Sunday, June 30, 2013

2010 Toyota Prius IV

So how does it feel to own and drive a hybrid? It's an interesting change but quirky at the same time. For this purchase again we had to go to Utah since Cali car dealers are not too friendly towards out of state buyers when those buyers aren't going to pay CA sales tax for said car. Utah has always been cool with allowing me to drive away without paying sales tax. Additionally I got a sick-ass price on a Prius IV when I was hunting around for only a Prius III. Goes to show that if you shop around enough and are willing to fly out to pick up a car, good deals can be had.

So back to the car. Well first thing's first: we're averaging 49.8 MPG with mostly city but sometimes mixed driving. That's insane. In the old Fitmobile we were only able to get it up to 40 MPG once on pure highway driving that was flat and straight. So yeah the MPG stuff for this hybrid is quite legit.

The car has 3 different driving settings: Eco, Normal, and Power. Eco mode causes the car to have a much reduced throttle response in that you have to press your foot down further to get the car to move. Normal is normal I guess, and Power-mode will engage the gas engine very frequently to get the most power from both the gas and electric engines. There's an EV mode, but it can only be engaged under specific conditions. I've discovered that if you drive like a turtle in Eco mode, this is essentially the same thing as being in EV mode without the button.

I've also noticed that I'll get a 2-3 MPG increase if I drive in Eco mode vs Normal mode so I usually just leave it in Eco. I really haven't noticed a downside from driving in Eco mode other than needing to get used to the throttle response. All the power from both engines are still available, you just have to press the accelerator down further or faster.

Handling is pretty crappy as you feel like you're driving a boat. Same goes with the seats. Even though the Prius IV we got has leather seats, they are not bolstered or shaped correctly so you tend to slide all over the place because you feel like you're sitting "on" the seat rather than sitting "in" the seat if that makes any sense at all. The quality of the interior leather, plastic, and trim = regular Toyota quality which I would put on the same level as Subaru but better than Honda.

For the steering wheel controls they are sorta futuristic since you can gently press down on a button and the HUD display will change to show that you are pressing a specific key. It's sorta like a digital camera in that there are 2 finger-pressure settings for focus and to actually take a picture.

I thought that I would like this feature, but after using it for half-a-year, I think that I enjoy having a more positive, tactile feel that only comes from a real plastic button or switch. This newfangled rubber stuff doesn't cut it. Additionally, while driving I really don't have time to look at the color changes on the HUD to verify that I'm pressing the correct button if needed.

The right-side steering wheel buttons control the HVAC system in a really crappy way. The center button changes the system from internal to external circulation. How often does a normal person even make this change? How about 5 times a year maybe. The other two other buttons control the temperature. I'll add in as an aside that automatic climate control sucks ass. I really want to know who really uses this feature because on all 3 cars I've owned that have had this, no manufacturer has implemented it correctly.

Ideally in a manual-control mode, the two buttons for temperature should be for fan speed up and down, and the circulation button should be replaced with the AC on/off switch. That would be the optimal setup for the right-side steering wheel controls.

The heated seats in this car aren't that good and their placement is awkward. They heat up but then turn off themselves off and then will later heat up again. I don't know if this is an energy-saving feature or something, but it feels odd and inconsistent.

The headlights on the Prius are quite dim at night time and I don't think it's because I've been spoiled with the Xenons from the Infiniti. It totally feels like they give out the same lumens as an amber streetlight in a bad part of town.

The hands-free Bluetooth in this car is very quirky and stupid. You have to push a button and say a ladder-list of commands to make a simple phone call. It should be as easy as: push button, say "call x" , and it dials. But in this car there are at least two additional steps in the middle in order to make a call. The logic is stupid. Additionally the Bluetooth version is not high enough where you can stream music from your phone. Supposedly the Bluetooth version that comes with the Nav package is able to do this. My bad...should've done a bit more research.

