• Mar 2, 2009
Click above for a high-res gallery of the 2010 Toyota Prius

There are reasons that the Toyota Prius is the best-selling hybird car in the world. It's simple to use, gets better mileage than pretty much anything easily available, and you can turn it into a shuttlecraft if you want to. But, all that ease-of-use hides a lot of serious technical work. During a media event in Napa, California last week, Toyota gave us the details of just what and how the third-generation Prius came about after four-and-a-half years of work and literally thousands of meetings. In fact, Prius chief engineer Akihiko Otsuka joked that TMC doesn't stand for Toyota Motor Company but Toyota Meeting Company. An old chestnut of a joke, perhaps, but totally true in this situation.

Bob Carter, group vice president and general manager of the Toyota Division, told us that the official mileage rating for the 2010 Prius is 50 mpg city, 49 mpg highway. We already knew about the 50 mpg combined number from the Detroit unveiling, but those almost identical city/highway numbers are new. The difference between the city and highway ratings was something that current Prius owners wanted to see improved in this new model Carter said. There was a three-mpg difference in the second generation models; seven in the first. [UPDATE: Toyota has issued a slight correction]

Production of the new Prius will begin in late-April and the first vehicles will arrive in late spring. Toyota is predicting that around 100,000 3rd-gen units will be sold in 2009; 180,000 in the full calendar year after that. That's their forecast, but they will adjust building rate to the demand. A necessary decision considering the current economy. Toyota is confident there is demand for the new Prius, and believes the Prius could have a seven percent share of the midsize vehicle segment. One important factor will be pricing (and Insight competition), which Toyota will announce much closer to launch. The new Prius won't go on sale for another few months, but if you're curious about what you'll get when it becomes available, come with us after the jump.



The overall message that the new 2010 Prius conveys is that it's the same Prius you know and love (well, if you indeed love it) but everything has been upped a level. Maybe two. For example, the new Prius' powertrain is about 20 percent lighter than the current generation. The NiMH battery pack is completely the same, but the peak hp output has been raised 36 hp/27 kW. In Napa, Toyota told us that the 0-60 time has dropped to 9.8 seconds, about .4 second faster than the current generation's 10.2. The product information sheet handed out to us says that the second-gen's time is actually 10.9 seconds. Whatever the case, we know the Prius is no dragster. The important thing here is that the new version provides a little more oomph when passing or getting on the highway.

Aerodynamic tweaks on the new Prius include a flattening of the front bumper edges, an extended rear spoiler and a roofline that has been moved back about four inches. The moved roofline also gives rear seat occupants a bit more headroom. Owners of current-gen Priuses who trade up to the 2010 model will find that storage space under the trunk floor is now big enough to store the interior tonneau. Very nice.



As we've heard, the solar panel on the roof will be able to keep the interior cool when parked in the sun. Actually, the vents will only keep the inside close to ambient temperature so don't expect it to be cold in your car if it's 110 degrees out. For times like that, you need to hit the remote AC button on the key fob a few minutes before you want to get into your car. This starts up the air conditioning unit. The 2010 Prius can run the A/C without starting up the motor because accessory drive belts were eliminated and the A/C runs completely off of the battery. All third-gen Priuses have selectable automatic A/C as standard, and to use the remote A/C, the climate control system needs to be in auto mode and the temperature needs to be set lower than the ambient temperature.



If you're familiar with the current-generation Prius, you'll immediately notice a few changes from the driver's seat when you get in to drive. The touch screen that used to display pretty much everything but your speed is still present, but most of the fuel consumption information has been moved to a new multi-information display to the right of the speedometer and above the screen. The driver can toggle this display between an animated Prius that shows where energy is coming from/going to (very similar to the current display but now in monochrome), or it can show a bar that shows if the battery is charging, if you're driving in eco mode or if you're really stepping on the gas. The goal is to make leaves keep the bar pretty much in the middle. When you are driving most efficiently, an "eco flag" signal will light up. You can also toggle the consumption record screen to tell you how much fuel you've been using in one-minute or five-minute increments.



