Wednesday, February 21, 2007

My 2004 Prius

Gotta say I love my Prius, mostly. I even sold my Nissan 300ZX Twin Turbo (300HP) just because I prefer to drive the Prius. It's like driving a smooth-running computer. Less than 1/3 the horsepower, and the handling sucks, relative to the Z, but the creature comforts (such as not feeling every crack in the road) make it well worth the tradeoff. The super smooth infinitely-variable-speed transmission is a dream. The best part is parking because the gas engine shuts off and you're driving by electric motor. I want to upgrade the battery system to run 40 miles around town on just electric, but this will void the warranty. Since I'm at about 37K miles, the bumper-to-bumper warranty is already over, but the power-train warranty is still in force. I must say that voice control for the nav system, audio system, climate control, and even looking for restaurants is pretty cool stuff. I call the nav system "Miss Information" (it has a female voice and sometimes gets me lost), but mostly I end up at the right destination even if not via the quickest route. The bluetooth link with the phone sucks, though. I do not use it, and Toyota should be taken to task for the software design. It does not import the phonebook from my BT phone worth a damn and the audio is distorted (my phone is an Audiovox PPC-6600 Sprint, running Pocket PC 2003). Don't expect to import your contacts list without major fiddling, and read up about phone compatibility before assuming it will all work. My Treo 650 had good audio with the in-car hands-free system, but the Audiovox did not.

EPA mileage claims 66MPG or some nonesense. I have been getting between 35 and 43 typically. I had a few tanks break the 50. I do live up a large hill, so I believe I am losing a lot on the way up, even though I recover as much as possible on the way down (using "B") mode on the shifter. If I turn off the climate control system, I seem to get about 5-7MPG more over the course of a tank.

Sometimes the onboard computer seems to lose its mind and the car will not start. This happens about twice a year. It's half turned on, meaning the accessories system is on but the hybrid system won't turn on. Nor will the car shut off so it can be 'rebooted.' It responds to no keypresses at all. It seems to have to just time out and eventually will allow me to restart it. This could take a couple of minutes. This has only happened in a parking place such as my garage, not in the middle of traffic somewhere, thank goodness. I have never had the 'dying in traffic' problem that some 2nd-Edition (2004+) models were reported have had.

One other complaint is how the shifter stick works. It's like a joystick on a kid's computer game controller. After selecting a gear (such as 'D') you release the stick and it always pops back to a resting place. The problem is, if you hold the shifter in a position such as Drive or Reverse for a few seconds, the engine go into Neutral. If you're used to keeping your hand on the shifter of your old car (whether automatic or manual) after shifting into a gear (and who isn't?) this can really foul you up. You're trying to accelerate or back up and suddenly no-go. The car just stops advancing. And unlike purely-gas cars, you don't have an engine revving in neutral when you step on the gas to give you a sense of what's up. In this car, nothing happens. It just suddenly loses power and is silent. Many people probably think it has just stalled. It just suddenly feels as though you have lost power. Select D or R again and the car moves, so long as you remember to take your hand off of the shifter stick and allow it to jump back to its normal resting place. I think Toyota should fix this ergonomic oddity.

I often load my Prius up with gear for playing in my rock band, and then have to back up my driveway into my garage to unload. I have noticed a distinct lack of backup power. Admittedly I have a full load and I'm backing up a steep driveway. Sometimes the car will not even move. No revving, no spinning wheels, and minimal sound from the engine. The electric motor seems to be the only engine working. If I press the accelerator completely to the floor and wait a few seconds, it will sometimes kick in the gas engine finally, and I can make it slowly up the hill. I believe the gas engine should come on sooner when the computer senses that the accelerator is floored and the wheels are not turning. I did have the front wheels lower than the rear (thus the drive wheels would not have been tempted to spin), so it was not the traction control that was kicking in. I'm not sure what the issue is, and it may have been fixed in post-2004 models.

1 comment:

  1. From all I have read about the Prius on PriusChat and other sites, you should NOT use B-mode on the shifter to regenerate. Use of B-mode seems to reduce mileage. Use B-mode only as you would use L on a normal auto transmission, to slow down and prevent brake overheating on steep downhills.


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