Toyota’s all-new 2016 Prius promises to deliver the very attributes beloved by its legions of fans over the years with significant technology updates. Its recent reveal in Las Vegas and subsequent release of additional information shows that it clearly is an all-new generation, but one that doesn’t stray too far afield from the familiar design that’s recognizable at a glance. That’s probably a good thing for Toyota since over 3.5 million Prius models have been sold globally, with 1.8 million in the U.S. alone. So…why rock the boat?
Highlights to the 2016 Prius include a more refined exterior design, new double wishbone suspension attached to an all new vehicle platform for enhanced driving dynamics, and an expected 10 percent improvement in mpg. Conceivably, that could move the non-plug-in Prius close to the 60 mpg mark. The new design stretches the Prius 2.4 inches longer than the previous model with slight width and height expansions, all in the name of greater passenger comfort and cargo area.
The 2016 Prius is based on Toyota’s New Global Architecture, which allows models to share components and platforms for manufacturing efficiencies and cost savings. This new architecture brings tangible benefits like a lower center of gravity, increased body rigidity, and a more responsive suspension package to improve overall handling and safety.
CLOSER LOOK AT NEW PRIUS TECH
The new Prius retains its 1.8-liter engine but it’s been completely re-engineered for improved performance, better fuel economy, size and weight reductions, and a maximum thermal efficiency of 40 percent. Improvement comes partly through a large-volume exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) system and advancements in combustion efficiency. A redesigned air intake port improves airflow inside the combustion chamber. Coolant passages have been redesigned to optimize internal engine temperature. Low-viscosity oil reduces friction between sliding engine components and friction created by the piston skirts, rotating parts and oil pump has been reduced.
Fuel efficiency gains also come from improvements to heating performance. An active grille shutter opens and closes the grille as necessary in response to outside temperatures. The exhaust heat recirculation system has also been improved and made more compact. In yet another nod to efficiency, this recycles exhaust heat from the engine to the coolant to be reused in heaters and warm the engine.
The transaxle and motor have been redesigned to reduce weight. The motor is considerably more compact with a better power-to-weight ratio and offers a 20 percent reduction in mechanical losses through friction. The new-generation Prius will be available with either new lithium-ion or nickel-metal hydride battery packs with increased energy density. This allows the battery to be relocated beneath the rear seat, increasing cargo space.
There is also a new color head-up display that projects essential vehicle data and alerts on the lower section of the windscreen. A Smart-flow (S-FLOW) air conditioning system improves efficiency by detecting whether the front and rear passenger seats are occupied, adjusting ventilation and heating performance accordingly by minimizing air flow around empty seats.
An optional Toyota Safety Sense package, previously reserved for upscale Lexus products, is available in 2016 and may become standard equipment in 2017. The TSS package includes a Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection that alerts a driver if a collision is imminent. It also brings the car to a halt if a pedestrian is detected ahead of the car while driving under 18 mph. Full-speed Dynamic Radar Cruise Control will slow or stop the vehicle to avoid collisions as well. A Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist signals a driver if it senses the car drifting from the lane and also assists with steering input when needed. Automatic High Beam control turns the high beams on and off depending on traffic to enhance nighttime driving.
Toyota’s all-new 2016 Prius is sleeker and more efficient than the current model despite the fact that a first glance delivers that familiar Prius look. For the market the Prius successfully brings into the fold, this is likely a good thing. It is clear that the new Prius, nine years in the making, will continue to be a highly recognizable signpost on the green car highway.