A straight and simple review

This is my attempt in trying to review things that seem to get a lot of attention - especially in the engineering world. Not necessarily bad reviews, more like constructive criticism. I provide reasons why I make the claims and make equivocal arguments. I typically pick topics that I have a background in, or have gathered a lot of information. 2 articles a week is my goal - will keep it that way .

Monday, May 29, 2006

Prius the Lord

The Toyota Legacy

Toyota is good auto company. They make good engines primarily; hence all cars that carry these engines seem to work very well. Another achievement is the cost – Toyotas are relatively inexpensive, cars costing mostly in the range of 12,000$ - 35,000$. The SUVs , Trucks and mini vans uphold this reputation as well. The Toyota Hi-Lux (a variation is Tacoma in USA) is one of the toughest trucks in the world as shown in an episode of Top Gear (BBC UK). The new FJ Cruiser is a 2001 concept car that was successfully converted to road vehicle.

…and this happened

The Prius is probably Toyota’s worst piece of engineering. This is a science project converted to a road vehicle. At a cost of more than 22,000 $ , the Prius uses 2 engines – a 76hp 1.5l DOHC gasoline and a 67hp 500v electric engine. Having two engines clearly boosts the cost ( ..a lot) + the added intelligent technology of switching between the engines. Hence, Toyota has decided the cut corners in all the other parts in the Prius.
The engine is a no brainer – very low power. The acceleration, 0-60 mph time is 12 seconds and a top speed of 99 mph only. Let me not pick on that – too easy. Lets look at some other features that make the Prius , a toy.

(-) Rear suspension – nothing there , so makes the drive feel like an amusement park ride.
(-) The interiors are cheap recycled ultra light plastic – somewhat like Nilkamal chairs. Nothing in the interior makes you feel specifically majestic, looks just like every other Japanese interior. One special feature though – a screen that provides data about performance of the hybrid data. A Hybrid 101 sort, with a lot of graphics and sounds and color - an entertainment piece basically. Ofcouse, a definite selling point, especially to auto novice, who has no clue what ICE is.
(-) Transmission – CVT, worse than automatic. No manual gearbox option.
(-) Handling is , hmmm what can I say – a challenge. It was the runner up for the worst handling experience by BBC’s Top Gear (beaten by SMART fortwo). This is principally due to the low power and horrible traction on the wheels.
(-) Costs a lot of money! About 10,000$ more than a good Toyota Camry. For this price, you can buy a much better VW Golf or Jetta or the new GTI; a mini Cooper which has high mpg as well; or some of the several Hondas which reflect Toyotas achievements.
(-) It takes 5 years for you to profit from the mileage. So basically, you are not saving a lot on gas either.

Save the planet ?

Nope – not this one. It averages about 48 mpg. An old VW Golf Diesel averages at 65 mpg. Infact, the Audi/VW Diesel engine lies in the band of 55-75 mpg. Ofcouse, it matters how you drive the car. With Prius, it is hard to cross 70 mph, and with the Audi’s – you can cross 90 and lose some “efficient-performace”.
So if its not fuel that makes this car such a fashion statement – then what is it ?

(+) In many US states (including glamorous CA,FL,NY), Prius owners are allowed to drive on car pool lanes, not have to pay in selected parking lots, avoid a few taxes etc. (hmm)
(+) Less noisy – so gives the picture of a calm, tranquil mode of transport. Celebrities have it – many of them – so now it carries a Hollywood Drive of Fame.
(+) Easy political statement – can it get any easier than that? Buy a Prius and now you are captain planet Di’Caprio (who owns 3 Prius’ but drives around in an Escalade 4x4)
(+) Family 4 door, 5 seater – another added selling point. Ofcouse, if 5 people travel in it, the electric engine will never kick in – and you will be driving an 22,000$ Yaris (a 12,000$ non-hybrid car with the similar gasoline engine).
(+) The odd shape (based on a fish) is actually very aerodynamics at low speeds (abt 60mph). It has a drag coefficient of 0.24, which is very good and actually helps the mileage significantly.

In Conclusion

If you own a Prius (or considering to get one),

(*)then you probably own atleast 2 other vehicles for back up (good).
(*)you are a celebrity that needs attention cause you suck at what you do
(*)you are very rich, live in the city, need to buy milk from the next street
(*)you are the only occupant of the car, you don’t mind the low power, and have no where to go.

Don’t buy a Prius if

(*)you go on long distance travel (more than 20 miles/day) . Its good on the gas, but not on your back.
(*)you enjoy driving and the feel of mechanical power
(*)you are not the only passenger – and you plan on carrying SOME luggage at least.

Cars like the Mini Cooper, VW Golf and Honda Accord are more powerful, cheaper, have a high gas mileage and are truly wonderful driving experience. Infact, several Toyota cars including the new Yaris are very good alternatives for this science project they call – the Prius. The idea of Hybrid cars are good, but NOT THAT 1.


Blogger Suvir Venkataraman said...

I agree! Plus I think the shape looks God awful. If you want fuel efficiency you should just plump for the VW Golf Diesel which can hit 80mpg.

Nice review man, it made me chuckle...

2:33 PM  
Blogger BATMAN^V^EXILED said...

Lol Nilkamal chairs.. nice analogy. Dont know much abt cars but it looks as if ur right. Probably the guys in Southpark are too.

3:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Had no idea it was that hopeless..interestin stuff... learnt a lot there.. and reaaally good conclusion

3:31 PM  
Anonymous Horse said...

Hey just to let you know that yes I am promoting this but if you dont want to save at the pump then dont go to the site but I believe no matter who you are gas is just to expensive.

The goverment is using it and many other huge company's. This is not just some fly by night company or product. This is the real deal.

7:13 AM  
Anonymous WIllie said...

hmmmmm... a complete damage to the toyota quality standards, good one, they hav realized their mistake and are working on the next gen prius...

6:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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11:06 PM  
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1:17 AM  
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5:34 AM  

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