Well … after driving over 9700 miles in 28 days, I think I can now offer an opinion about the Toyota Prius.

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The gas mileage is obviously its most outstanding feature, averaging 46.8 mpg over the 9700 miles.  This is lower than the advertised 50 mpg, but I didn’t baby the mileage.  When the speed limit was 80 mph in Texas, I pushed the little car to 80.  I’m sure if I’d kept my speed in the 55-60 mph range, the mileage would have been even better.

As it is, I’m quite happy with almost 47 mpg. 

There were several segments where I averaged 60+ mpg over 100- and 200-mile stretches.

The Prius handled interstates and steep, windy, mountain roads equally well.  The small size didn’t bother me on the interstates, even when surrounded by large trucks, and it was an advantage on the smaller roads.  I’ve never been more comfortable driving in the mountains than in the Prius.

In fact, the Prius was pretty fun to drive down those roads, with the added thrill of seeing the mpg graph pegged at 100 for 20+ miles in some cases. 

It was far more comfortable to drive over that distance than I expected.  We went through some of the hottest areas of the country at the hottest time of year and the Prius’ air conditioner kept up with no problems.  It cooled the car quickly and kept it that way, no matter 100+ temperatures outside.

Despite two people, luggage for a month, snacks, drinks, and purchases loaded into the car, there was no sense of crowding. 

The driver’s seat, which I sat in for 9716 of the 9717 miles (Aryn drove for a mile before I realized I just can’t be a passenger), was very comfortable.  I had no back or leg pain at all for the entire trip, despite some days where it was all driving for ten or twelve hours between destinations.

The only problem with the car was with the tire-pressure sensors and I’m still not sure what happened.  Sometime after Albuquerque and the first (5000-mile) maintenance, the warning light began coming on intermittently. 

I checked the pressure, but all four tires registered with 30+ pounds of pressure.  It started in Grand Canyon, but the light went away between Grand Canyon and Vegas.  It was off on the drive from Vegas to San Luis Obispo, but came back on for the drive to San Francisco.  Every time I checked the pressure, it seemed okay, staying above 30-pounds – maybe a little low, but not too bad, and with no idea where a station with nitrogen might be in the rural areas we were traveling in.

When it was still on as we left San Francisco, I looked up the next dealer and made a stop.  When I got out of the car in the dealer’s service line, the driver’s side front tire was completely flat.  I’d just checked them when we got breakfast a few miles prior, and it had been, still, 30+ pounds.

So the dealer found a tear in the sidewall and I had to buy a new tire, which isn’t a defect in the Prius, but I’m still confused about the warning light (which never came on again), the consistently high pressure, even when the light was on, and the suddenly flat tire.

The second service of the trip (10,000 miles) came due in South Dakota, so I waited until the stay in Grand Forks to have it done.  No trouble found and the tire pressure warning light didn’t come on after that service.

There was a single instance of freeway merging where I wished the Prius had just a bit more power than it does, and some of the uphill mountain driving and in San Francisco seemed to be a struggle, but the car did handle things without a problem. 

So now that the Prius is all broken in, it’s time to start planning next summer’s trip:

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