Recommend 2004 Prius: Potential Green Meanie (Email)

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[A slightly abridged version of this article appeared in the February 2004 issue of Motor Trend Magazine] 

Photo enhancement: Misha Young

Practical, environmentally minded car buyers have a lot to like in Motor Trend's 2004 Car of the Year, the Toyota Prius: a roomy but compact five-door hatchback packed with high-tech goodies. Its sophisticated gas-electric hybrid powerplant qualifies it as a Super Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle. Aided by an aerodynamic shape with a standard-setting CD of 0.26, it delivers a combined EPA estimated city-highway fuel economy of 55 mpg. 

But what about its appeal to increasing number of car enthusiasts who expect their family-haulers to accelerate briskly, handle crisply, and deliver the substantial quotient of fun they’d find in a sport sedan?

Thanks to a weight below 3,000 pounds and more power than its predecessor had—from its gas engine, electric motor, and battery—it does get to 60 mph in about the same 10 seconds as a four-cylinder Camry. But I wonder: Could a tuner’s deft hands, fertile mind, and horsepower-driven desire turn this green machine into a meaner shade of green? Might the Prius spawn a new breed of tuners, the green meanies? I think it could.

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