Toyota lifts the hood of the 4th gen Prius, and there is a lot underneath

Lift the hood? They cut the whole thing off ...

Lift the hood? They cut the whole thing off …

Today, Toyota presented the 4th generation of one of its most important cars, the Prius, to the media at home in Japan. Today was a stark contrast to the flashy Prius launch in Las Vegas: A table, two engineers, a bunch of slides, a bottle of water for each member of the media. Today’s presentation did not need glam. The Vegas launch was largely devoid of technology, the Tokyo event today was all juicy content.

Prius reveal Las Vegas

Prius reveal Las Vegas

Prius reveal Tokyo

Prius reveal Tokyo

The 4th gen Prius is Toyota’s first car based on its new TNGA architecture. TNGA is not a platform, or a modular kit. TNGA is a new production system, an assemblage of improvements and technologies that have been tested over the past years. They all come together in the new Prius. What follows are just the highlights. Describing all would amount to writing a car catalog, something I haven’t done for 30 years, and I won’t start again.

Prius on Atkinson diet

Prius on Atkinson diet

The Prius is powered by a re-engineered 2ZR-FXE 1.8-liter Atkinson cycle petrol engine. The new engine achieves a maximum thermal efficiency of 40 percent, “the world’s highest level in a mass-produced gasoline engine,” says Toyota. The engine competes in thermal efficiency with diesel engines, we heard today.

Battery explained

Battery explained

The Prius comes either with a Nickel-Metal Hydride, or a Lithium-ion battery. Which, is market-specific. The batteries are more compact. They now fit under the rear seats, thereby freeing up space in the trunk.

WSJ reporter Yoko Kubota covers a PSU

WSJ reporter Yoko Kubota covers a PSU

Fuel efficiency rose from 32.6 km/L in the Japanese JC08 test cycle to 40 km/L “with certain grades.” The fuel savings are the product of many individual improvements, from engine to a lower loss power control unit and electric motor, all the way to an automatic grille shutter that opens and closes the grille as necessary in response to outside temperatures.

Stiffie

Stiffie

As part of TNGA, the body of the Prius is laser screw welded, which gives it a 60 percent better body rigidity that its predecessor.

In the electronics suite, there is the Safety Sense P package that can help avoid running into pedestrians and cars. There is a full color heads-up display that projects the car’s speed and other alerts onto the windshield.

Finally, for the first time, there is an electronic four-wheel-drive. That will not be available in all markets. Where the Prius will go on all fours remains under cover, but I have the impression, it will be Japan only for now.

No glam, but lots of serious coverage

No glam, but lots of serious coverage. Unfortunate angle

Given the dieselgate scandal, the new Prius could not come at a better time. Its fuel consumption rivals the diesel. If Volkswagen can’t cheat anymore, its diesel engines will either get more complex and expensive, or less attractive. Of course, nobody at Toyota wants to say that, and if you bring up the topic with one of the very approachable engineers, a PR flack will intervene. Understandably, Toyota does not want to look like a carpetbagger that profits from VW’s misery.