2016 Toyota Prius
While almost every major car brand offers some form of hybrid vehicle, it’s Toyota that is truly the hybrid champ, with over 8 million hybrids on the road worldwide. And the vast majority of them are the hybrid that started it all, the Prius. Well, believe it or not, now it’s time for a 4th generation of the popular gas-electric. Let’s see if it’s still a green-machine benchmark.
Not only is this 2016 Toyota Prius all-new, but it’s built on Toyota’s New Global Architecture that will carry a wide variety of new models in years to come; not just hybrids.
And while that might be mostly about cutting costs and simplifying production, it’s a much stiffer platform that is supposed to deliver a more rewarding driving experience; not a past Prius strong suit. Is this the fun to drive Prius we’ve been waiting for?
Well, a first-time double wishbone independent rear suspension is certainly an upgrade over the former torsion beam. It provides both a smoother reaction to bumps, and better grip in corners.
Now, we’re not saying it can now moonlight as a track day ride, but there is clearly a better, more in control feel behind the wheel. Furthermore things have gotten quieter and visibility has improved all around.
Prius is longer than before, by over 2-inches; and appears less bulbous, if also less familiar. In fact, a taller front grille area, most probably for pedestrian crash protection, and a flatter, more defined hood, alters the traditional Prius triangular profile significantly. The stance is wider, lower, and with lots of front fascia character lines, far more aggressive.
Lighting is a big contributor to that theme too, from the standard, menacing slim LED headlights, to the form following signature tails.
New looks and improved driving capabilities are great, but Government Fuel Economy Ratings are far more important to the Prius buyer. While not yet finalized, Toyota estimates 54-City, 50-Highway, and 52-Combined. Or overall, 2 more than last year.
There will also be an Eco model with lighter weight and enhanced aerodynamics that will push the numbers even higher, to 58-City, 53-Highway, and 56-Combined.
As for the hybrid gasoline-electric powertrain behind those gains, it has gotten lighter and more compact.
The gas-fed internal combustion part remains a 1.8-liter I4; but it’s been redesigned top to bottom. And while fuel efficiency is up, power is down. Total output now comes at 121-horsepower.
Transmission remains a CVT, with a combined transaxle/electric motor that is also smaller and more efficient. If only we could figure that trick out for ourselves.
The powertrain space saving translates to more space inside. It was already a pleasant, if not super comfortable environment, but now it’s been upgraded to be a bit more mainstream and perhaps more inviting, but there is still plenty of that “Prius feel” remaining to keep it unique.
The instrument panel now has a hint of a wraparound theme to it, and controls are more in-line with the rest of the Toyota car family. Yet, the wide, and very comprehensive full-color TFT gauge cluster remains in a centrally located dash top bubble.
Steering wheel controls are even more comprehensive, and of course there’s a big center touchscreen for navigation and the like.
Front seat comfort and support have never been Prius strong points. 20-16 makes another stab at correcting that. The cockpit feels wide and airy, and there is excellent small item storage. The rear seat is also more comfy even as the space retains its coziness.
Cargo space is up slightly as well, to 24.6 cubic-ft. with a spare tire, 27.4 without; thanks to the smaller battery pack which is now Lithium-ion in most models, and now located completely under the rear seat.
It seems like everything you buy these days, whether it’s a toaster or toilet boast increased safety, and for ’16 the Prius gets Toyota’s Safety Sense, with Lane Departure Alert, Radar Cruise, Pedestrian Detection, and other active features to keep you from hitting anything or anyone; making the new Prius a borderline autonomous machine.
Pricing starts off at exactly the same place as the outgoing model at $25,035. A top end Four Touring starts just over 30 Gs.
We’ve been down this road three times before with Toyota. As like many of their recent products, their hope is that the 2016 Prius will transition from being a rational purchase to an emotional one. We’re not sure it’s quite there, yet. But bottom line, the Prius will continue to do what it has done for years, expand the hybrid profile to more and more households, and be the gasoline/electric benchmark for others to follow.
- Engine: 1.8 liter I4
- Horsepower: 121
- Torque: 105 lb-ft.
- EPA: 54-City /50-Highway
2024 Chevrolet Corvette Z06
Bringing Supercar Performance To The Street…American Style
What happens when you let enthusiasts and engineers worry less about tradition and allow them to do what they do best? You get cars like this Chevrolet Corvette Z06. What happens when GM let’s us borrow one for a few days? That’s what we’re about to find out!
