Thursday, August 11, 2011

Road Test

Yesterday I got a message on Facebook that my local Whole Foods was having a Toyota hybrid car test drive event that starts today (and ends on Sunday). They promised me a gift just for showing up, but I didn't really need that extra incentive. I've never been in a hybrid car, so I thought this would be a great way to check it out.

As I pulled into the parking lot, I saw a roped off section with several bright red Toyota banners around it, and another banner next to a registration tent by the store's entrance. I showed my driver's license at the registration table, was fitted with a paper wristband, then directed to the cars. They had three types of hybrids available--Camry sedans, Prius hatchbacks, and Highlander SUVs. I chose the Prius, because there was one available.

When I got in the car, the first thing I noticed is that the Prius actually had a place to store my purse between the seats, which is always a plus. The Toyota representative, who acted as co-pilot for my drive, was very nice. First he explained some of the features, including the strange-looking energy monitor screen in the middle of the dashboard which shows if the car is using battery or engine power. (If it's running on the battery, the car is amazingly quiet. In fact, I was amazed when I found out the car I was sitting in was on, because there was absolutely no engine noise.) After his short explanation, I put the car in Drive and stepped on the gas pedal. That's a misnomer, though, because I wasn't using any gas! The car was running on battery power. The gas engine only kicks in to recharge the battery, or when it's needed for extra pickup.

My test drive was very short. We went through the parking lot, exited onto Clayton Road, turned on Woods Mill, then circled back into the parking lot. However, the short trip was enough for me to figure out I liked the car. It ran very smoothly, and seemed to have enough power. I would like to have taken it on the highway, though.

When we got back, I learned a bit more about the car's features. The representative pointed out that there were three seat belts in the back, but like most cars I've been in, the three people would have to be really small to fit comfortably. I was interested to find out the car doesn't have a key. To turn it on or off, you push the POWER button, and there's a fob that locks and unlocks the door.

One thing that that I didn't like was the horizontal bar that ran across the car's hatch window area. I could see it in the rear view mirror, and thought was quite distracting. The representative said that when he drove the car, after a few days he didn't notice it anymore, but I don't know if I could get used to it.

After my drive I had to complete a short computer survey, after which I got my gift. I figured it would be a promotional tchotke, but I was pleasantly surprised to find out it was a Whole Foods gift card! As I left, they encouraged me to come back and try out a different car. I might just have to do that.


  1. Sounds like you were impressed!

    I drove a rental Prius in fall 2007 from Newark to Pittsburg. It was peppy. I found it annoying that when you started it, it took a while to go through all of it's diagnostics to be ready to drive. I joked that no one would ever choose a Prius to rob a bank because they would have to wait too long to start! LOL

    It did seem roomy though.

  2. My friend has one of those new cars with no key, and she's scared of losing track of the fob, or worse, leaving it in the car. What a great gift!

  3. The vehicle sounds interesting, I'm surprised that the oil companies haven't bought out the companies who make these yet. I wonder if it's going to happen, it doesn't seem like it. What's the price of the car you test drove?

  4. We do love our Prius. We especially love it when it come time to get gas. It's not that hard to drive at all. You just get in and press the start button, get in gear and go.

  5. We have a Toyota Highlander hybrid (SUV), and love it. It gets far better gas mielage than our second car--a Honda Accord.

    The key thing is really handy. I don't have to fish it out of my purse to start the car, just have the purse in the car. Same thing with locking/unlocking the doors. The car knows whether I have the key or not. If my hands are full, all I have to do is touch the outside door handle and it unlocks for me.

    I would have to play with it, but I think its kind of hard to lock the keys into the car. Not sure if it would actually lock you out permanently with the key inside unless you're using the lock button on the second key. Hmm..

  6. We rented a Prius on a trip to New Mexico two years ago. Great gas mileage, liked the camera for backing up, but hated the back window. It is not easy to see out of the back. I'm used to my huge window in my Forester. We were definitely not impressed enough that we would buy one.

  7. Ah there's quite a lot to love about hybrids nowadays. So what features do you like the most after the road test? Maybe this will convince you to get a hybrid. Hmm, let's see after you get back there for the second run.