Toyota Prius mini-review

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Lisa and I picked up her new Toyota Prius on Wednesday and I spent a while driving it around today. It seems to be perfectly nice, though (unsurprisingly) without quite the pick-up as my Audi S4. The most noticeable thing about the Prius is that it's really aggressively technical. The standard Toyota cars just get the job done quietly (Camry, I'm looking at you) and competently. By contrast, all the elements of the Prius's design, from the teardrop-shaped body to the digital displays scream "look how high-tech this is".

The coolest part of the car, actually, is the keyless entry and ignition system. You don't actually need to use the remote for anything. You just keep it in your pocket and the car doors automatically unlock as you approach. The ignition system is pushbutton. As long as you're in the car with the remote, the car will start. Turning the car off is pushbutton as well. It's actually a little unnerving combined with the fact that the gasoline the engine automatically shuts off at idle anyway. It's a bit hard to tell whether the car's off at all. The least cool part is the back windshield-wiper support bar on the hatchback. It's about 20% up the window, and has a tendency to block your rear view, at least mine.

The car drives fine. It's nothing special, but the acceleration is smooth and consistent and the handling is solid, just like you'd expect from Toyota. To my mind, this is actually the most impressive piece of technology. Without the digital display, it's basically impossible to tell whether it's the gasoline engine or the electric motor (or both) providing the power. The transition is beautifully smooth.

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5 Comments

I wonder why they have an ignition button at all then. Seems like if you're in the car with the key card, you should just press the accelerator to go. Anything that needs powering down just powers down when the key goes out of range. The extra button press is entirely superfluous.

According to the dealer the car will continue to operate even with the key fob out of range. Initially this seems unattractive, but I think it's am important safety feature in order to ensure that the car doesn't just suddenly stop when you're driving it.

Does anybody know what protocol the fobs use for figuring out if they're in range? I'm curious if a MITM is possible on it (although the costs of such an attack would be high enough relative to other ways of breaking into a car that it's unlikely to be a 'practical' attack).

So I figured out a good reason to have an ignition button separate from the accelerator peddle. Basically, you don't want to drive the car through your garage door while climbing into the car and accidentally kicking the accelerator.

I testdrove a Prius a couple weeks ago and came away with the impression that the steering wheel is somewhat smaller than I'm used to. I was left with the feeling of driving a go-cart. Was it just me?

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