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2010 Toyota Prius - Car News

Toyota, a ship so buttoned down it makes the recently departed William F. Buckley Jr. look like Huey Newton, has no plans for radical upheaval. The current Prius is a sellout in all its five-door jelly-bean frumpiness, so the car scheduled to be revealed at the 2009 Detroit auto show will be tweaked mainly to answer minor customer beefs with the current jelly bean. It will be slightly larger, a bit more spacious inside, and trimmed with more luxury options. The engine will grow and become a tad snappier in its sprint while returning even better fuel economy. A plug-in model should arrive in 2010.

2010 Toyota Prius-12010 Toyota Prius-22010 Toyota Prius-3Prius is Latin for “prior” or “to go before.” By Toyota’s accounting, the 2010 Prius is the little car’s fourth generation. The prius Priuses include the first Japanese-market version, on sale in December 1997, and the U.S. derivative that arrived in 2001. The redesigned hatchback Prius debuted worldwide in 2004 and elevated the hybrid into a household word, an environmental declaration akin to putting a compost pile in your Jacuzzi, and a staple of celebrity driveways. But sales are really riveted to pump prices. They jumped from 54,000 in 2004 to 181,000 last year. As of May, the Prius was on track to book more than 190,000 sales in 2008.

In general, claims Toyota, customers are happy with the current car, so the basic five-door hatchback silhouette remains, and the changes have to do with details. The roof height will stay the same, but the nose, tail, and wheelbase will grow slightly, and the track will be wider. Larger, more extravagantly sculpted headlights will be highlighted by additional trim tinsel to brighten its smile. However, the front and rear views will remain familiar. Toyota wants people to recognize the Prius as a Prius.

The “Hybrid Synergy Drive,” with its twin electric motors and continuously variable planetary-gear transmission, will carry over as conceptually unchanged but with improved power from its electric motors and a larger 1.6-liter, Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder in place of the current 1.5-liter unit, which dates to the old Toyota Echo. Power output will rise modestly, though Toyota promises even better fuel economy than the current car’s 48-city/45-highway EPA numbers.

Limited supplies of the nickel-metal hydride batteries have held back Prius production, but a new factory in Japan due to go on line in 2010 should break the logjam and create capacity for more hybrid models. Indeed, Toyota also plans to unveil another hybrid besides the Prius at the Detroit show in January.

The price will float above the current $22,160 base price but only modestly. Expect a loaded Prius to top out $1000 or so above the $29,692 for a fully loaded 2008 Prius. Hitting the road in 2010 will be Toyota’s first plug-in Prius. Customers want more drive time in pure electric mode, but the current Prius can’t deliver for various reasons, including battery longevity. The plug-in Prius will address that through the use of more-powerful lithium-ion batteries, but plans are to limit volume strictly, at least at first, to hundreds of units rather than thousands.

© Source: caranddriver
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