So many people have been driving their old cars.  The economy, ya know.  Well, the old cars need CPR (or most likely, a quick and painless retirement).  I decided to research options.  So here you are, a comparison, and contrast, of  the:  Toyota Prius Plug-In, the Toyota Camry Hybrid, and the Chevrolet Volt.  I thought that this topic would interest you, so this post is going to be a bit longer than usual.

Toyota Prius Plug In:  The Toyota Prius plug-in is virtually indistinguishable from a normal Prius.  The only way one can tell the Prius Plug-In apart from a regular Prius are the silver paint on the mirrors, door handles, and tailgate, the car looks the same.  Of course, the blue-and-white PLUG-IN HYBRID stickers help.  There is also a cutout in the left fender that houses the outlet for the charging cord.  In terms of the inside, there are only a few PLUG-IN HYBRID stickers and logos.  The cargo floor is also a couple of inches higher, due to the larger battery pack.  From the driver’s seat, the car is virtually the same as a regular Prius.  The only differences are the fact that the battery pack is much heavier (it is made out of lithium-ion).  The car will take a tortoise-like 11.3 seconds to reach 60.  In three hours (from a 110-volt current), the car will be completely charged.  However, if you have a 220-volt current, you will be on your way in an hour and a half.  If you drive like a senior, you can get 13 miles of range before the car starts the normal hybrid cycle of a Toyota Prius.  If you drive faster, the range will subsequently go down.  Quickly.  You can go up to 62 in full electric mode, but that will drain the battery within minutes.  Accelerating to freeway speed or going up a hill will bring a moan that sounds like Leo when he’s tired from the engine.  Car & Driver gingerly drove the car in the city and were sustained by pure electric power 39% of the time, and got an average of 56 mpg neatly displayed on the navigation screen.  However, there are limited dealers that are authorized to sell the Prius Plug-In, so be sure to contact dealers near you.  The Toyota Prius Plug-In that I configured on the Toyota website came into a grand total of $33,208 (including an $850 destination charge/shipping tax).

Toyota Camry Hybrid:  The Toyota Camry Hybrid has crisper handling than the basic Camry.  The Camry Hybrid has a larger trunk than the previous generation (a gain of 2.5 cubic inches to 13.1 cubic inches) and the right side of the rear seat is now the only side that can accommodate long objects.  Passenger space has increased to 102.7 inches from 101.4 inches.  Toyota has trimmed about 220 pounds from the previous Camry Hybrid, thanks to the use of high-strength steel.  The low-rolling-resistance tires and a slicker drag coefficient of 0.27 makes the Camry Hybrid more fuel-efficient and faster.  The three “optitron” dials in the car’s multi-information display show:  mileage, range, and very important energy flow.  In uplevel XLE models, a leather interior and an infotainment system will run you $1160.  The eco setting accessed through the multi-information display will significantly inhibit throttle openings and will lower the air-conditioning power consumption to a dull roar.  When in pure electric mode, one can travel 1.6 miles below 25 mph.  While the Camry Hybrid won’t win a drag race against a Mustang, it will win a drag race against the basic Camry.  The Camry Hybrid rockets to 60 mph in a monumental 7.3 seconds!  The Camry Hybrid will brake shorter and sooner than the previous generation Camry Hybrid.  Stops have been measured at 178 feet, compared to the older Camry Hybrid’s 200.  Also, the new electric braking system is so smooth that you won’t feel queasy, even if you stomp on the brake pedal.  There is not enough lateral support in the front seats during hard cornering.  There is more rear-seat room, thanks to the car’s redesign and the center console and front seatbacks being redesigned.  This is especially better for the passenger in the center seat.  The Camry Hybrid LE that I configured on the Toyota website came into a grand total of $27,033.  That includes the $850 destination charge/shipping tax, which puts the car on par with the Chevrolet Volt (in terms of pricing).

Chevrolet Volt:  Changes in the battery pack in the Chevrolet Volt have made the car’s range go up to 38 miles in pure electric mode.  The EPA fuel economy for the car has gone up to 98 mpg.  The larger battery pack means that the charging time from a 120-volt current will snap up 10.5 hours of charging time.  With a 240-volt current, that time is dramatically reduced to 4.25 hours.  Any Chevrolet Volt sold in California will automatically come with a low-emissions package that will make it legal to drive in the carpool lane with only one person.  For many owners, work is just within reach of the electric range, so they can charge the car at work and come home without ever turning on the gas generator engine.  When owners DO use the gas generator engine, the cost is usually less than $100 a month.  This is mainly because of the massive amounts of technology stored in the Volt.  The regenerative braking system can eke about 8 more miles of range into the car.  The car will give owners neck-snapping performance in sport mode, and very little acceleration in eco mode.  The Volt that I configured on the Chevrolet website was $42,720, but of you add in the $10,000 discount on the Volt, the Volt will run you a mere $22,720.  Add in the $7,500 tax rebate and the Volt will run you $25,220.

The Kia Optima Hybrid is a hybrid family sedan that competes (ish) with the Camry Hybrid.  It has a lot of bang for the buck, but it has surprisingly bad fuel economy for something with a hybrid logo.  The Optima Hybrid is stylish, fun to drive, relatively fast, and did I mention that it will cause traffic jams because of its looks?  It only costs a mere $26,000 base price!

Here’s where the fun begins!  Comparing and contrasting the three cars won’t be easy.  I never thought it would be.  The Prius won’t win a beauty contest.  That goes to the Volt.  In terms of range, the Volt wins again.  In terms of being family-friendly, hats off to the Camry Hybrid.  In terms of technology, the Prius Plug-In and the Volt are tied.  The Volt wins the performance criteria.  In terms of utility, the Prius Plug-In wins again.  In terms of pricing, the Volt is REALLY trying to end up in your driveway.  The Camry Hybrid is REALLY good at making it into your driveway.  The Prius Plug-In has the potential to sell as well as the conventional Prius.  Which car would I recommend to my parents, or their friends?  I would recommend the Volt to them, as it is the most efficient, fun to drive, and has a good deal of storage space.  Plus, it wins the beauty contest (in my eyes).  It also comes with leather at no added cost, an HOV sticker, and a REALLY cool sound system.  Oh, and did I mention that it was the 2011 Motor Trend Car of the Year!.  My second choice?  The Camry Hybrid.  In years to come, the Camry Hybrid will be easy to find parts for, and it should last us a very long time.  Plus, it’s still family-friendly and it’s a winning formula that’s been proven many times over.  It’s also got crisp handling (a much-needed improvement for Toyota), and it has over 600 miles of range.  Why wouldn’t I recommend the Prius Plug-In to them?  Well, it’s not as fun to drive (important), it looks like it came out of Star Trek, and only certain dealers can service it.  That’s a BIG, BIG problem.  The Optima Hybrid lags behind the others in everything but looks.

12 thoughts on “The Family’s New Car – What Will it Be?

  1. The next post for the ‘Family’s New Car’ should be between Ferrari, Bughati, and Fisker. What the heck – dream big!

  2. What about Ford? I hear they have a new car out that is either plug in or hybrid that they have wait lists for. I am holding out for the Batmobile myself. Cynthia

  3. I, personally think that we should get the Chevrolet Volt, or the Prius Plug In. but my first choice would be the Volt (: 🙂

  4. :Has GM stopped production of the Volt??? And if so, won’t that present a problem in the future regarding replacement parts?

    Zayzee

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