A rundown of the just-released 2016 Toyota Prius specifications indicates nearly a complete top-to-bottom makeover.
Goals for the Japanese automaker’s perennial globally best-selling eco car have included 55 mpg, sportier handling, and – while it’s less than vocal about it – to stay fresh against a growing field of plug-in cars.
The new car ought to enable it to do that.
Toyota says it expects the now-fourth generation to be rated 10-percent more fuel efficient than the outgoing 2015 model rated 50 mpg, and waiting to be revealed later is a 2016 Eco variant which will do an undisclosed amount better.
Following are the highlights of how every single aspect was rethought, and we anticipate Toyota will have more announcements later.
In common with the 2010-2015 Prius engine is the displacement at 1.8 liters, but the 2016’s thermal efficiency as hinted as far back as 2013 is 40 percent and the gas burner is “completely re-engineered.”
Tricks that let the VVT-i unit do this include redesigned intake ports to get more air in, and redesigned coolant passages to cool the engine more effectively.
A large-volume exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) system adds to the improvements, as does a similarly named, but not to be confused upgraded exhaust heat recirculation system. This gets the engine to peak operating temperature more quickly by capturing exhaust heat. The heat is also used to warm the cabin.
Other upgrades are redesigned internals to cut mechanical friction losses by the piston skirts, other reciprocating parts, and the car gets a new oil pump to circulate low viscosity oil.
No claims for 0-60 or acceleration or horsepower are being made at this point.
Merged with the gas engine of course is an electric motor and CVT transaxle, and these have been redesigned, lightened, and claim 20-percent less frictional losses. Parallel gears replace the planetary reduction gears in the outgoing transmission.
New Battery – including Li-Ion Option
Not complete without a battery, the hybrid powertrain either carries over the trustworthy – and long-since amortized – Nickel Metal Hybrid (NiMh) chemistry, or a new lithium-ion unit to be utilized by the new up-line Eco model.
Cargo space is not compromised as the pack is located under the rear passenger seat. This was accomplished in part by increasing energy density, and making them more compact.
UPDATE 10/13: One thing however in the drivetrain lacking in the U.S. market Prius that has been rumored as pending is all wheel drive.
The E-Four electric-rear-motor system as used in other Toyota products touted to enable snow-belters in teh gen-four Prius is not coming to the U.S., said Toyota communications representative Sam Butto.
“No AWD in the U.S. market for the 2016 Prius,” he said.
Other publications in other markets overseas are reporting AWD for the new Prius.
Inside and out the Prius touts new design with 60-percent increased torsional rigidity in the body with a very low 0.24 coefficient of drag equaling a Tesla Model S.
The slippery creased body rolls on Toyota’s New Global Architecture, a modular platform enabling a body now 20mm (0.79 inches) lower and with the high point of the roof 170mm (6.69 inches) further forward to increase headroom. The nose on what is being called a sporty handler is now 70mm (2.76 inches) lower, and forward vision is improved with a 62mm (2.44 inches) lower rear-most section of the hood.
Standard are bi-LED headlights, and as mentioned, this vehicle wants to lose any dowdy image the sensible gas sipper had in the corners.
Toyota has a planned drive event in mid November, and we’ll have first hand-info on that, but in light of more fun-to-drive cars like the Chevy Volt, suspension tuning and chassis dynamics were a priority.
Inside, occupant comfort, a plethora of infotainment standard or optional, and advanced safety tech are also promised.
Nifty items available include a color head up display, Smart-flow (S-FLOW) air conditioning system, dual 4.2-inch screens, and other familiar features.
A Toyota Safety Sense P package features a Pre-collision System with Pedestrian Detection, and includes Full-speed Dynamic Radar Cruise Control.
New Face, Familiar Formula
The Prius is meant to be functional transportation, and has become synonymous with the term “hybrid.”
People have offered all sorts of comments about the new aesthetics. We’ve heard more expressions of disapproval than approval, but if this becomes a new normal, and people get over it in due time, do not be surprised.
Toyota has managed to crack through niche status, and although people know a 2016 model is only months away and its sales this year are down 13 percent, in just the last two months – August and September, it sold 20,042 Prius Liftbacks in the U.S.
By comparison, for all of 2014 Chevrolet delivered 18,805 Volts, Tesla delivered just more than an estimated 16,605 of its Model S, and only Nissan sold more among plug-ins with 30,200 Leafs for 2014.
Like it or not, plug-in fans, there’s just something about an established product that’s been here for 15 years, and it’s this Toyota hopes to keep building upon.
While everything is new, it’s really more of the same, and for many, familiarity may be what they will go with.
The idea of “miles per gallon” on the other hand is becoming an anachronism from a former life to battery electric car owners, but still true is an environmentally oriented car choice is a series of trade-offs compared to convention internal combustion.
Next to plug-in hybrids, the Prius beats all of them in hybrid mode. While we’ve heard the Volt increased mpg by 5 mpg and now runs on regular, the Prius appears like it will keep the exact same gap of 13 mpg when the Volt is in gas-burning hybrid mode.
Longer distance drivers mulling this or any PHEV will need to weigh pros and cons including price, available subsidies, and whether they will benefit enough from electricity use. Most people drive under 40 miles a day, so many could day to day.
The 2016 Volt with 53 miles range has the most-effective plug-in hybrid powertrain. Pure EVs like the Leaf, Soul EV, BMW i3, VW e-Golf, and others as tracked on our monthly sales Dashboard are far more energy efficient, but may be seen as range limited.
This could continue into a very lengthy discussion of further trade-offs for or against choices, but the short answer is the 55 mpg or better mid-sized Prius hybrid which may be priced from the mid 20s, though not announced yet, will probably stay relevant.
You can bet Toyota is banking on it.
“It started in 1992 with a vision for the future – mobility in harmony with society. Prius, which means ‘to go before’ changed the way we move about the world, and changed the automotive industry forever. More than two decades and over 8 million Toyota hybrid sales later, the all new, no compromises 2016 Prius stands side by side with its sibling, the hydrogen powered Mirai, poised to change the game yet again. The new Prius will arrive in dealerships early next year.”
That’s its official take. We’ll have more Prius news not too long from now.