New new Prius made a splashy debut last night in Las Vegas — marking a new phase in hybrid-electric cars right in a desert city that neon and AC made possible.
Is this fun-loving mission a disconnect for the ultra-responsible Prius?
Not at all: the new Prius adds efficiency and new tech to the classic Prius merits, but injects a healthy share of fun and style for the first time in 2016.
What does this mean? Let’s break it down into three buckets: tech, fun and style.
The basics are that the new Prius is 2.4-inches longer, 0.6-inches wider and nearly an inch lower than before. A larger and all-new cabin updates the tech with Apple-style white fixtures and the latest Toyota tech. Entune 3 and Qi wireless charging are joined by an affordable TSS safety pack with auto highbeams, lane departure warning, full-speed adaptive cruise and other usually-pricey features.
Secondly, the handling fun. The Prius PHEV proved that low-slung batteries can make any car a solid corner carver. Ultra-low weight in the platform helps drop the center of gravity lower, and more neutrally split front/rear, than even most sports-cars like the GT86.
But earlier Prius models were saddled with feel-free steering and a solid torsion-beam rear axle. While a live axle in back helped keep costs low and make room for the batteries, it is no friend to sporty and precise handling.
The new Prius is built on an all-new Toyota Next Generation Architecture featuring the handling-friendly double wishbone rear suspension. This ‘TGNA’ not only is lighter and stiffer, but it mounts all the suspension pieces more rigidly to let keen drivers feel the road better.
All-new steering, front suspension tuning and that rear-end redesign should be win/win propositions: better handling as well as a smoother, quieter ride.
How did Toyota fit the batteries into the new suspension subframe? That remains a secret… but we have a hunch that the battery pack is much smaller (by dimensions) than before, while also being more energy-rich.
Toyota has not yet confirmed the technical specifications of the model, but many expect a switch from standard Prius NiMH battery tech to Li-ion battery technology. This is not confirmed, and the latest lithium ion or lithium oxide may be reserved for the Mirai fuel-cell and PHEV plug-in variants.
Sidebar: a new Hypersonic Red joins the Prius palette: inspired by our rendered Mirai from last summer!? [That car started out blue=]
The new Prius is quite a looker! It is hard to get a sense of its lines on first glance: there is a lot of design per inch on these swoopy panels.
But take a step back, and the Prius is sleeker, more advanced and more futuristic than any other hybrid on the road today. Or perhaps any mid-size vehicle in general?
A very, very swoopy shape overall moves the proportions around. Where the outgoing models were clearly hatchbacks for all to see, the new Prius forms a space-sage sedan shape to its look. The longer, lower and wider stance helps move the Prius cockpit forward, its windshield rake taller, and tail rake more sweeping. From anything but the pure tail angle, the new Prius looks a bit like a sport coupe. That is definitely new!
Floating roof elements in body color end above the C-pillars in a sharp point, fading to the gloss black and tinted glass sections. That tail has a painted upper spoiler, but is mostly dominated by gloss black and tinted glass. A still very-high trunk edge is integrated with huge bulging fender flares into a sweeping KAMM tail.
This high and chopped rear is the most efficient by wind tunnel metrics, enhanced by sharp fender flanks front and rear to keep the air moving past as cleanly as possible. To integrate advanced aero principles into a fresh and crisp design is impressive by Toyota, and likely took much time and effort to achieve.
Fresh LEDs in back are not just new to the Prius — these are some of the most advanced light pipe designs of any car this year. The shape is a pinched checkmark of red light that extends down into the outer bodysides. It glows seductively in these press pics. City-dwellers will love anything new to look at versus the ubiquitous triangles of LED brake lights on the current model.
Will the 2016 Prius’s new tech, handling and style resonate with buyers? With the lowest gas prices in six years right now, the Prius is spreading its wings and becoming a real car. Not just a sideshow or one for eco-nerds, the 2016 Prius wants to show the world how fun and fresh 50+ MPG can be!
When and how much? Expect carry-over price levels, meaning $24k to $34k for the non-PHEV models shown here.
Timeframes are fluid at the moment, but likely to be in showrooms around December first.
2016 Toyota PRIUS
BEYOND POSSIBLE: THE SKY’S THE LIMIT FOR THE ALL-NEW 2016 PRIUS AT LAS VEGAS WORLD PREMIERE EVENT
- Striking exterior design ushers in new hybrid era
- New platform and rear double wishbone suspension dial up driving dynamics
- Ten percent fuel economy improvement on core models; highest MPG without a plug First vehicle based on Toyota’s New Global Architecture
- Toyota Safety Sense system available among other safety enhancements
LAS VEGAS, Sept. 8, 2015 – – The same vehicle that pioneered the hybrid category just disrupted the status quo again. The all-new, fourth-generation Prius starred in a spectacular evening production of music, food and special effects to celebrate an industry icon in a way that was anything but expected.
