Finally, after about a year of lusting after the Prius, I got to go down to Toyota of Kirkland and take a rather long test drive (about an hour). The car was a black 2005 with package 6 (every option known to man), which includes driver/front passenger seat-mounted side and front/rear curtain airbags, smart key system, security alarm, HomeLink garage door opener, GPS navigation, JBL premium AM/FM cassette/6-disc in-dash CD changer w/(9) speakers, vehicle skid control, fog lamps, and HID headlamps. This particular car also had a 5-piece carpet floor/trunk mat set, cargo net, and first aid kit.
If I only liked the car before, I really, really like it now. It drove flawlessly — no losses in power, very responsive to the pedal, and the control placement is ideal to ensure that eyes are kept on the road. It’s a very comfortable car, though there are some odd points, mostly in the way of visibility. Looking out the back of the car from the driver’s side seat, there’s a crossbar that divides the rear window into two window components — the angle of the rearview mirror or the angle of the window made the lower half appear tinted, which was a little disorienting, since the window itself isn’t tempted. There are also two very strange blind spots on either side of the rear window, which means that it’s not all that easy to see when backing up. This can be compensated for by being extra aware when backing. The car also has this cool little beep that goes off when you’re in reverse so that you know you’re in reverse. Now if only they would make an audio signal by default when your turn signal’s been on too long.
Admittedly, you don’t need GPS navigation in a car unless you have an annoying habit of getting lost, but it’s still a cool little feature. I glanced at it a couple of times when I was driving and it was fairly accurate — not perfect, necessarily, based on my knowledge of the area, but pretty good. Buttons on the steering wheel allows for control of interior temperature, the Bluetooth hook-in to the cell phone, and the audio system. It even has a trigger for voice activation, which is apparently wired into the navigation system in addition to the phone system. Thus, you can activate the voice feature, then say something like “Show me Chinese places” and it should, theoretically, show the nearest Chinese eatery. We didn’t test this, though.
It’s very, very hard to tell that the car’s on if it’s sitting still with the air conditioning and everything else off. This is probably the most impressive thing about it — I can actually hear conversations on the highway. In normal cars, this isn’t possible at all, and is quite nice for me. Cabin noise is minimal for the most part when the car is actually running. I didn’t have a single problem hearing both Amanda and my mother in the back seat when they were talking. I could probably rattle on all day about the drive, but it took us all over the place and (obviously, by requirement) showed off the major features.
The sales consultant also walked us through the package lists — I’m either looking at package 4 or package 6, with additional accessories (probably the exact accessories list that was on the car I drove today).
If you ever get a chance to drive a 2004 or 2005 Prius, do it — it’s a great experience, even if you don’t end up liking the car in the end. It’s surprisingly luxurious for a car of its size, and I quite enjoyed the experience.