2004 Toyota PriusPRIUS: LARGER, MORE FLEXIBLE,
2004 Toyota PriusEnlarge Photo
The name Prius is Latin for “to go before,” and when Toyota introduced the gas-electric hybrid Prius in 1997, it was more a conversation piece than a necessary response to rising gas prices. What a difference six years makes — not to mention indirect celebrity endorsements from the likes of Cameron Diaz and Leo DiCaprio. Cam and Leo will be happy to know that the second generation of the Prius, due out later this year, makes a tremendous leap forward in usefulness and in electronic efficiency (and gadgetry, too). Toyota says the ’04 Prius has grown so much (six inches longer in wheelbase), the five-door hatchback now is classified as a mid-size vehicle. By upping the electric part of the powertrain to 50 kilowatts and 500 volts (from 33 kW and about 300 volts) Toyota claims a 0-60 mph time for the Prius in about ten seconds, with fuel economy in the 50+ mpg range and with emissions of hydrocarbons 30 percent less than the previous Prius. The new hybrid drive system has been dubbed Hybrid Synergy Drive, and will also appear in the Lexus RX300 hybrid coming next year. Inside, a “start” button replaces the conventional ignition; a proximity sensor replaces a conventional key fob and senses the driver’s presence, unlocking the doors as the driver approaches. Many ancillary systems such as the air conditioning are now electrically driven; anti-lock brakes, and power windows/doors/locks/mirrors are standard. Toyota expects to price the new Prius very close to the outgoing model — at about $20,000 — and anticipates selling about 36,000 of them each year, nearly tripling original forecasts when the Prius launched in 1997.
2004 Mitsubishi GalantMITSU PREDICTS 100K
2004 Mitsubishi GalantEnlarge Photo
Not in price — in sales volumes. Mitsubishi’s North American guru Pierre Gagnon says the 2004 Galant is an important milestone for the company, and when it goes on sale later this year the Galant will be Mitsubishi’s volume seller at more than 100,000 units annually. The new Galant, with a striking Altima-like shape, is a larger, more powerful sedan than before. A new platform makes the Galant one of the largest vehicles in its class, with room for three adults across the back seat, Gagnon promises. A 160-hp, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine is the base powerplant; a 230-hp 3.8-liter V-6 is found in upscale models. The Galant will come in four trim levels: the DE bows at about $19,000 with a four-speed automatic, four-cylinder engine and four-wheel disc brakes; the ES adds a 270-watt stereo and anti-lock brakes; an LS V-6 model has a Sportronic automatic and traction control; and the GTS gets the sport tuning treatment as well as projector headlamps, leather interior trim and side airbags.
2004 Mitsubishi Lancer SportbackLANCER WAGON ROUNDS OUT MITSU
2004 Mitsubishi Lancer SportbackEnlarge Photo
A five-door Sportback model is coming to the Mitsubishi lineup, and with it comes more help for the revival of the affordable compact sportwagon, Mitsu says. A 2.4-liter four with 160 hp (162 on the Ralliart) is the only powerplant available on the wagon, and a four-speed automatic is the sole gearbox. An LS model comes with A/C, a 140-watt CD player and power accessories. The plain-ish five-door wagon will thankfully be joined by a Ralliart edition with body add-ons, sport seats and interior carbon-like trim.