The reason those early shots are less useful as a gauge for what we're going to see tonight is because it took Toyota longer than expected to finalize the shape and look of the new hybrid. With a model this important (Toyota has sold over 8 million hybrids, about half of them Priuses), Toyota needed to make sure everything was right before releasing it. Given the high-profile promises for this car – Toyota President Akido Toyoda said in early 2014 that the new Prius should have a more "heart-racing" design – there have got to be a lot of nervous representatives from Toyota at the launch that's happening in Las Vegas tonight. Exactly what we're going to learn and see is still unknown, but we don't have much longer to wait.
At the very top of the list of what we're hoping to learn are the fuel efficiency numbers. This is a Prius, after all. The best that we can guess right now is that the 2016 Prius will get somewhere in the neighborhood of 55 miles per gallon. It could be higher, thanks to the car's use of the Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA), but Prius designer Satoshi Ogiso said back in 2013 that anything more than that would be difficult to achieve. Nonetheless, we have heard rumors of a more fuel efficient model, an Eco Grade version, that would get even better fuel economy – perhaps 60 mpg.
The interior of the new Prius appears to stick to tradition and keep a lot of the driver information in the center of the dashboard. That's not a big surprise, but exactly what the driver can expect to see when she sits down behind the steering wheel remains a big mystery.
The 2016 Prius comes at an interesting time. Green car sales from most automakers are down so far this year, challenged by low gas prices and customer confusion. With Toyota's loudly stated focus on hydrogen as the fuel of the future and the Mirai Fuel Cell car slowly coming online, this could be the biggest, last gasp of Toyota's vaunted gas-electric technology. History shows us that Toyota launches a new Prius every six years or so, which means the fifth-gen is slated to show its new face in 2021. Given the changes we'll see in the automotive landscape by then, tonight should be an interesting evening even if you don't exactly consider yourself a fan of the Prius.