While the Z06 package first became an option for the Chevrolet Corvette back in 1963, it wasn’t until the C5 that it describe the ultimate track-focused ‘Vette. And while since then every Z06 has gotten more extreme, if we were plotting things out on a graph, this is where the line of performance progression goes from a steady incline to almost vertical. Yes, the latest C8 Z06 is all that.
It starts with a brand new LT6 5.5-liter DOHC V8 that outputs 670-horsepower and delivers 460 lb-ft. of torque. It sounds great too, the very aggressive nature of its flat-plane crank design has it sounding, and feeling like it’s trying to shake its way out of the engine bay unless you unleash some of its furry.
This dual-cammer featured a dry-sump design from the get-go and is more racing engine than souped-up small block, being developed originally for the C8.R race car.
It made short work of Roebling Road Raceway’s long front straight, able to reach 160 by the end of it. With Hellcats no longer rolling off the assembly line, this is easily our new favorite V8.
But, as you can imagine, Chevy has done much more than just plop a bigger motor into its rear-midship engine bay, which was easier to do since they didn’t have to worry about anyone seeing over it. They’ve addressed just about every part of the car to ensure it puts that power to best use for coming out of corners like few other cars on the street.
That includes upgrades for the short/long arm double wishbone suspension setup that can be further enhanced with an available Z07 Performance Package that adds more aggressive tuning for Magnetic Ride Control, and Michelin Sport Cup 2R tires. Which can be mounted on 20 and 21-inch carbon fiber wheels with carbon ceramic brakes nestled behind.
It all translated into more grip than a semi’s worth of industrial strength Velcro through Roebling’s 9-turns.
With Hellcats no longer rolling off the assembly line, this is easily our new favorite V8.
Like most Corvettes, the Z06 can be as wild or mild of an experience as you care to make it but will most likely be the fastest car to show up at most track days. Yet, the same magnetic dampers that void all body roll on the track, provide an almost plush ride quality for the drive home, though not quite as plush as the standard Corvette.
We’re struggling to find something non-fan boy to say; sure the 8-speed dual-clutch gearbox doesn’t deliver shifts with the brutality of some exotics, but really, they’re just as fast, and the shifts are much smoother.
Believe it or not, almost all the body is unique. So, rather than just tacking on some fender flares, Chevy made the entire car wider to cover the 345 rear tires, yet keep the same uniform look in place.
The optional Carbon Fiber Aero Package adds a front splitter, rocker extensions, front dive planes, and a huge rear wing. We’re not sure if the multi-level nature of that rear wing was done for functional or aesthetic reasons, but it doesn’t block your rearview, and that is much appreciated.
We always talk about torque being more important than horsepower when it comes to acceleration, and the Z06 works with almost 200 fewer lb-ft. of torque than horsepower, but you sure wouldn’t know it when you mash the throttle.
Easy to use programmable launch control allows you to dial in your preferred RPM for launching; we found 4,500 was just about perfect for Roebling’s front straight, allowing for just a tiny bit of slip before rocketing us to 60 on a 40 degree day in just 2.6-seconds.
Power continues to pour on hard as the engine quickly hits its 8,600 RPM redline, and gear changes happen often. The sound inside the cabin in intense, and when the ¼-mile came to an end in 10.7-seconds at 130 miles-per-hour, it felt like it was just getting started.
Government Fuel Economy Ratings are a low 12-City, 19-Highway, and 14-Combined.
For the Z06 there are 3 LZ pricing points to land on, starting at $114,395; but you can go with the top-of-the-line Z06, add 50-grand worth of options, and still come out half the price of anything you can compare it to.
Call us home teamers all you want, but America’s only exotic does it yet again, not only is it the best Corvette ever, but it is also easily one of the greatest American cars of all time, arriving at a particularly poignant time culturally as we mourn the potential loss of internal combustion engines altogether. So, come for the spectacular engine and stay for the complete performance package, and experience, that is the Chevrolet Corvette Z06.
- Engine: 5.5-liter V8
- Horsepower: 670
- 0-60 mph: 2.6 seconds
- EPA: 12 City | 19 Highway | 14 Combined
- Transmission: 8-speed dual clutch auto
- Torque: 460 lb-ft.
- 1/4 Mile: 10.7-seconds at 130 mph