The Second Generation Toyota Prius (2004 - 2009)

The next generation 2010 Toyota Prius is due on January 12, 2009; a plug-in, solar Prius has been produced in prototype form.

Prius review / 2010 Prius / Plug-in Prius / First generation / Long-term test drive / Police cars / Lexus Hybrid / Highlander Hybrid

The mid-sized second-generation Toyota Prius is larger and faster than the first-generation, with a high level of standard equipment:

Unlike some competitive systems, the full hybrid system is capable of operating in either gas or electric modes, as well as a mode in which both the gas engine and electric motor are in operation.

The advantages of a full hybrid system (also used on the first Prius) are numerous, but the most important is that because the car can be run under certain conditions with electric power only, fuel consumption and emissions can be reduced significantly.

A major improvement is the duration of electric-mode driving and the peak power delivered electrically. The Hybrid Synergy Drive has a 50 percent more powerful 50-kilowatt drive-motor operating at up to 500 volts, with a newly adopted high-voltage power converter. The generator in the new Prius has a higher peak operating speed that increases electric-mode operation in city and freeway slow-and-go operation. With 50 percent more electric power available and improved low-end torque from the drive motor, a significant boost in acceleration performance is possible.

Combined mpg is now in the mid-50s, higher than the first generation or any other mid-sized car (twice the combined mileage rating of its closest competitor). Hybrid Synergy Drive significantly improves acceleration, going from the mid- 12-second range to the mid- 10-second range. This acceleration level is comparable to the Toyota Camry LE four-cylinder.

Hybrid Synergy Drive enables the Toyota Prius to produce nearly 90 percent fewer tailpipe pollutants than a conventional internal combustion engine. Prius is certified as a SULEV, or "Super-Ultra-Low-Emission-Vehicle" for tailpipe emissions in states adopting California standards. In the rest of the country, Prius is certified as Tier 2, Bin 3. In addition, in states adopting California rules, Prius is certified as a PZEV category vehicle. PZEV, or "Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle," which includes meeting a zero fuel evaporative standard, a 150,000-mile durability demonstration, and an extended emissions system warranty.

With its triangular mono-form shape, it is a dramatic visual departure from the original Prius, and contributes greatly to one of the most aerodynamic production vehicles on the planet. At an amazing 0.26, its coefficient of drag is a major factor in the vehicle's interior noise isolation. The basic chassis has been greatly reworked, and it now has six inches longer wheelbase. The rear lift-back and fold-down rear seat combine to offer a new level of cargo hauling flexibility.

The new Prius is electronically controlled with by-wire throttle and shift control. The new by-wire shift control allows Prius to replace the traditional gearshift lever mounted on the floor or the steering column with tap-of-the-finger shifting of a small joystick mounted on the dash. [We note that Chrysler had a pushbutton-controlled automatic in the 1960s as well as a joystick system - but both controlled a hydraulic system, not an electronic one, and requred a separate lever to go into Park.]

A Smart Entry and Smart Start option allows keyless entry and keyless startup. As the driver reaches for the door handle, an on-board sensor will recognize the signal from a key in his pocket and automatically unlock the doors. Since the driver has already been security-cleared to enter the vehicle, he can leave the fob in his pocket, push a start button located on the dash, and drive away.

Offered in a single, well-equipped trim level, Prius standard equipment includes ABS brakes, power windows, door locks and mirrors, and a unique electric inverter air conditioning system. Instead of running off the fan belt, the new inverter air conditioner is fully electrically operated. Not only does this improve fuel efficiency, it ensures passenger comfort, even when the gasoline engine is off and the car is being propelled only by the electric motor.

According to measurements, the Prius does not pose any electromagnetic field threats beyond ordinary cars.

