2021 Toyota Prius Hybrid XLE AWD: Still its own car and nobody else’s

20 Dec 2020 | 173 views | No Comment
      By Don Hammonds I distinctly remember the first time driving a Toyota Prius many years ago. It looked and felt like it came from some century beyond ours at the time, and it was teeming with all kinds of hardware, gadgets and gauges that fascinated everyone who saw it. But all the while--it was still a Toyota--with all the virtues that come with the brand: Well-built,  quality everywhere, and the sense that you were well taken care of while behind the wheel. None of that has changed. But the auto industry sure has transformed itself. Now we are far beyond the wonder of hybrid cars.  There are now hydrogen powered cars on the road. All sorts of technology that keep your car in its lane, warn you if another car is about to run into you as you back up, and other features to keep your car--and you-- safe.  Semi-autonomous cars are a reality, and we are now  close to having fully autonomous driving cars are only mere years away. Just about every brand has at least one hybrid model in its lineup, and now that we have all gotten used to hybrids, there's no further need to design your products to scream "hybrid" any more.  Hybrids are simply just one more model in the lineup on the market. It's against that backdrop that I drove the 2021 Toyota Prius XLE AWD-e Hybrid.  It's a car that you really should have on  your shopping list, whether you are in the market for a hybrid or not.   It has plenty of virtues--not the least of which is that it is astonishingly quick on the road and quite agile as it handles the road.  It has every conceivable creature comfort you can imagine--and some that you would never dream would be available on a relatively small car. Let's take a closer look:       2021 Toyota Prius XLE AWD Hybrid     Price:  $31,629     Economy: The Prius is rated at 49 miles per gallon overall, with readings of 51 miles per gallon for the city and 47 on the highway.  But we actually did a mile or two more on each of those measurements while we had the Prius. The Prius uses only two gallons of gas to drive 100 miles, and you can SAVE $3,250 in fuel costs over five years compared to the average new vehicle. Annual fuel costs is about $850 based on driving 15,000 miles a year for five years using gasoline that costs about $2.70 per gallon.  Performance: Wow!  Big surprise here.  Other hybrids have been panned for being too slow, but you won't hear anybody but speed crazy car writers saying that about the Prius.  The Prius, really, really accelerates immediately and lustily when you hit the pedal.  And don't even think of worrying about passing on the highway--the Prius moves forward briskly and quickly past anything including big tractor trailers. The Prius uses a Hybrid Synergy Drive System, AT_PZEV, with a 1.8 liter 4 cylinder engine, EV/ECO/ Power modes, and  would add that there is a big difference if you use the Power Mode. You are in for a present surprise. The car: Everyone knows the history of the Prius!  It's the pioneer of mainstream hybrid driving, and it basically is the same kind of car it was back then:  Fun to drive.  Vastly economical. ​Quiet.  But now you can add peppy and fun to drive on its list of positives. Previous generations were not nearly as lavish and full of luxury features as the current models of the Prius now carries, and I think people will be pretty surprised at just how much you get with the Prius--it is quite a value for the money. Safety: 10 airbags; Star Safety System, Toyota Safety Sense 2.0; Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection, Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist; Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Automatic high beams, road sign assist; BlindSpot Monitor with Rear Cross Traffic Alert; Intelligent Clearance Sonar with Intelligent Park Assist; Three Door Smart Key System with Push Button Start; Safety Connect with one year trial. Technology: Integrated fog lights, LED accent lights; auto On/Off Bi-LED headlights, LED DRLs; heated outside power mirrors, rain sensing wipers; 7 inch Touchscreen; six speakers; hands free Bluetooth phone/music, USB Media Port; two USB Charge-Ports; Sirius XM with three month all access trial; Android Auto & Apple Car Play Compatible; SofTec-trimmed  Heated front seats; 60/40 Split Folding Rear Seat; heated steering wheel; Wireless Smartphone Charger; Tire Repair Kit. Styling/Aesthetics: This is a tough call because the expectation of buyers when the Prius was first introduced have since changed.  Hybrid cars were supposed to look unusual, to stand out so that the buyers could say "I'm a hybrid owner" with pride. But times have changed. Hybrids have grown and are now present in every conceivable form of vehicle, and thus, you can find them in attractive, stylish versions of many kinds of cars and trucks. And there are plenty of good looking Toyota and Lexus hybrid products out there that prove my point, by the way.  Look at the current hybrid Camry. Or just about any hybrid model in the Lexus SUV lineup.  They are all really good looking, edgy, standout designs. Thus, on the whole, Toyota has done a great job--maybe the best in the industry--on making hybrid products look good. But the Prius is a bit behind the curve on this. It's been sort of left out from it siblings from Toyota. It still looks unusual enough to be a turn-off to people who are automotive style mavens---like yours truly! It just has so many angles, curves, sharp lines and otherwise usual elements and it just does not fit together as a unified whole.    . There is so very much to love about the Prius and I would buy one in an instant, but not with the styling presentation that it has now. Inside, the interior looks like a spaceship, as if to promote its no-longer unique status as a hybrid product.  Fit and finish is terrific as is the choice of materials and presentation, though there are a few spots where hard plastic is evident. But overall, I would not say that the interior is warm or inviting or cozy and comforting.  In fact it looks cold and stark to me.  I think that the design of the rear window still takes some time to get used to, and the gearshift pattern is odd enough that it will take a lot of time for some folks to get used to, and avoid mishaps in how they shift. Overall, I think that it's time for Toyota to bring the Prius more into the mainstream.  The days of far-out styling and presentation no longer is a requirement to be successful in the hybrid field. Warranty: 3 year/36,000 mile basic coverage; five year/60,000 mile powertrain warranty; and eight year/150,000 mile coverage for the Hybrid system battery.

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