn, and the wear had grown uneven, over time. One had been driven on flat (or very low) long enough to score the inner and outer sidewalls. It was time.

The original Goodyear Integrity OE tires never got much love from our cadre of test pilots, so we wanted to try something different. Our choices were many because a lot of companies, Goodyear included, have brought out new "green" second-generation low rolling resistance tires for the Prius, each claiming more grip, shorter wet stopping distances, the same or better ride, the same or better noise and perhaps even a little less rolling resistance than the original rubber.

I was leaning toward the Bridgestone Ecopia, one of those new "green" tires. The final decision became simple because my local Bridgestone dealer, the one next to the Autozone where I dispose of my waste oil, was open this past Saturday, had them in stock and could do it in an hour, right then and there.

Done and done. The Prius had new shoes before I had lunch.

Furthermore, as I'd speculated, the new tires cured the Prius' steering wheel misalignment and ESC problems, single handedly and immediately.

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2004 Toyota Prius: ESC Freak Out!

September 25, 2010

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Over the last couple of days our 2004 Toyota Prius has sent out numerous Electronic Skid Control false alarms. Light flash, brakes sometimes grab to "correct" a non-existent slide and, most of all, a piercing piezo beep fills the cabin.

The first time it happened I has sweeping through an on-ramp. Was I going that fast? Not really. Did I hit a bump, or something? Probably. I didn't think much of it.

Next morning, my wife grabbed the keys to take the kids to school, 10 miles distant. She called back in 5 minutes.

"Get the van ready," she said. "I'm bringing this thing back. The skid control is going nuts."

One of the places she said it happened was the road above, not 200 yards from our home. There is nothing in the way of G forces here, just a gentle bend to the right as you coast slightly downhill to the stop sign ahead. It happens every time, exactly where this picture was taken, so long as the speed is 33 mph or higher. The posted limit is 35 mph.

And then I remembered some things that might add up to a theory...

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2004 Toyota Prius: Day 22 on the DL

June 09, 2010

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A little less than a month ago, I ran a baserunner down in a rundown, dove to tag him out, made the play, then landed on my outstretched shoulder. In the process I dislocated my shoulder and broke my humerus bone in three places. Oh, I also sprained my right wrist. It was unpleasant.

Since then, I've been living in a handsome 2010 Donjoy Arm Sling, which I've been told is the Cadillac of arm slings. This made a manual transmission out of the question, and my sprained wrist made low-effort steering a nicety. After a few days in the Insight, I was transferred into ye olde Prius where I stayed until today. I'm finally out of the sling and on the road to recovery. Hmm, I wonder if there's actually a Recovery, Ohio, or something out there. That would be fun.

Where was I? Oh yeah, 18 days in a Prius, which makes it the longest I've spent in a single car in more than three years since before I worked at Edmunds and drove an Acura TSX. And to tell you a secret, I don't mind the Prius.

I've actually never minded the Prius. Oh, I find many of its drivers infuriating, but as a practical form of transportation, it's a brilliant little car. The back seat is enormous, the trunk is useful, storage is plentiful, equipment is generous, noise is kept decently in check, the stereo is strong and the ride is comfortable. Oh, and I also managed 41 mpg making absolutely no effort to putter about like a half-dead hybrid driver.

I especially like that the Prius has gobs of character thanks to its many quirks. The weird shifter, the weird dash layout, the weird 1991 Pontiac steering wheel buttons aplenty, the weird digital gauges and heck, even the hybrid system is pretty darn weird. There's no other car like this second-gen Prius -- even the current-gen car -- and I like that.

Sure its boring to drive, sure its drivers move at the speed of continental drift and sure its driving position is intended for the average Japanese female, but I strangely like the Prius. But am I glad to be finally out of it? Oh yes indeed.

James Riswick, Automotive Editor on the DL @ 69,882 miles

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2004 Toyota Prius: Stop Beeping!!!

June 07, 2010

Beeping, plus commentary/enraged ranting. Why did someone think the Prius was the only car that needed this?

James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 66,815 miles

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2004 Toyota Prius: Educational Road Trip

May 10, 2010

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My fourth grader is working on a school report about the California Poppy Reserve (our state flower, ya know) and I decided the 100-mile run between our home in Long Beach and the reserve in the Antelope Valley was too short not to give her some firsthand knowledge.

So Saturday morning we drove the long-term 2004 Toyota Prius from the beach through the Santa Monica mountains, into the San Fernando Valley, passed by a Los Angeles aqueduct, rolled along Vasquez Rocks Natural Area Park and Red Rock Canyon State Park (Flintstones movie was filmed in one of those areas, Emma asks, "What do rocks have to do with vitamins?!") into the high Mojave Desert.

After exiting the 14 freeway in Lancaster on Ave I, we passed by a juvenile detention center, a state prison and a humane society before we arrived in the land of orange flowers.

The Prius chugged along through it all, struggling loudly up the sizeable grades, appreciating the downhill miles.

Next school project this month is about the San Miguel Mission, which Google maps tells me is 235 miles or a mere 4-5 hours each way.

Might need to pick a more ambitious car for that one.

Kelly Toepke, News Editor @ 68,405 miles

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2004 Toyota Prius: Easy Shifter

September 05, 2007

Toyota Prius - photo by Warren Clarke

An older friend of a friend is in the market for a car. She's got arthritis in her hands, and wants a car that won't be too manually demanding. I recommended the Toyota Prius. Here's why:

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Toyota Prius Welcomes Race Fans

April 12, 2007

It's not often the Prius has an opportunity to run a race track. But as a Long Beach resident, I couldn't resist giving the Toyota hybrid a chance to take on a section of the 2.02-mile Long Beach Grand Prix course on my way home this week.

Construction has been underway since early February or so, and race weekend officially starts tomorrow.

The mighty Prius and I were running the course in reverse, so the view through the windshield is around the bend in the front straight along Shoreline Drive, near the pits and the start/finish line...

At 32 mph, the Prius was in its sweet spot.

Kelly Toepke, Manager of Vehicle Testing at 48,153 miles

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Parking the Prius: Another Plus

December 04, 2006

With its snub-nose, hatchback styling, the Prius offers more than a roomy, extremely space-efficient cabin, it also makes for easy parking. While parallel parking, its a snap to back the Prius into place thanks to the additional glass window on the hatchback that allows you to easily judge how close you're getting to the car behind. That handy window isn't an innovation, however (remember the Honda CRX?). And the Prius' Pug-like nose allows you to usually back in and pull out in one shot, whereas a vehicle with more hood typically requires a couple of back-and-forth jockeying moves before it's clear of the car in front.

In other news, the climate/audio interface (aka the nav. screen) is still on the fritz. During this past weekend in the Prius, sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't. We're still waiting for the part to come in at Santa Monica Toyota which should be sometime this week.

John DiPietro, Automotive Editor @ 45,786

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