As we heard in Detroit, the new Prius has three modes: eco, power and EV. This isn't the full story, though. EV mode is the limited electric-only operation mode that forces the 1.8-liter Atkinson-cycle, four-cylinder gas engine to stay off until you've gone (at most) one mile or try to go faster than 25 mph (depending on battery state of charge). Eco mode, as you might guess, provides for the most efficient settings and smooths out the throttle opening when the driver is pushing down and letting up with some regularity, for example in stop and go driving. Power mode provides extra, well, power. There is a fourth mode, which lets the driver to all of the controlling, when none of the other modes are engaged.

The new Prius also features Lane Keep Assist, Dynamic Cruise Control and Lane Departure Warning for safer driving. While these do provide a lot of feedback to the driver, they won't drive for you. The 2010 Prius knows if you let go of the wheel while driving. Interestingly, you're supposed to let go of the wheel when you use Intelligent Parking Assist, the mostly automated parallel parking feature. When you need to parallel park, press the button by your right knee as you approach the spot. This turns on a sensor near the right front wheel that marks where the currently-parked cars are sitting. The rear view camera turns on and displays a grid on the info screen where it thinks you intend to park. If it's accurate, you press OK and then control the speed of the parking with the brake pedal. The wheel turns itself. If you just take your foot off of the brake pedal, IPA will shut down because it has a speed threshold. As smart as the Prius is, it's not smart enough to know if a biker or a baby stroller suddenly appears in the designated parking spot, so you need to keep an eye on things.



Most of these cool new features are part of the optional technology features package (see press release, below), and right now Toyota isn't saying how much these will add to the price of the car. Toyota believes that Prius owners are fans of high technology and will be looking for something new if they're buying their second or third Prius. One bit of coolness that Japanese Prius models can get is a heads-up display. Toyota officials told us that HUD might come to the U.S. later.

Other changes for the third-generation include: front seats that are more adjustable than before, as Toyota has added the ability to move the seats vertically. People who choose leather coverings will get powered seat adjustments. The steering wheel now tilts and telescopes, whereas the previous generation only tilted. Seven colors will be available for the new Prius, including the four new colors Blizzard Pearl, Sandy Beach Metallic, Blue Ribbon Metallic, and Winter Gray Metallic. LED headlamps are also available.

Out in Napa, Prius chief engineer Otsuka managed to get 62.9 mpg on a 34-mile route through the city and countryside. He challenged us to "Beat the Chief" along the same route. In a few weeks, we'll be able to share with you what it's like to drive the 2010 Prius. All we can say for now is that we were able to best the man who designed the Prius in the mpg challenge, but it was an embarrassing win. Stay tuned.


PRESS RELEASE:

ALL-NEW THIRD GENERATION TOYOTA PRIUS RAISES THE BAR FOR HYBRID VEHICLES - - AGAIN

  • 50 MPG with Additional Horsepower
  • New and Innovative Technology
  • Improved Aerodynamics, More Head and Legroom

YOUNTVILLE, Calif.,- - When it launches this spring, the all-new 2010 Toyota Prius will once again set new standards for innovative hybrid design and technology, raising its level of convenience features and performance to new heights, including a combined EPA estimated fuel efficiency rating of 50 miles- per-gallon. Celebrated as the benchmark for cars of the future, the Prius has delivered superior fuel economy and ultra-low emissions to more than 1.2 million owners worldwide for more than 10 years. The midsize third-generation 2010 Prius will offer even better mileage ratings, enhanced performance, and innovative design features. It will be quieter, roomier, and equipped with advanced standard and available features such as a moonroof with solar panels, four driving modes, Intelligent Parking Assist (IPA) and steering wheel touch controls that display on the instrument panel. "The Prius has evolved with our customers over the past 10 years and is now more things to more people," said Bob Carter, group vice president and general manager, Toyota Division. "It's environmental, innovative, and practical. It's an everyday car for everyday use, and when it goes on sale a few months from now, we believe that its new features will appeal to returning owners, while at the same time attract buyers who are looking for innovative technology with a hybrid powertrain."



