Thursday, August 25, 2011

Prius Review

I've had a Prius for about two years now, mostly commuting the short distance to work. But one of the reasons I bought it was to drive cross-country when I had the time, and this summer was the time. I drove out to our summer place in northwest Montana, and back. I thought I'd offer a few observations for the benefit of anyone who likes long drives.

  • Reliability. The car complained about nothing the whole way, nor did I find much to complain about. Oil and coolant levels were the same at the end of the trip as they were at the beginning.
  • Driveability. I was pleased to discover that I could set the cruise control and the car would hold the speed perfectly, even in the hills and even when I had it set for 75mph (which is the speed limit in Montana and Wyoming on the Interstates). Even more surprisingly, cruise control holds the speed fine even with the car in Eco (high fuel efficiency) mode. Eco mode definitely is less zippy than normal mode when accelerating manually, but once I decided to try Eco mode (somewhere in Minnesota, driving westward) I never turned it off. The car did not feel at all unstable even at high speeds, nice smooth ride.
  • Audio. It's a base model Prius with one accessory: XM satellite radio, an invention made for cross-country drives. Wonderful. Also listened to the music on my iPod and iPad.
  • Fuel efficiency. With gas varying between $3.59 and $3.89/gallon (except in Wyoming, where it was $3.39), this was the biggie. I had gotten used to getting about 43 mpg in city driving. This trip was 7690 miles total, from the day I rolled out of my driveway to the day I rolled back in. About 5400 miles of that is the drive out and back and about 2300 is local driving in Montana during my time out there. Mileage for the whole trip was 51.6 mpg. Best performance was at 65-70 mph; on the last leg yesterday, from Syracuse to Boston, with a passenger and a full load of furniture and baggage in the back with the seats folded down, I drove 230 miles and got 54.8 mpg. Highest I ever got for a long day's driving was 56.0 mpg. But at a steady 75 mph (across Wyoming and South Dakota) the efficiency drops to 48.5 mpg.
  • Complaint? Only one. The dashboard dims when the headlights are on, and I like to leave the headlights on during the day, except that I can't then read the speedometer. Or maybe I just didn't find the right control!


  1. I think I have a little bit newer prius, but on mine you turn the brightness of the dashboard all the way up using a little dial just to the left of the steering wheel. The dial catches a little bit before you can turn it all the way up, enough that it feels like you've turned it all the way up, but you just have to push a little harder.

    I've been very happy with my prius as well.


  2. I've had my Prius for a month and I too am very pleased with it. Hal is correct. Turn the dimmer switch up to the point that it clicks and the dash illumination will stay in day mode even when your headlights are on.


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