The One New Car With a Bigger Standard Engine

  • September 27, 2023

How bizarre are the times? Here’s a measure of them: The Toyota Prius is the only new car that comes standard this year with a bigger, more powerful engine. Every other new car has a smaller engine than it used to come with – or soon will (viz, the Jeep Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer,  which will shortly no longer offer the 5.7 liter and 6.4 liter V8s they currently still come standard with; according to reports, they will both come standard with a 3.0 liter six instead ).

The 2023 Mercedes GLC this writer recently reviewed comes only with a 2.0 liter four cylinder engine now. The V6 and V8 engines you used to be able to get you can’t anymore. The Toyota Tundra pick-up used to come standard with a 5.7 liter V8. It now comes standard with a 3.5 liter V6.

A growing cohort of new vehicles come with engines that don’t even have four cylinders, such as the ’24 Buick Envista this writer also recently test drove – and the Ford Escape that’s in my driveway as I type this. It comes standard with a 1.5 liter, three cylinder engine. That’s a big engine . . . compared with with the ’24 Envista’s 1.2 liter engine. There are motorcycles that have larger engines.

But probably not for very long.

Meanwhile, there’s this new Prius – just redesigned from the wheels up for the 2023 model year. It is the un-Prius, in terms of just about everything except the foundational idea of the thing, which is to use as little gas as possible. In fact it uses less gas than any prior Prius (you can read more here).

And it has a bigger engine than before.

The Prius.

The one car you’d assume would come with a smaller one given the times. After all, just about everything else is lacking relative to what used to be abundant – and often, standard. The deficit is especially noticeable in expensive luxury vehicles, such as the Benz GLC mentioned earlier and also models such as the E-Class sedan and its BMW and Audi rivals, the 5 Series and A6. These mid-sized sedans used to – until recently – come standard with six cylinder engines. So as to put some distance between them and cars that don’t have starting prices well over $50,000. They all come standard with 2.0 liter four cylinder engines that aren’t any bigger than the Prius’ newly standard 2.0 liter four cylinder engine.

How’s that make your fillings feel?

The Prius has an engine the same size – and type – as the ones that come standard in the Mercedes E350 (the “350” used to denote the no-longer-standard 3.5 liter V6) and the BMW 530i (which also used to come standard with a 3.0 V6, hence the “30i”) and the Audi A6 (which comes standard with a four).

It also makes almost 80 more horsepower this year (194) than the smaller 1.8 liter, 121 horsepower engine offered last year, which accounts for the new Prius being able to get to 60 MPH in just over seven seconds – or three seconds sooner. And which is nearly as quick as many V8 powered muscle cars were back in the 1960s and 1970s. (Not an exaggeration; read up on it yourself if you think otherwise; the ’60s and ’70s muscle cars often sounded and felt quicker than they actually were.)

Does it make your head spin?

But how did Toyota get away with putting a bigger, stronger – and standard – engine in the Prius? The car that was all about less engine – and power – for the sake of the most mileage?

And the answer is as counterintuitive as it gets: By getting more mileage out of the bigger, stronger engine. The bigger-engined ’23 Prius averages 57 MPG – vs. 56 for the outgoing, smaller-engined (and far less powerful) Prius. It shows what’s possible. Have your cake and eat it, too.

But for how much longer?

A bigger engine can be made more efficient – and more powerful. The new Prius proves  it. And that is probably why the government won’t allow it to last. Essentially for the same reason it did not allow VW’s TDI diesel engines – which were not only very clean but also extremely efficient and affordable – to get in the way of what the government wants. Which isn’t efficient, affordable – or clean – vehicles such as the Prius. They make less-clean and far more expensive and much less efficient electric vehicles look really bad – and that cannot be allowed.

A new Prius – which lists for $27,450 or about $20,000 less than the average price paid for a new EeeeeeVeeeee. It can go more than 600 miles on a tank – and be refueled to full in about three minutes, because that’s all the time it takes to pump 11.3 gallons of gas into its tank. As opposed to going less than half as far and taking 30-45 minutes to recover 80 percent of full charge at a “fast” charger. Assuming it works. Assuming you’re not waiting behind someone who’s already waiting to get their 80 percent charge in 30-45 minutes.

The Prius also does not require egregious Earth Rape to make because it does not need to lug around 1,000 pounds of batteries to be able to go less than half as far as a Prius can. It does not consume nearly as much energy in the aggregate, either. But it does “emit” a little C02 – at the tailpipe. And only zero emissions – at the tailpipe – is tolerable. Irrespective of the amount of C02 “emitted” elsewhere. As in the course of manufacturing. As in the course of charging.

And the new, larger engine probably does “emit” slightly more C02 – at the tailpipe – than the previous Prius’ smaller engine. But it is not a significantly larger amount – and it’s certainly not a dangerous amount. It is also a lesser amount in the aggregate, vs. EeeeeeVeeeees.

Those facts would be decisive if the intention of the pushing of EeeeeeeVeeees were actually about reducing “emissions” rather than reducing driving – by reducing the number of people who can afford to.

The up-engined Prius constitutes a threat to that agenda. And that is why it’s likely it’ll be the last Prius, despite being the best one yet.

. . .

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