I've never liked driving, but I've always loved complicated gadgets. So, when I found myself in dire need of a car, it made sense to buy the most gadget-like vehicle I could. Enter the Toyota Prius. Most cars present you with an assortment of dials and gauges, but the Prius communicates with you through a big friendly touchscreen. Just like your smartphone.
But that isn't the only reason the Prius makes an ideal car for gadget-lovers. Here are 5 things my Prius does that electrify the portion of my brain usually reserved for bleeding-edge gear and Firefly re-runs.
It turns driving into an Awesome Game:
The Prius has two "Trip Info" screens. One presents you with a diagram of your car that changes based on whether you're using the gas or electric engine and gives you live data on your MPG right at that moment. The other shows you your average MPG, the distance of your trip, and provides you with a graph of your overall fuel economy.
I'm sure this was designed simply to help drivers manage their fuel economy. But one thing Toyota didn't count on was the gamer mindset. Every trip- whether to the 7/11 or the middle of West Texas, is now another session of the Efficiency Game. Every fuel-up refreshes the counter, so there's constant pressure to improve on your old "high score".
Most of the games on my smartphone are an exchange of time and productivity for amusement. But the Efficiency Game saves me money and only slightly increases my chance of slamming into the underpass while I'm focused on hypermiling.
It Plays Data CDs:
I cannot overestimate the value of this feature on extended road trips. Rather than burn an album or two per audio CD, you can pile huge stacks of MP3s on a data CD and navigate through them using a simple touch interface. But what's that? You prefer to keep all your media on a smartphone or a tablet?
It has Bluetooth Too:
So you can hook your phone directly into your car. No need for hands-free headsets. Also, streaming Pandora through your car speakers is pretty much the best way to take on a few hundred miles of open road.
It feels like a Spaceship:
The front console looks seamless when you sit inside. But the driver-side dash opens up gull-wing style to reveal two compartments. Spending any length of time in this car feels a little like piloting some sort of hyper-advanced commuter spacecraft. The engine is totally quiet too, which makes for some wonderfully eerie night-time drives through the country.
It gives you Freedom:
This applies to any hybrid vehicle. As gas continues its inexorable rise to $4.00 per gallon, time spent on the road is cutting into our pocketbooks more than it normally does. More money spent on gas means less money to spend on gadgets. The more expensive the "road" part is, the less money you have to spend on the "trip".