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Toyota Prius Plug-in and Acura TL

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By Kelly Foss; www.cardata.com



The Toyota Prius dominated the hybrid car market some years back. Hybrids have been available in the U.S. for just over 10 years and of them all, 70 percent are the Toyota Prius.

The original Prius accomplished its stated purpose but was a very small vehicle.  Gen 2 Prius was a proper sedan with remarkable reliability and delivered about 42 miles per gallon on a routine basis. In 2009, only two vehicles out of 300 got the coveted 3 Red Dot award in Consumer Reports and the Prius was one of them. The award was based on outstanding reliability, owner satisfaction and overall low ownership cost.

The current model, the Gen 3, looks very similar to Gen 2 but is actually more different than it looks. The roof is reshaped to increase the headroom and the styling makes the car even more slippery in the wind. Most significantly, the Hybrid Synergy Drive, the complex yet efficient powertrain in the vehicle, was totally redesigned. Owners would report routinely getting 50 mpg during daily driving. The new Prius Plug-In model goes a step even beyond that.

Hybrids operate by managing a carefully balanced combination of a gasoline engine and an electric motor. To really maximize economy in a Hybrid vehicle the trick is to use as much of the electric drive and as little of the gas engine as possible. Electricity is both cleaner and cheaper than gasoline. Normally, the only way to charge the battery is by driving the car. With plug-in technology however, you can plug the car in to your household electricity and have the battery fully charged at the beginning of each day.

The Plug-in Prius is fundamentally different because it can be pre-charged, it uses the more efficient lithium ion battery technology and it has electric drive with gas engine assist rather than the other way around on all previous Prius models.

So if you start the day with a full battery charge and you’re doing primarily city driving, a very high proportion of the car’s power will come from electricity and you’ll get astounding mpg numbers.  We were routinely getting 90 to 100 mpg rating around town in our test vehicle!  When needed, the gas engine chimes in seamlessly in the background in a way that is almost imperceptible to the occupants. Fill up the gas tank and with the combination of gas and electric, the car is good for 300 to 400 miles depending on how you’re driving. Even after a long day of driving with the battery depleted and the car running mostly on gas, the Prius was still posting an average 50 mpg fuel economy numbers!

The technology of the car provides both worry-free flexibility and outstanding fuel economy. This combination makes the Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid the undisputed fuel economy king of the road.


Acura’s TL model has received a significant and welcome modernization. The current generation TL began in the 2009 model year and comparatively speaking, is still a very competitive player in the premium midsize sedan market. For 2012, it becomes even more compelling.

The TL is a fine midsize sedan but it’s somewhat of an introvert. Unlike many of the others in its competitive suite, it’s not prone to elbow its way to front of the line and grab the microphone and spotlight and start singing “Hey Look Me Over.” The vehicle is rock solid and very rewarding after you get to know it.

This midsize sedan has a sporting flair and upscale accoutrements. Its front- wheel drive layout is space efficient like a comfy Lexus but its driving characteristics and road manners are more like a rear-wheel drive Infiniti sports sedan.

The styling is attractive, rich-looking and tastefully crafted. Whereas the exterior tends to blend in, the interior is a fantasyland of detail and attractions. The TL is technology-rich and there are all manner of buttons, switches and controls — which is good. Acura introduced navigation to the automotive world and for my money, it still is the leader in the field. The 440 watt 10-speaker Elliot Scheiner surround sound audio systems and HDD, which stores 3,500 of your favorite songs, is definitely a standout.  Additional new gadgetry includes XM Notes, real-time traffic and weather and blind spot information. Most of the new technology on the TL is now voice activated for hands-free operation.

The seats are well formed and very comfortable, and the meaty steering wheel makes you want to grab it and not let go! Having said all that — and because I live in a warm climate — if I ruled the Acura world, I would not bury the ventilated/cooled seat capability in the middle of an expensive option package.

The base TL is powered by a 280 horsepower 3.5 V6 and a 6-speed automatic.  This model is swift and delivers a 29 mpg highway fuel economy rating. The SH-AWD model is the performance variant.  It has super-handling all-wheel drive and a 305 horsepower 3.7 V6. Its dynamic drive system literally pushes the car around corners with an uncanny adhesion.

Both models of the TL are very rewarding to drive. They handle upscale midsize sedan duties with aplomb. They are quick, fun, drive well, look good, ride nicely, have great technology and are extremely reliable cars.

Visit www.MyCarData.com for more information on these models.