Saturday, April 7, 2012

Toyota Prius Test Drive

My bright yellow 2000 Nissan Xterra has over 150,000 miles on it. I brought it into the dealership for an oil change and was given an estimate on repairs that was over $2,000. I brought the truck to Zembower's auto repair to fit a wiper that wasn't working. They gave me a similar price. Seems the CV joints on the front axle are broken which means grease isn't being kept in its proper place. They both suggested I replace the front axle. The Xterra gets 15 miles per gallon when it is in good shape. The price tag at the pump hurts each week. I do an awful lot of driving going from event to event to sketch.

The bottom line is I need a new ride that gets better gas mileage. Why not try and get the best possible gas mileage? I decided to test drive the 2012 Toyota Prius. I walked into the Toyota dealership on Colonial Drive and told the receptionist I wanted a test drive. She informed me that I was the first person to walk in that day without an appointment. I don't plan ahead much, I just act on impulse. A young salesman wasn't busy, so he walked me out to the lot to introduce me to the 2012 Prius.

He popped open the hood to show me the engine. I've never seen anything like it. It is part electric motor, part generator and part gasoline engine. A hybrid system indicator shows the flow of energy every moment you drive. I expected the interior to feel cramped compared to my large SUV, but I had plenty of head and leg room. It actually felt more spacious than my Xterra. I felt like I was seated in a shuttle craft with the digital data display and LCD on the center console. The tiny tires made me nervous and there is no spare tire in order to conserve weight. The advantage gained is a neat storage compartment under the floor in the back. The back seats were also more spacious than my truck and folded down, the seats lie flat leaving just enough room so I could lie down in back if needed.

The vehicle started up with the push of a button. The stick shift is more like a video game joy stick on which you gesture the transmission into forward or reverse. The small stick then returns to the central position. The ride was much quieter than the roar of my trucks off road tires. When we stopped at a stop light, the engine literally shut down to conserve energy. To say I was impressed would be an understatement. This was one high tech sexy (well, practical) beast.

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at

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