At the end of next month it looks like the OSC family will be getting its first new car–ever. I used to drive a Dodge Dakota, which I sold when we got married. My wife brought a Chevy Metro (think Geo with Chevy insignia) to the marriage, which we’ve driven for several years. It has, thanks be to God, likely outlived its expected lifespan. How it continues to run with as little maintenance as it requires is nothing short of miraculous. We’ve driven it into [what we thought was] the ground, and it has continued to serve well, never needing any major engine maintenance. But we change the oil faithfully and keep it well tuned. And fuel prices being what they are, it’s high MPG have been a great blessing as well.
But it will not last forever. It sports a Suzuki engine, and not a very good one. I sincerely meant that it is a miracle that we haven’t had problems with it. I can see the hand of God’s providing in keeping it running so well over the years, for which we are extremely thankful.
So at the end of next month we are accepting delivery of a 2007 Toyota Prius. We began the quest a couple of weeks ago (learning a little late, sadly, that the federal tax credit had been cut in half only a couple weeks earlier; yet it did not go away completely). We test drove one the other day. Let me tell you folks, after driving it I see no reason that most passenger cars on the road today ought not to be hybrids.
One of the first things I noticed was that the Prius was roomy. I pushed the driver’s seat all the way back and sat in the back seat. Now I’m a big guy, but I could have gone on an extended roadtrip in that back seat, had I needed to do so. It was quite comfortable. The model we drove had leather seats, an option we would not dream of selecting at this time, but the fabric seats are fine. It’s what we’re used to having.
Aside: One of the things that the sales people didn’t seem to understand was that we’re not an option family. We’ve been driving a 4-banger with fabric seats, AM/FM stereo (not even a tape deck), rack steering, power NOTHING, for the last seven years or so. Absolutely everything we could possibly have out of a base model would be an upgrade. So each time they wanted to tack $1000 on for something new it was very easy for us to say, “No, thanks. We’ll take the stripped-down version.”
Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive is phenomenal. There is an LCD screen on the dash that really doesn’t need to be there, but it’s there. It shows, among other things, what your current MPG is and where the power is going–to the battery, from the battery, from the fuel tank, and to and from the gas and electric motors. Watching it on the test drive was like watching a complicated dance. The LCD also displays maintenance scheduling, radio presets, DVD navigation (if you have that option, which we will not), and hands-free Bluetooth connectivity for a wireless phone (again, an option we did not select).
The LCD also becomes a viewing screen for the backup camera when in reverse, an option we could have lived without, but it’s standard in that bottom package. It’s a “safety feature.” I call it a bell or a whistle, but it was pretty cool, actually.
One of the other cool features was the smart key. This seems like a frill (for us, a family that has not had power anything, doubly so). Yet it’s a nice convenience, and one that might risk spoiling us. The key is actually an RF (I think) transmitter. When the key is within range of the door, you can pull it open and enter the vehicle. The key stays in your pocket. Likewise, with the key still in your pocket or a purse, when you’re in the driver’s seat it enables the engine, and it’s a push button starter. No fumbling with keys. No trying to unlock it while juggling kids and groceries, etc.
Starting it is rather eerie. You start it, and it’s clearly started, but there’s no engine noise. It’s totally electric when it starts. The gas kicks in for a little bit of acceleration, but it’s a very quiet vehicle.
It’s a drive-by-wire transmission. The shifter sends its information to the transmission electronically. There is a transmission brake as well, so that in a gradual deceleration all the energy generated by the slowing is routed to the battery, increasing brake life and efficiency. Add electronic power steering and you’ve got one more fluid you don’t have to mess with.
We’re very excited about this. The fuel savings are phenomenal, the environmental impact (yes, I hug trees in a Christian stewardship way) is fantastic, and the safety features (like side curtain airbags) are a welcome addition to our family’s vehicular life.
So your prayers are appreciated: that God would indeed guide and bless us in the purchase process, and thanksgiving that it seems to be coming together.