Toyota Prius pricing

Pricing for the second generation remained the same for its first year - $19,995 base, with three major packages available. For the Pioneers (first-generation buyers), there are three special major packages:

1) $20,175 with rear wipers

2) $22,250 with Rear Wipers, Side & Curtain Airbags, Smart Entry & Start, HID Lamps/Fog Lamps/Vehicle Stability Control (stability control is quite a bargain at this price.)

3) $25,240 for everything except hole in roof and leather: Rear Wipers, Side & Curtain Airbags, Smart Entry & Start, HID Lamps/Fog Lamps/Vehicle Stability Control, Security Alarm & Garage Door Opener, JBL 9 Speaker Premium Audio System w/6 CD Changer, Navigation System(Navigation system package includes hands-free calling capability with certain Bluetooth-enabled mobile phones, and voice-command capabilities for audio, climate-control, and navigation system controls.)

Toyota Prius common repairs and owner tips

Owners should NOT recharge the battery themselves to be able to drive on electric mode more often; the battery is purposely never fully charged to lengthen its life. Otherwise, it may only last a year or two!

The Prius takes about 3,000 miles to be fully broken in. It would be best to follow the recommendations in the manual.

The gas engine tends to run fairly often, even if you'd think it wouldn't need to. Mike Caroln wrote this is because it needs to:

1) recharge the HV battery pack,
2) keep the emissions system at temperature so you don't choke children,
3) keep your bod all warm and cozy,
4) make itself happy (called recalibration).

Trust me: Your Prius is FAR smarter than you when it comes to engine management.  Just be thankful that it lets you have a right pedal.

2004 and 2005 Priuses may lose internal power-inverter coolant, resulting in the Check Engine light going on. The inverter has been modified to fix the problem, and the dealer can take care of the upgrade if you have the problem. (This was fixed as a running change in the 2005 model year, so not all 2005s will have it.)  This is in effect during the full 96 month/100,000 mile warranty period.

Toyota Prius cars built from August 2003 through February 2005 may have a software glitch resulting in the gas engine stalling, leaving just the electric engine running, which is not enough to maintain highway speeds. Despite 68 reported incidents, there have been no injuries or deaths; this problem is fairly rare. A recall has been initiated as of October 2005.

“Phoenix” wrote: After disappointing gas mileage (high 20s to mid 30s) for the first few hundred miles, my wife made a suggestion based on her observation of my driving habits. I have always driven like an old geezer to get good gas mileage with our other cars, taking it easy on both the gas and brake pedals. This worked well when cars had carburetors; it kept the accelerator pump from squirting excessive amounts of raw gas into the engine. Well, that just doesn't work with the Prius. The length of time the Prius gets 10-15 mpg can be reduced by accelerating briskly to cruising speed. The shorter the length of time you are accelerating, and the quicker you can get the cruise control on, the better the overall gas mileage you'll get. Just by making these two changes to my driving habits, our in-town mileage jumped to 48-50 mpg. I still don't make jack-rabbit starts, but you'll see me ahead of the pack off of most lights, then right onto cruise as soon as I hit the speed limit. Also, anticipate stops and allow the car to coast as long as possible coming up to a light. You are getting 99.9 mph the whole time your foot is off the gas pedal.”

Prius editorial (by Glenn Arlt)

I thought the first Prius was kind of just a professional version of a high-school science project, and experimental car in limited production to test the waters in the real world (and Toyota was the only company with the kahonies to do it, other than Honda). But the car was ugly and too small, no real interest to me.

But wow, what a difference the 2004-2005 Prius is compared! So, being the car geek that I am (for all my life) I had to find out more. I've read just about everything you can find in print or on the web about the new Prius, and even understand a little of the principles behind the engineering - to some extent. (I'm well read, but not an engineer). I took a test rive at Traverse Motors Toyota; needless to say (if you've driven one and have an open mind), I was given a chance to drive the future. I only put about 2 miles on the car, but realized at that point that at some time in the future, God willing, I'd have one for myself.

