We were coming down from the Mt. Washington observatory, sitting at a stop sign waiting to turn onto Angelas Crest Highway in sunny California, when the guy went by in a slightly disguised Kia mule. My journalistic instincts took over and we lit out in pursuit, not thinking that I was in a new 2004 pre-production Prius.

The electric motor quickly launched us to highway speed and w" />

Issue: Oct 2003


Cars Worth Noting - 2004 Toyota Prius



by John Peter

We were coming down from the Mt. Washington observatory, sitting at a stop sign waiting to turn onto Angelas Crest Highway in sunny California, when the guy went by in a slightly disguised Kia mule. My journalistic instincts took over and we lit out in pursuit, not thinking that I was in a new 2004 pre-production Prius.

The electric motor quickly launched us to highway speed and we were soon on the Kias tail. He did everything in his power to outrun us, especially after he saw the camera, but the Kia was no match for the lighter, more nimble Prius.

Prius hugged the corners (now that the low rolling resistance tires have been replaced by a good set of all-weather radials), the electric power steering dead on. Tap the brake to set the nose and point and shoot.

Our Kia driver finally gave up, pulled over and let us by. From that point on we slowed down and let him follow us, to get a better look, until he finally got on the freeway heading north to our south.

Once back in downtown Pasadena, Prius showed us its other side. Cruising along the famous Rose Bowl Parade route it was impossible to tell when the 1.5L four-cylinder engine kicked on. Youd swear that you were running on the electric motor all of the time. The new electric air conditioning system now runs separate from the engine, so you dont hear the engine start while sitting at stop lights. The 2004 Prius is also a lot roomier inside than the previous car, with room for four passengers and a lot of gear.

As we pulled into the hotel on our return, we checked the mileage readout on the dash. The Prius now has a much-improved regenerative braking system so we pegged the read-out at 99 mpg about halfway down. As we pulled into the hotel parking lot, it still hadnt moved.

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