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FEATURES | 9 out of 10
We love the rooftop solar panel. It runs a fan that keeps the interior cool while you run into Whole Foods, reducing the load on the A/C.
many available high tech gizmos
when you use the steering-wheel-mounted controls, they flash on the IP
redundant steering-wheel controls for simple audio and climate adjustments are standard
optional camera that tracks road lanes and tries to keep the car centered (while the driver is, say, texting?)
The 2013 Toyota Prius continues the mildly confusing practice of offering four trim levels, named Two, Three, Four, and Five. There is actually a Prius One, but you can't buy it; it's a stripped-down model solely offered to commercial fleets. Prices have risen steadily over the years, and with the addition last year of the Prius C subcompact--based-priced below $20,000--the Prius Two starts at $24,000 and prices rise into the low thirties for higher-level models with generous options.
All Prius trim levels include power windows, cruise control, and an AM/FM/XM/CD player audio system as standard. In last year's slight update, Toyota added a standard Bluetooth connection and a 6.1-inch display radio with iPod and USB connectivity.
Moving up from the Prius Two to the Prius Three trim level adds satellite navigation, the useful rear-view backup camera, and an upgraded audio system. The audio has Toyota’s Entune multimedia system built in, including a suite of applications that can connect to such Internet services as Pandora and Bing via a compatible smartphone that's been linked via Bluetooth.
The Prius Four gets heated front seats and leather upholstery, and the top-of-the-line Prius FIve adds LED headlamps to join the LED running lights, larger 17-inch alloy wheels, and options for a 7-inch touchscreen navigation system with split-screen capability, automatic on/off headlights, and an eight-way power adjustable drivers’ seat that includes power lumbar support.
Other equipment includes the flashy solar-roof package, which embeds photovoltaic cells into a glass roof panel. It only generates enough electricity to power cabin-ventilation fans that pull hot air out of the Prius while it's parked. That cuts the load on the air conditioning when the car powers up. Remote starting for the air conditioner is also offered.
Another option is the Touch Tracer system, which lets the driver swipe fingers over controls right on the steering wheel that reproduce the movements on the Multi-Information Display panel on the dashboard. That means drivers can keep their hands on the wheel while adjusting climate control or radio settings. Other makers offer dedicated volume buttons and other controls on the wheel, but this is definitely more high-tech.
An addition to the 2013 lineup is a new special edition, which Toyota calls the Prius Persona Series. This trim package is effectively a Prius Three model with charcoal interior trim with black accents, red stitching on the seats, dark-chrome interior accents, a new exterior color called Black Cherry Pearl (Blizzard Pearl and Black are also available), 17-inch alloy wheels in a special finish, and a special exterior badge.
The Prius Plug-In Hybrid, as the most expensive model in the lineup, is essentially a Prius Four with some exterior trim changes, plus the larger battery pack and onboard charger that make it an electric car that can recharge from the grid.
The 2013 Toyota Prius has many tech-oriented features, both standard and optional, though competitors are closing in.