An Eco-Icon Prius entered the market in 1997 as the world's first mass-produced hybrid. The name Prius, "to go before" in Latin, became symbolic of a car that was launched even before environmental awareness had become a mainstream social issue. From the beginning, Toyota's full-hybrid system was developed almost entirely in-house and has become a driving force behind advanced vehicle technology. The company's exclusive Hybrid Synergy Drive System was introduced in 2004 on the second-generation Prius. Since then, more than 700,000 have been sold in the U.S. In designing the new, third-generation Prius, Toyota engineers combined a careful refinement of existing systems with an aggressive measure of new technology necessary for the future of automobiles. During the development of the Prius, more than 1,000 applications for patents were filed worldwide.

Improved Fuel Economy, Power and Environmental Performance The new Prius will be built using processes that reduce pollution in every stage of vehicle life, from production and driving, through to disposal. The third-generation Prius extends its record of continuous improvement in fuel economy. The first-generation Prius, which was rated 41 EPA combined mpg, was replaced by the current model, which is EPA rated at 46 miles per gallon (mpg), combined city/highway. Using a combination of technologies, fuel efficiency was increased to an EPA estimated city/highway mpg rating of 50 in the city, 49 on the highway and a combined 50 mpg for the new Prius. A larger and more powerful 1.8-liter Atkinson-cycle, four-cylinder engine will produce 98 horsepower at 5,200 rpm in the new Prius. Together with its electric motor the hybrid system in the new Prius will generate a combined net horsepower of 134, an improvement of 24 horsepower over the previous generation.

Contrary to conventional wisdom, the larger engine actually helps improve highway mileage. By making more torque, the new engine can run at lower average rpm on the highway. When operating at lower rpm, the new engine uses less fuel. Mileage is especially improved in cold-start conditions and at higher speeds. Use of an electric water pump and a new exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) system also contribute to the engine's efficiency. The 1.8-liter Prius engine is the first Toyota power plant that requires no belts under the hood for better fuel economy and less potential maintenance. A multi-information display panel that monitors fuel and energy consumption is standard. It provides feedback on the Prius' efficiency using three different displays to help the driver acquire economical driving habits. Unlike most other hybrid vehicles available, Prius has been an uncompromised "full" hybrid since introduction. This allows it to run on engine alone, battery alone, or a combination of both. The system blends the best of parallel hybrid and series hybrid designs to achieve the ability to operate on the electric mode alone, and to charge the batteries while the car is running. The patented Hybrid Synergy Drive system in the 2010 Prius is 90 percent newly-developed with significant improvements over previous models.

  • The transaxle is lighter in weight and reduces torque losses by as much as 20 percent compared to the previous model.
  • The inverter, which converts direct current to alternating current, has a new direct cooling system to reduce size and weight.
  • Taken together, the inverter, motor and transaxle are smaller and 20 percent lighter.
  • A newly developed electronically controlled regenerative braking system has been adopted, with control logic optimized to enhance regeneration.

The new Prius will offer three alternative driving modes. EV Mode allows driving on battery power alone at low speeds for about a mile, if conditions permit. There is also a Power Mode, which increases sensitivity to throttle input for a sportier feel, and an Eco Mode, which helps drivers achieve their best mileage. The new Prius will be certified as a Super Ultra Low Emission Vehicle (SULEV) and an Advanced Technology Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle (AT- PZEV) in California, as well as those states adopting California emission standards. The AT-PZEV certification requires the SULEV exhaust standard linked with the ability to meet a zero-fuel-evaporative standard, a 150,000-mile durability demonstration, extended emissions system warranty, and technology deemed by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to advance future fuel cell vehicles. In the rest of the country, Prius will be certified as Tier 2, Bin 3. The new Prius will produce over 70 percent fewer smog-forming emissions than the average new vehicle.

