We saw the spy shots, we saw the car in person, but now is when we finally start to get some actual details about what’s going on under the hood of the new 2016 Toyota Prius. We knew that the fourth-gen version of the world’s most popular hybrid will be built on Toyota’s new TNGA platform, but now we’ve got fresh information that helps explain a bit how the new Prius will get about 10 percent better fuel economyor around 55 miles per gallon. The short version: lots of little improvements everywhere.
One of the big technical highlights is the highly efficient gas engine. Toyota says that it has a “maximum thermal efficiency of 40 percent.” Compare this to an average thermal efficiency of 25-30 percent for most modern gas engines. Toyota says its engineers were able to improve the engine in this way through better exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) system as well as “improvements in combustion efficiency.” Lower friction in the moving bits (in part from a low-viscosity oil) helps, too. The new Prius will, for the first time, come with a choice of lithium-ion or a new nickel-metal hydride battery. We assume that the li-ion pack is destined for the Eco trim level, which might get something like 60 mpg. There are more details in the press release, below.
If you’re not as concerned about how the new Prius gets better fuel economy numbers than the previous version, then perhaps you’ll be interested in hearing that Toyota says this ecomobile has “impressive driving dynamics.” We’ll have to spend some time behind the wheel to see if this claim is true, but Toyota says that the TNGA chassis increased body torsional rigidity by more than 60 percent. Throw in a lower center of gravity, a new double wishbone rear suspension, and more high-tensile strength steel and you at least have the ingredients for a Prius that doesn’t “drive like a Prius.” Toyota did say, years ago, that it wanted to make this new generation Prius more heart racing. Did it succeed? We shall see.