Toyota Prius - Superman of Automobiles?

2004 Toyota Prius Long-Term Road Test

Toyota Prius - Superman of Automobiles?

November 13, 2006

When the curiously shaped Mr. Prius first arrived people asked, "What are you? A bird? A plane?" Mr. P replied in a strange, humming voice," I am a hybrid, and I'm here to save the earth." The questions continued, "How do you drive? Are you faster than a speeding bullet?" With a chuckle Mr. P clarified, "No, no, no, I only look like a bullet."

Prior to this weekend I had not spent much time in our long-term Prius (nor had a seen the 'History of Superman' special on A&E). After 4 days behind the wheel trying to diagnose a potential fuel gauge problem, I realized a couple of things about this car first-hand:

I was under the misconception that the Prius, with its free-pass to the carpool lane (above), guaranteed speedy travel for my daily Long Beach to Santa Monica commute along the 405 freeway. Wrong. While it helps quite a bit outside the rush hours, the always-congested Thursday drive proved to be its kryptonite - - not even mighty Mr. Prius could resist its energy-sucking powers. What a hair-pulling turn of fate to be trapped at a standstill behind the double-yellow lines of the carpool lane as everyone else drove right past me.

Another observation: The NAV system is straightforward and easy to use but the screen does not fare well when the sun is up. Minimal sunlight produces a glare that renders the display completely useless and there does not seem to be a fix outside of holding a hand over it to shield the light.

Following a couple of fill-ups and several hundred miles we're yet to experience the same fuel read-out issue, which is good news. During the last 400 miles my fuel mileage was an eco-friendly 49.3 mpg in mostly city driving. We'll continue to pay close attention to the fuel situation but as of now it appears we're all systems go.

Mike Schmidt, Vehicle Testing Assistant

44,848 miles

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