It has long been fashionable in auto-enthusiast and auto-journalist circles to dismiss the Toyota Prius as a precious affectation of misguided Al Gore devotees, people who find automobiles something to endure - for the sake of pure transportation - rather than enjoy. According to this mind-set, Prius drivers clog the carpool lanes, dawdle in intersections lest they ignite the internal-combustion component of the Hybrid Synergy Drive powertrain too quickly, and undeservedly bask in the glow of a conviction that they are helping the planet and their fellow human beings. That Prius owners are self-satisfied idiots, hypocrites, and anticar zealots until proven otherwise is taken as writ by Prius critics, including some members of Automobile Magazine's editorial staff.
Central to the Prius critique is the notion that it, along with most vehicles with hybrid gasoline/electric powertrains, is no fun to drive and is simply not a match for a well-tuned car with a conventional internal-combustion engine, preferably one mated to a slick-shifting manual transmission. Indeed, there is more than a germ of truth to this. The outgoing, second-generation Prius suffers from an indifferent chassis; vague, lifeless steering and braking responses; weak accelerative power; and an utter lack of visceral, sensory feedback.... Read full article