I recieved the new car registration sticker for the Prius this week. Hard to believe it's been a full year since I first drove the Prius.
After 14,000 miles and a year of driving the car around town, to and from work, and several long road trips, I have to say it's the best car I've ever driven. My Saturn, the first new car I ever had, still remains close to my heart from all the memories, but the Prius is a superior driving machine.
While the whole electric hybrid car is the first thing people think about when considering a Prius, I kinda forget about it most of the time. After spending the first few weeks watching the Info screen with the charging and mileage info, it got boring and I stopped doing. After Michele had the Prius up at 105 MPH on the I-5 with plenty left in the motor, I stopped thinking about performance.
For those that do concern themselves about mileage, I get 44 MPG pretty consistently. Yes, I know people can get 60+ out of a Prius, but I'm unwilling to do things like leave the air conditioning off, drive at 62.5 MPH, and fiddle with my tire pressure depending on the weather. That's still phenomenal mileage for a sedan that seats 5, even several six footers.
What makes the car good is that it handles many of the little things well. There are three main tasks that the Prius handles in exemplary ways.
The keyless entry and ignition is fantastic. I simply walk up to the car and it unlocks. I don't have to grab the keyfob to push a button. The car realizes I'm there, unlocks the doors and lights up the car interior. Once sitting in the car, I simply push the Power button and the car starts. Again, the keyfob can remain in my pocket. Once you do this for a while using a regular key seems old-fashioned and useless.
The implementation of Bluetooth in the car is nearly perfect. Once again, you simply start the car and it automatically connects to your mobile phone and now the car acts as your phone. There are buttons on the steering wheel to answer and hang up on calls. The car even accepts Bluetooth transfers of contact into a car based Address Book. There are three pages of one touch dial buttons you can configure.
The intergration of the phone is tight with the stereo so that the car mutes any audio, even pausing a CD, when a call is occuring. Hang up the call and your music starts right back up.
The only drawback is that you can't switch between mobile phones while in motion. You have to be < 5MPH to get into the settings mode to do that. Not a problem for most people, but I carry a work phone and a personal phone, so it's an issue for me.
Toyota didn't invent the GPS/Navigation system in the Prius, but they did integrate it well. Currently, I don't like driving a car without a Nav system. It's simply too nice to let the computer worry about exits and the details. I punch in where I want to go and the computer tells me how to get there and info about the the route. If I don't like the route it chooses, it's no big deal, I simply drive the way I want and the computer continuously reorients to the situation.
The deeply cool stuff is there in places like the location search. It's easy to type in the name of a place and call up it's location for use as a destination. But they went a step further and included the phone number as well. So when you call up a destination with a phone number the phone part of the car recognizes this and allows to dial that number directly. Who needs 411 when your car can do it?
There are a few drawbacks to the car, but they are minor. Not enough to get rid of the car, but since you loyal Cruft readers are infohounds, I'll include them.
When the car is in motion ( > 5MPH ) many of the menus are locked out on the display screen. You can't enter a new location into the nav systems, dial a phone number, or adjust many of the car settings. The idea is that when you are driving you should not be typing. I agree to a point, but when you have a passenger in the car, they should be able to do this.
There is a third party mod you can do to the car from Coastal Electronic Technologies that fixes this, but I haven't done it.
It's not a computer
I use a lot of electronics in my daily life and most of them improve over time due to software revisions. Problems are fixed and slowly things get better. With automobiles it's a different story. The car is forever locked into being a 2004 Toyota Prius. I'm not going get an email one day that says that an auxilary audio jack is been added if I just download a patch. I wish that the car could get more features over time without resorting to the 3rd party haxxoring. In theory Toyota could rev the software int he car and provide improvements, but it's not in their plans. They'd rather have me buy a new Prius.
If you are considering buying a Prius, just do it. You won't be disappointed.Posted by michael at July 22, 2005 09:11 AM