Finally, in the fall of 2004, Enterprise got me a Prius for a color tour weekend. (Don't ask me how Enterprise of Traverse City had 25 Prius cars when there is such a shortage). I drove the car for 3 days and decided that I would not baby it for mileage, but drive it as if it were my 2002 Hyundai Sonata V6. I got 48.9 miles per gallon on the Saturday color tour, driving down US31 south of town alongside Lake Michigan, back towards the east on Hwy 55, then up north back home. On Sunday, driving it to town (Traverse City) from home (rural Interlochen area), I obtained 56.5 miles per gallon - absolutely incredible. Remember, the car gets better mileage in town compared to highway because every time the brakes are touched, that energy is not wasted as in "normal cars" but is regenerated by the motor/generator(s) as useful electrical potential and placed in the battery for use later - accelerating away from the red lights, for example. It's like a free top-up of fuel every time you put on the brakes, in other words.

My wife, who barely notices the color of a car never mind anything else about it, could not stop enthusing. It's so smooth! It's so quiet! I could not help enthusing. I thought - this must be how my grandfather felt after leaving pre-war Fords and finally getting an early 1950s Oldsmobile with Rocket V8, automatic, power steering and power brakes - instead of mechanical binders (brakes), straight axles, no power steering and crotchety shifter. An epiphany!

We were driving home with shopping, and there is a notoriously long, steep hill with a light at the bottom and the top, called Green Hill. It's two lanes on the way up, to help traffic flow, allowing the slower vehicles to stay to the right. Of course, this being Michigan, and with us in the Prius being car #3 at the red light ready to go up the hill, the Chevrolet "Slowburban" which was 1st in line promptly moved to the "fast" lane and "parked there" as a rolling road-block at 40 miles per hour. The Dodge minivan "parked" in the slow lane at about 42-3 miles per hour. The Silver rented Prius suddenly had a rather blue interior... finally, the minivan cut-up the "Slowburban" (the right lane ends up being a right-turn only lane at the top) when we were about 1/2 way up Green Hill - coincidentally, this is where it gets even steeper. I thought - let's try this baby out! I matted the "go" pedal (can't call it a "gas" pedal, can you? It's not even connected to the engine, never mind the "gas" or fuel injection).  Before the crown of the hill, the Prius was doing 74 miles per hour. 

I decided discretion was the better part of valor and braked a bit - down to about 60 - and zipped through the green light at the top of the hill. From 42-43 miles per hour to 74 miles per hour that quick, on a steep hill?! Nobody can tell me the Prius is underpowered. (It's to do with torque, not horsepower - the Prius has 295 pound feet of torque from just the electric motor(s) alone, at zero RPM or revs per minute). This means the car acts much more like a steam car. Maximum possible hill-climbing and acceleration power from rest. No shifting. No waiting for the engine to wind up to a useful RPM. Nice!

I was sad to give it back but decided that I'd have one some time, so after a family discussion, went to Traverse Motors in September 2004 and ordered a 2005 Prius, putting $100 down (and agreeing to pay list, but no more - no problem). Now, I was on the waiting list. I hope to take delivery in August 2005, and in fact, have already turned down two new cars since I actually need to wait until August to pay off my other car - besides, the cars currently being delivered to the dealer are all option group 6 (maxed out, $26000 retail) and I want option group 4 ($24000). I don't need the nav system or the 6 CD in-dash player - 1 CD at a time is fine by me.

If you haven't tried one, go for it. Besides, how many times do you want to fill up that SUV at $60 a crack and drive yourself back and forth to work knowing you're getting 12 to 18 miles to the gallon? Before long, it is not going to be considered patriotic to waste this imported oil, and hybrids will be the norm. It's about time we got off this stupid idea that we need 5000 to 6000 pound vehicles to move one fat backside back and forth to work or to the stores.   The Prius has 5 seats and is comparably comfortable to my Sonata (about the size of a Ford Taurus inside). Outside, the Prius is more compact - and therefore easier to park and maneuver in heavy traffic.

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