More than 350 journalists, social influencers and Toyota guests watched the all-new 2016 Prius elevate into the Las Vegas night sky. After almost twenty years of shaping the world view on alternative energy vehicles, and more than 3.5 million global sales, Prius is setting out to change the world again.
Today’s consumers expect environmental credentials, and the new Prius delivers. Smaller, lighter hybrid system components, higher-energy density in the batteries, and an internal combustion engine touting ground-breaking thermal efficiency (more than forty percent), contribute to a significant advancement in fuel economy. With an expected ten percent improvement in EPA estimated MPG on core models, Prius will offer best-in-class fuel economy among vehicles without a plug. A soon-to-be unveiled Eco model will achieve an even greater improvement, strengthening Toyota’s leadership in hybrid fuel efficiency.
But it’s not just about MPG anymore. Today’s customers want all the traditional benefits of a hybrid, but don’t want to compromise on looks and performance. So Toyota upgraded the Prius inside and out to deliver the complete package – emotional styling, smarter technology and impressive MPG, in a vehicle that’s more fun to drive than ever.
“Prius set the global benchmark for hybrids, but now is breaking its own boundaries with more engaging style and fun-to-drive dynamics,” said Bill Fay, group vice president and general manager, Toyota Division. “What was once a rational purchase that for many customers focused on fuel economy, is now so much more. This Prius will invite new drivers into the category by delivering an impressive look and feel, built on the foundation of safety and eco-consciousness that define the vehicle’s heritage.”
Easy on the Eyes
The Prius’ exterior has been completely reimagined. From the side, it is longer and sleeker with the overall outline evoking an athletic shape. Inspired by a runner in the starting blocks, the sporty design conveys a feeling of forward motion.
The hood is lower and the distinctive roof peak has been moved forward. Bold character lines run along the side from the front fenders – one just above the sill that sweeps up towards the rear fender, while the upper crease morphs into the rear spoiler, which has been lowered.
The use of new standard LED headlamps minimizes the Prius’ front fascia and, at the same time, provides an arresting lighting display which helps define the vehicle’s character. The unique and striking rear combination lamps express the distinctive lines of the Prius from the rear spoiler to the trailing edges of the sides.
A palette of seven exterior colors includes an all-new Toyota hue, “Hypersonic Red.” This new color utilizes a newly developed treatment process, which results in a deep and vibrant luster highlighting the external forms.
Need a Hug?
The Prius’ new, premium interior adopts advanced technology complemented by features that are functional, fun and have high visual impact. The wrap-around dash design, form-hugging seats, ease of controls and improved visibility put the driver in complete control.
Once inside, drivers will feel immediately comfortable and impressed by styling cues that are unique in the industry. The wide instrument panel, seamlessly designed to be both functional and beautiful, gives a sense of comfort and spaciousness. Available premium white ornamentation in the lower sections of the cabin is reminiscent of fine bone china.
Efficient Development from the Start
The 2016 Prius is the first global vehicle to implement Toyota’s New Global Architecture (TNGA). TNGA aims to greatly improve core vehicle performance and enhance product appeal through an integrated development program for powertrain components and vehicle platforms. Development of vehicles is being grouped to promote strategic sharing of components with the goal of improving resource efficiency by better than twenty percent. Resources will be directed into developing advanced technologies, and most importantly even further strengthening product appeal.
A Fun-to-Drive Hybrid? A “Wish” Come True
Engineered from the ground up, the new Prius is 2.4 inches longer, 0.6 inches wider and 0.8 inches lower than the model it replaces, providing a planted on-road presence while delivering more occupant and cargo room.
Hallmarks of TNGA, a lower center of gravity and a more responsive suspension package, dial up the driving excitement. In fact, the height of the Prius’ front badge is exactly the same as that of Scion’s FR-S sports car – a remarkable achievement in height and mass reduction.
The all-new rear double wishbone suspension produces a better connection to the road, providing greater control and feedback in all driving conditions. A more rigid body helps improve responsiveness while cornering. From winding mountain roads to the wide boulevards downtown, the new Prius stays connected to the road, without sacrificing ride quality and occupant comfort.
TNGA also provides a more rigid structural framework to help enhance occupant protection in the event of a collision. The high strength upper body is designed to distribute frontal collision impact energy. Plus, the Prius will be among the first U.S. models to offer Toyota Safety Sense (TSS), a new multi-feature advanced safety package anchored by automated pre-collision braking. TSS bundles cutting edge safety technologies including:
- Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist
- Full-Speed Dynamic Radar Cruise Control Automatic High Beams
- Available on the new Prius, Toyota aims to make Toyota Safety Sense available across nearly the entire vehicle lineup by the end of 2017.
Setting the Stage for the Future of Mobility
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.
Tom Burkart is the founder and managing editor of Car-Revs-Daily.com, an innovative and rapidly-expanding automotive news magazine.
He holds a Journalism JBA degree from the University of Wisconsin – Madison. Tom currently resides in Charleston, South Carolina with his two amazing dogs, Drake and Tank.
Mr. Burkart is available for all questions and concerns by email Tom(at)car-revs-daily.com.