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First Impressions After Driving My 2004 Prius For a Week

Its really fun to drive. Now when I drive my other full time gasoline car, it seems so crude in comparison, especially at stop lights and during city driving, not to mention the pollution factor.

What did I buy:
I had a requirement to sell my old car before purchasing a new Prius. I didnt make quite as much money as I was hoping, so I ended up buying a base Level 2004 Silver Prius with option 1 (RW, $180 rear windshield wiper option). It also came with floor mats, cargo net, and first aid kit. The MSRP price with option 1, delivery processing handling fee, and above accessories was $20,952.00. And no, I will not tell you how much I paid, although it was very good for this part of the country :)

At 150 miles, the engine indicator light came on. It turned out that the O2 sensor got dirty from some kind of film used in the engine. The recommended Toyota fix was to clean the sensor and then the Prius was driven by the Toyota Service Guy who kept accelerating in D and B modes for about 10 minutes, which blew the offending stuff through the engine and exhaust system. Then he ran diagnostics afterwards and the O2 sensor was happy.

But for about a day after the O2 sensor issue, the cool temperature indicator would come on after the car was warmed up. This was just a little fall out from the film, as well. Then that cleared up and everything is working great now.

Gas Mileage:
This was a simple amateur test to give me an idea how the Prius performs with the kind of driving I do in the Portland, Oregon Metro area.
temperature: 45 degrees.
rainy as usual for this time of year.
Winter gasoline mix in effect.
Tire pressure: 42/40.
350 miles on the odometer when this test began (not completely broken in yet).

Test 1: Cold start and drive to work (5 days a week).
41.6 MPG Average; distance to work: 5 miles
Depending on traffic, it usually takes ten to fifteen minutes to get to work. The Prius has just warmed up when I turn it off at work. I know that the Prius is tuned to expend energy to heat up the catalytic converter as soon as possible so the exhaust system is working according to AT-PZEV specs. Having the coolant automatically pumped to a thermos (whenever turning the vehicle off) to keep it warm for up to three days improves efficiency a great deal as well. I would not be surprised to see the MPG dip into the 30s on some mornings this winter. But thats still a lot better than my previous sedan could ever do.

Test 2: City Driving
60.9 MPG Average; 10 mile test
With the car already warmed up, I drove in the city with lots of stop and go from 0 up to 40 mph. This is where the Prius really shines! I can cruise in all electric mode up to 41 mph. I accelerated from a stop like a normal car. When I got to cruising speed, I simply feather footed the gas pedal, lightly re-applying gentle pressure on the pedal. This caused the Prius to easily cruise in stealth mode (all electric mode). Since city traffic requires lots of coasting and breaking as well, the battery can easily stay charged. I drove on fairly flat roads and once on a road which had a number of small hills. If the car hadnt performed regenerative breaking and/or coasting for awhile on a longer section of the road, the gas engine would come on to help recharge the battery. Letting the computer perform its balancing act while just driving normally is all you really need to do. Well, the feather footing is kind of cool though.

Test 3: Country Road Driving between 45 and 55 mph
47.2 MPG Average; 12 mile test
The country road I was on had a number of small hills. The range of speeds was due to traffic and the road conditions. After 42 mph, the gas engine is active full time, although the electric motor comes on to assist very briefly at times.

Test 4: Mixed Driving (typical city and country driving for me)
51.5 MPG Average; 10 mile test
After the country road test, I re-entered the city and drove in the city for another 10 miles. Once again, the stealth mode raised the mpg significantly.

Test 5: Freeway Driving between 55 and 65 mph
37.5 MPG Average; traveling up hill on the freeway at 60 mph.
52.5 MPG Average: Traveling down hill on the same freeway section as above at 60 mph. Note: the average of the up hill and down numbers comes out to 45 MPG.
44.1 MPG Average: 22 Miles of fairly flat freeway (small hills in a couple places).

Test 6: Freeway Driving between 70 and 75 mph
41.8 MPG Average: 12 mile test.

The Results:
Just before Test 3, I filled up the tank for the first time. It took 7.9 gallons, which means it probably had approximately 2.6 gallons still in the tank. As it gets colder, the tank bladder can shrink to hold as little as 10.5 total gallons. In warmer months, it probably gets a little closer to the max 11.9 total gallons. Im willing to put up with this since the bladder helps with zero evaporative emissions from the tank.

I can see how the gas mileage numbers can easily change depending on the roads, time of year, driving style, whether the Prius is warmed up or not, winter/summer gas mix, and so on. But even with my very erratic driving (especially from the above mentioned Toyota Service Guy), my first tank averaged 45 mpg.

I took a few people to lunch last week. They seemed to be impressed, especially with all the room in the back seat area, the high quality look and feel of the interior, the drive by wire technology, and especially the stealth mode.

After one week I turned off the reverse beep since I no longer need it for training purposes. The non mechanical drive by wire toggle shifter and push button park and power buttons seem natural now.

Overall, I am pleased with the new Prius.
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