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How design became a priority over technology

Toyota Prius 2023 is the fifth generation of the most famous hybrid car in the world. Since it was first sold in Japan in 1997, the Prius has exemplified the high fuel efficiency and advanced technology of hybrid-electric powertrains.

Present Fourth generation Prius arrived in 2016 and its look and design were not well received. But the introduction of a plug-in hybrid version of the Prius Prime in 2017 and a four-wheel drive version in 2019 are seen as smart moves to broaden the appeal of this fruitful symbol.

The new Prius is expected to hit dealerships in January, however, Toyota’s November 2023 Prius lineup launch omits some important background information as to why. The latest Prius has a radical exterior yet the same evolutionary technology.

In early December, Green Car Reports sat down with Satoki Oya, chief engineer for the fifth-generation Prius, at a car show in San Diego. The following six points help define some of the foundations of the 2023 Prius:

Toyota Prius XLE 2023

Toyota Prius XLE 2023

(1) Goals for Prius 2023 have taken time to set

Development of the fifth-generation Prius went “as planned,” Oya told us, “and the team was able to continue to achieve the goal.”

But, yes, there’s more to it than that. When asked why the next generation is still on sale until the model year 7, Oya admitted it took time to determine the future role of the Prius in the 2020s and beyond.

“The role of the new model is not specific at first,” he suggests. Such a radical design for this iconic vehicle, given its immense importance to the company’s technological image, took time to gain the approval of the entire project team. The goals chosen were to provide both outstanding design and performance worthy of it.

Oya says the result makes the Prius even “more important” in the lineup. The new model stands out in its own right, not only because it’s a Prius, but it also delivers better performance with the same outstanding 57 mpg fuel economy.

Toyota Prius XLE 2023

Toyota Prius XLE 2023

(2) Turning a design sketch into a car is hard work

Oya suggests that Toyota engineers have never made a mass-produced car with such a radical design. And they must do that while increasing performance, reducing overall weight and complying with more stringent crash test requirements in the future.

The overall foundation is an evolution of the TNGA (Toyota New Global Architecture) component suite that first debuted on the 2016 Prius. You can think of it as TNGA-2, Oya agrees. The challenge was to use a standard architecture, incorporated into the next generation of millions of Toyotas, while preserving the striking appearance created by the designers.

Toyota Prius Limited 2023

Toyota Prius Limited 2023

(3) Windshield angle is particularly difficult

The shape of the 2023 Prius is as close to a pure wedge as any generation has ever been, and a big part of that comes from its steeply pitched windshield. While the old model had a tilt angle of 26.3 degrees, the new model was backed even further, to 21.6 degrees—half a degree compared to the 21.1 degrees of the premium sports car, Exclusive Lexus LFA. The highest point of the roof is also moved towards the back of the body.

To do that, says Oya, Toyota did a large number of computer simulations specifically for the internal structure of the sloping windshield pillar (known as the A-pillar) to be able to build it out of new steel. , has higher durability. 1.3 times stronger than the previous structure. That allows the company to forgo hot-stamping parts of that assembly, saving energy and reducing the carbon footprint associated with production.

The company also worked with its glass supplier to create a windshield that is longer than any previous generation of Prius. Oya suggests: While it doesn’t extend to the roof like some electric vehicles do, it’s still “difficult to manufacture.”

Toyota Prius Limited 2023

Toyota Prius Limited 2023

(4) The platform must be redesigned to make the vehicle 2 inches lower

Oya notes that in order to get the roofline completely 2 inches lower than the previous generation, it was necessary to rethink the seating positions to maintain proper headroom.

In particular, he emphasized the need to redesign the battery pack and fuel tank—both located under the rear seats—to be shorter in height, allowing the rear seat cushion to sit lower with the same amount of space. above.

Toyota Prius Limited 2023

Toyota Prius Limited 2023

(5) Prius finally has the usual instrument cluster

As well as their distinctive exterior designs, primarily aimed at reducing aerodynamic drag, previous Prius models were known for their unusual interiors — and centered digital displays at the base of the windshield. wind. That’s all gone now.

The Prius 2023 has a relatively conventional rectangular digital instrument cluster centered behind the steering wheel. It contains what you might expect: digital speedometer inside circular power gauges (“Chg”, “Eco” and “Pwr”), odometer, time, heat gauges. outside temperature, the distance traveled until the fuel runs out, and a variety of different warning and warning lights.

While Oya doesn’t explicitly explain why, it’s clear that the Prius now shares the infotainment cluster and controls with the rest of the Toyota lineup — making it less distinct but perhaps easier. more understandable for new drivers using the model.

Toyota Prius XLE 2023

Toyota Prius XLE 2023

(6) Improved powertrain — but a lot more powerful

This is perhaps the most predictable of the things we learned from Oya: Like Toyota, every component is analyzed, refined, and redesigned for continuous improvement. We can’t think of a generation of Prius that didn’t happen.

Here, the Prius 2023’s inline-four has more displacement—2.0 liters versus 1.8 liters—and a higher compression ratio, now 14:1, up from 13:1. However, its maximum thermal efficiency of 41% is only gradually higher than 40% citations for 2016 Prius. Similarly, the engine-generator pair in a hybrid system generates more power. The engine is rated at 150hp, with a combined drivetrain of either 194hp or 196hp (for front- and all-wheel drive versions, respectively), compared to 96hp for the engine. and total powertrain output was 121 hp for last year’s model. That’s a 60% increase, more than any previous version of the Prius.

Lithium-ion cells are a new type, jointly developed with the battery supplier. Oya declined to name the supplier, believed to be Panasonic. Battery capacity drops to 0.9 kWh, compared to 1.3 kWh in the previous generation.

Toyota Prius Prime 2023 (European spec)

Toyota Prius Prime 2023 (European spec)

A Prius Prime coming in 2024

Inevitably, we had to end our interview with a question about the future of the Prius Prime model. Toyota has teased specs for it, including the idea that there will be a 50% increase in plug-in power range compared to the outgoing model.

But that, Oya and other Toyota executives have said in various terms, is a topic we’re not discussing today. Expect more details within a few months.

Toyota provided airfare, accommodation and meals so Green Car Reports brings you this first-person driving report.

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