Cutting Edge Styling In designing the new Prius, aerodynamic performance was an important factor. The goal was to create a beautiful silhouette, while not compromising function. Designers preserved the dynamic triangle form of the current model--instantly recognizable as a Prius--but made alterations to the overall profile, pillar position and angle. The front pillar, extended forward, helps refine the performance-focusing, shaped form. The overall height of the Prius is the same, but the roof profile is altered by moving the top of the roof 3.9 inches to the rear. This emphasizes the wedge shape, and also allows for enhanced rear headroom and improved aerodynamics.

The design of the new Prius' front and rear corners are sharp, sporty and aerodynamic. Strong side character lines, rising from front to rear, define the glazed geometric shape. Viewed from the rear, wider rear treads provide a solid, firmly rooted stance. Dimensionally, the new Prius has the same wheelbase as the current generation. Overall length is slightly increased by 0.6 inches, in part by moving the front cowl forward.

One of the World's Lowest Cd The new Prius received more wind tunnel hours of testing than any other Toyota in history, resulting in one of the cleanest aerodynamic profiles of any mass-produced vehicle in the world. By focusing on the shape of the body, underfloor, wheelhouse liner and shape of the wheels, the designers of the new Prius were able to reduce the coefficient of drag (Cd) value to 0.25, compared to
0.26 for the previous model. The airflow under the car was studied extensively. Engineers made changes to the shape of the fender liner, front surface of the underfloor, and added a fin at the rear floor cover to increase linear stability.

Advanced Equipment For a New Era An available sliding glass moonroof is packaged with solar panels, located over the rear seating area, that power a new ventilation system. This solar powered ventilation system uses an electrically powered air circulation fan that does not require engine assist. The system prevents the interior air temperature from rising while the vehicle is parked, making the cool-down time shorter when the driver returns to the vehicle, thus reducing the use of air conditioning. The new Prius also offers a remote air-conditioning system. It is the first system in the world to function on battery-power alone, and allows remote operation so the driver can adjust the interior temperature for comfort before getting in the car.

LEDs (light emitting diodes), optional in low beam headlamps and standard in tail and stop lamps, help reduce the vehicle's power consumption. Air conditioning, a major energy drain, has been re-engineered to increase efficiency and cool-down performance. In addition, an exhaust heat recirculation system reduces heat waste by warming engine coolant during cold startup, for improved performance. It also heats up the passenger cabin more efficiently.

Enhanced Vehicle Performance The next-generation Prius is built on a new platform, which enables improved handling stability, quieter operation, and collision safety. The suspension consists of front struts and a rear intermediate beam design, as before, but handling stability is advanced by improving the stabilizer layout, higher caster angle and tuning the bushing characteristics. Disc brakes are now used on all four corners, replacing the front disc/rear drum brakes in the current model. Weight was saved through use of aluminum in the hood, rear hatch, front suspension axle and brake caliper and super high-tensile steel in the rocker inner, center pillar, and roof reinforcement. To meet customer expectations for everyday performance, zero-to-60 acceleration has been improved to 9.8 seconds, more than a second faster, in internal testing. Better-performing sound insulation, working with improved vibration damping, has been installed in various locations to reduce road noise.

Functional Interior Is Bigger on the Inside Proving that small changes add up to big gains, the cargo area of the new Prius was expanded 0.4 inches in length and 2.2 inches in width by using a new and an improved layout of the battery cooling unit. Rear seat legroom is enhanced by a new space-saving contoured front- seat design.



Viewed from the cockpit, the center cluster smoothly flows from the instrument panel to the console. Handy storage space has been added under the shift lever by taking advantage of the shift-by-wire system. Simple, fin-type air vents are consistent with the cabin's efficient appearance. Judicious use of silver accents adds a finished, technical feel. A new Touch Tracer Display features touch sensors on the steering wheel switches that are designed to reduce driver eye movement for better concentration on the road. When the driver touches the audio or info switch located on the steering wheel, a duplicate image is displayed on the instrument panel, directly in front of the driver. Touch Tracer is the first display system in the world to allow steering wheel controls to read out on the instrument panel. The ECO indicator on the Multi-Informational Display (MID) provides driver feedback for lower fuel consumption. In pursuit of developing various advanced technologies aimed at realizing sustainable mobility, Toyota will use plant-derived, carbon-neutral plastics in the 2010 Prius. The newly-developed plastics, known as "ecological plastic," will be used in the seat cushion foam, cowl side trim, inner and outer scuff plates, and deck trim cover. Ecological plastic emits less CO2 during a product lifecycle (from manufacturing to disposal) than plastic made solely from petroleum; it also helps reduce petroleum use.

