It seems like every week there is another supercar launched that takes an existing model and makes it more focused, more single-purpose, and more “hardcore”. Air conditioning is removed (but always available as an option), carbon fibre replaces steel, the paint gets thinner to save a few grams, bigger wings are added, and, invariably, the price gets a nice bump too. All of those to make a car more suitable for a single use (usually the track) that the car will probably never even see. Most of these supercars are confined to a life of sitting in the garage, only brought out for shows. Or maybe an auction to find a new owner every few years.
Well, there is one hardcore, focused machine out there that will see more use in a single year than most supercars will see in a lifetime. It’s a car that has active aerodynamics and a full underbody tray. It has bits added to the doors, taillights, and sills to make the air flow around it more smoothly. The roofline has even been altered by 17 cm over the old model to help reduce drag. There is no carbon, but the body uses 600 percent more high-strength steel than the old one to save weight, each wheel is 0.7 kg lighter than before, and even the seats were completely redesigned to be lighter than ever. The engine reaches more than 40 percent thermal efficiency, which is a record for a production gas car and is closer to an F1 car than to an average sedan. But despite all of this, the car I’m talking about gets very little respect from gearheads and car people, which is something that needs to change. If you’ve read the title you already know the car I’m referring to, but if you didn’t, I’m talking about a car whose single focus is on achieving the best fuel economy possible – the 2016 Toyota Prius.
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The headline for the Prius is the gas mileage, but the all-new body catches a lot of eyes. As far as the shape, let’s call it unique and leave it at that. It does look better in person, and it does grow on you to some extent, but it probably isn’t going to go down as one of the most beautiful cars ever put to steel. That’s fine. Most race cars aren’t gorgeous either, and that’s because the shape is intended to be functional. The same applies here. The wind tunnel comes first, aesthetics come second. As far as the fuel economy, my 300 km or so of mixed hilly highway, city, and country driving got an indicated 3.5 L/100 km. I even had a single 25 km trip that netted me 2.2 L/100 km. That’s a fair bit better than the window sticker 4.4 city, 4.6 highway rating, and I wasn’t doing anything to hypermile.