I can see why Hunter S. Thompson had such a strong love/hate relationship with Las Vegas. It’s this flashy, flowing field of uncompromising creativity, set to ensnare the attention of millions of Americans as countless billions of hard-earned dollars are offered up to the Vegas gods annually. Which is kind of what the Prius has done over the past 15 years; for it too now has attention-grabbing curves and a slew of unexpected surprises to wow onlookers, and even though deep down we all know what it truly is designed to do, Toyota believes that this car will go “Beyond Possible.”
When Toyota set a date for the reveal of the 2016 Prius, it only seemed befitting to have the ceremony on the rooftop of LINQ, in the heart of the Vegas strip. With cocktails in hand, and the live sounds of Australian-based Atlas Genius in our ears, anxious members of the media gathered close to the stage, as camera crews prepared themselves for a live reveal broadcast. Then, like an ’80s hair metal drummer, the 2016 Prius descended to the stage by wire, and as countless cameras flashed the words “bold” and “stylish” reverberated across the crowd, as the world’s largest automaker attempted to shake the public’s belief that this Eco car is a boring automobile.
It certainly looks like Toyota achieved its goals in the styling department, because love it or hate it, the new Prius has some wild lines and external angles. The drab, Adidas-shaped days of this hybrid are put asunder, and with that comes an interesting observation: Everything leading up to this reveal has hinted that Toyota has a new target market in place with this one.
As the millennial market slowly grows gray, and our prolonged interest in environmental stewardship pushes multi-billion dollar corporations to produce, market, and sell greener products in an increasingly cleaner fashion, Toyota notes it all, and looks to corner a fresh crop of potential Prius buyers. There was not a moment during that entire evening where I thought to myself how baby boomers are going to gobble this thing up; that is already a given based upon how eager they already are to upgrade with each emerging incarnation. This thing has been built for mass consumption by guys who were raised on Super Nintendo and Nickelodeon’s Guts, and quite honestly Toyota might be able to pull this one off in true Mortal Kombat-style “flawless victory.”
So before I start going over all of the interior upgrades or how those wicked tail lights are designed that way for a reason, let’s look at why Toyota may have solidified its place on the iron throne of the hybrid kingdom. First of all, in certain ways, its competition is weaker than it ever was. Honda’s Insight has admitted defeat and has plans to retreat to Japan, while the Chevy Volt continues to bathe in a lukewarm reception that borderlines on being lackluster (though the 2016 model could prove otherwise). The Prius also has heritage on its side now, as its lineage continues to grow longer and stronger with each passing generation. Finally there is its appeal — it may not be the prettiest car to some people, but with lines like that, everyone will be able to pick it out in a lineup now.
With its Murai and FR-S hybridized nose, wider stance, lowered ride height, and interesting LED-tubed tail lights, the new Prius rocks its party pants harder than the redesigned CR-Z, and for good reason. Interestingly enough, the new Prius’s front badge is exactly the same height as a Scion’s FR-S, and the use of rear double wishbone suspension is a proper approach to the handling department since the car has also been built with a more rigid body. While we weren’t allowed to drive the car around on the rooftop of the casino, recently released specs on this thing show that Toyota actually has gone the extra mile and made this new version super powerf– oh wait, no, it only got a 15 horsepower bump, so there are 150 ponies all together now.
So the new Prius looks sportier than ever before, has improved suspension and rigidity, and has a slightly more potent powerplant to back it up. This leaves us with fuel efficiency as our next subject, which is where this car really rules over all — while the interior was quite nice, with fine bone white china plastics, soft touch trim pieces, and seats that were comfortable and well-bolstered, getting amazing gas mileage is the primary reason people have always gravitated to this automobile.
All of those blue, tech-inspired interior accent pieces on the shift knob and display screen don’t mean a damn thing if this car doesn’t rock amazing efficiency numbers. Sure, it’s great that the Prius now offers a pre-collision avoidance system with pedestrian detection, lane departure steering assist, and automatic high beams, but it’s Toyota’s official press release stating that this generation is expected to get a “[10%] improvement in EPA estimated MPG on core models” that offers the most sex appeal. Once they pair that with a soon-to-be unveiled Eco model to mop-up the remainder of the MPG zealots, Toyota will have an advantage like no other.
While all of the other members of the media fawned, photographed, and fretted over the birth of the new hybrid, I grabbed my drink and sought out the boys in the rock band Atlas Genius to see what their take was on this thing. Maybe they could shine some light on why Millennials would want to buy one; Michael, the drummer, was quite receptive to my unorthodox approach to covering the reveal event, and when asked why he would buy this Prius, the Aussie lad was quick to respond that it was entirely for environmental reasons, stating that both his brother Keith and he were devout vegans, and environmental stewardship trumped all other reasoning. Keith jumped in, telling me that it wasn’t a half-bad looking hybrid either, as it had kind of “futuristic look” which was a comment that stuck with me long after my interview with the Jeffery brothers had come to a close.
Later, in the glass-encased ensconcement of the Caesar’s Palace smoke shop, I mulled over what I had gleaned from that evening’s festivities with the assistance of a medium-bodied, double figurado cigar. This is a bold move, especially by Toyota standards, and from the sheer amount of media in attendance that evening, it was extremely obvious that this event was tailor-made to build hype for a new line of Prius purchasers.
But remove the fancy rooftop Vegas party, live video feed reveal, and mountains of media hype, and what do you have? A car that has been redesigned to be far more clever, safe, efficient, and fun than any of its predecessors or competitors, because while the fanaticism around the Prius may be laughable in the performance circles I prefer to languish in, it is still a dominant force, and influences automotive ingenuity like you would not believe.
Now all that is left is some test drive time and an open mind, because while performance cars may have my heart, practical automobiles have my respect. Maybe this time around Toyota will be able to give us the best of both worlds as it works on going “Beyond Possible.”