Safety Enhancements The new Prius was designed to comply with class-top level collision safety performance in each global region of sale, and to accommodate increasingly strict safety requirements in the future. In addition to advanced driver and front passenger Supplemental Restraint System (SRS) airbags, front and rear side curtain airbags, driver and passenger seat-mounted side airbags and driver's knee airbag are standard equipment.

Active headrests are used in both front seats to reduce the possibility of whiplash in a collision. Anti-lock Brake System (ABS), Electronic Brake Distribution (EBD), Brake Assist (BA), electronic traction control (TRAC) and Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) are included with Toyota's standard Star Safety System. A Dynamic Radar Cruise Control system, using advanced millimeter wave radar, is an available option. The system also enables Lane Keep Assist, which helps the driver stay safely within the lane, and the Pre-Collision System, which retracts seatbelts and applies the brakes in certain conditions when a crash is unavoidable. Next-generation Intelligent Parking Assist features simplified settings to help guide the car into parking spaces. A backup monitor, which provides a view of rear obstacles when reverse is engaged, is available with an optional voice-activated navigation system. Safety Connect, Toyota's first safety and security service, includes automatic collision notification, stolen vehicle locator and an SOS call button. Safety Connect will be available a few months after launch.

New Model Strategy Prius will come in one grade with four different standard equipment packages named II, III, IV and V, each with varying levels of exterior and interior features, allowing buyers to choose the Prius that will best fit their needs (see a complete list of standard features for each model in the attached specification documents).

Option Packages In addition to its array of standard equipment an impressive list of comfort and convenience features are offered in these three simplified option packages:


  • A Navigation Package available on Prius models III, IV, and V, includes a voice-activated touch-screen DVD navigation system with a JBL AM/FM/four-CD changer with integrated XM satellite radio, MP3/WMA playback capability, hands-free phone capability via Bluetooth® wireless technology, eight speakers and a backup camera.
  • A Solar Roof Package, available in Prius models III and IV, includes all contents in the Navigation Package, a power tilt/slide moonroof with a solar powered ventilation system and a remote air conditioning system.
  • An Advanced Technology Package, available in Prius model V, includes all contents in the Navigation Package; a Pre-Collision System; Dynamic Radar Cruise Control; Lane Keep Assist (LKA); and IPA.

Color and Trim Prius will be available in seven exterior colors including Blizzard Pearl, Sandy Beach Metallic, Blue Ribbon Metallic, Winter Gray Metallic, Classic Silver Metallic, Barcelona Red Metallic and Black. They will be mated to three interior colors that include Misty Gray, Dark Gray and Bisque. All three interior colors will be available in both fabric and leather.

Peace of Mind Warranty Protection Toyota's 36-month/36,000 mile basic new-vehicle warranty applies to all components other than normal wear and maintenance items. Additional 60- month warranties cover the powertrain for 60,000 miles and against corrosion with no mileage limitation. The hybrid-related components, including the HV battery, battery control module, hybrid control module and inverter with converter, are covered for eight years/100,000 miles. In applicable states (including Calif., Mass., N.Y, N.J., Vt., Conn., Maine, N.M., and R.I.) hybrid-related component coverage is 15 years/150,000 miles with the exception of the hybrid battery which is warranted for 10 years/ 150,000 miles. Pricing for the 2010 Prius will be announced shortly before it goes on sale in late spring.


Our travel and lodging for this media event was provided by the manufacturer.


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