The rearview in the car isn't that bad, although it does have a weird 2-tier thing going on since the hatch is so slanted. The rear windshield wiper is pretty worthless when it actually rains since it can only clear off maybe 20% of the rain from the rear because of the curvature of the window.

The rear hatch goes up way too high and hits my garage door which is annoying as well. This should be adjustable. The rest of the rear trunk space is normal and useful. One successful Ikea trip with a small bed completed.

The doors have a very flimsy feel when they are shut; probably worse than the Fit. Not sure if this is because of the material or design. But one cool thing is how the keyless entry works. All you have to do is have the keys in your pocket and then you just need to put your hand in between the handle and the door and it'll auto-unlock. No button to push or nothin'; that's pretty slick.

In terms of maintenance, I've changed the CVT fluid on this car as well as the oil and both air and cabin filters. After all this, I have three complaints. The first is that there's this wretched plastic engine splash shield that uses these plastic nubbies instead of bolts. This makes the prep work time prior to doing a task go up quite a bit because taking the nubbies off suck. They also break quite often so I had to order a bunch of extra ones off of Ebay. The item numbers are: 90467-07201 and 90467-09227 if anyone is interested. It would be OK if the shield was of good quality but it's not. There's also an engine oil flap in the middle of the shield that is partially broken on my car because of crappy quality and design, so yeah I'm annoyed.

The second thing is that the oil filter is one of those actual filters instead of a disposable one that is all encased. This means that you have to take off a plastic housing and then remove the old filter and replace it with a new O-Ring and filter. It would've been much easier and cleaner to just use a normal, fully-encased oil filter.

Third thing is that the Prius does NOT utilize a regular 65mm filter wrench. It uses a freak 64mm one with 14 pleats. And this of course is an OEM Toyota/Lexus custom part, so I would recommend buying it off of Amazon prior to doing an oil change. I found this out the hard way and wasted time going to Napa, Autozone, and Oreillys before giving up and going to the dealership to pay full price. Fuckers...

Yeah I also ran across a video on how to replace the spark plugs in this car and it's a bitch. You have to take apart the windshield wiper assembly and a bunch of long plastic pieces to get to where the spark plugs are...annoying as fuck. Good thing is that I won't have to mess with this until 100K or so but still...I'll definitely be paying someone to do that job. Why can't they design a car that can be easily worked on?

One super annoying thing was that whenever you put the car in reverse it would make this beeping sound that was constant and very loud. It was oh so annoying and many people online complained about it. I was able to get rid of it by buying this OBD2 Bluetooth Module off of Amazon and connecting it to my phone and DLing an app to send it codes. I followed the instructions found on this site. Lots of trouble for having something so unnecessary built into the function of a car.

The regenerative braking is cool from the technical perspective as it takes kinetic energy and turns it into back into stored electricity. The brakes themselves have a disconnected feel to them as it isn't using the actual hydraulic brakes until the brake pedal is pressed down harder or after the car has slowed down considerably. Honestly I don't know when the real brakes kick in but you can kinda feel it when they do. The fact that the gas engine shuts off when the car is stopped gets me every time as well. Love that shit.

So in a nutshell in terms of driving, what I noticed is that if you drive the car like a regular car, you'll get high 40s MPG, but if you drive it like it's an "energy-savings/efficiency" game, you can make it past 55 MPG easy. This is maybe why some of those Prius drivers out there suck so bad because the're are doing this. I only play the game of "putt putt home at 30-35 MPH" when nobody is behind me. There's something very satisfying about cruising along with only the electric motor humming.

So yeah the car is excellent for what it is, a commuter-mobile. The only amenity in this car that is worthwhile is the Homelink garage door opener since everything else "cool" is really only a letdown like the quality of leather, heated seats, and Bluetooth.

If you drive it and remember that it's only a method of getting from point A to B and you're OK with the price, then all is good. But most people will certainly not "care" about this car as if it were something special because it doesn't feel special. It only feels efficient and slightly futuristic. Yeah I always find it interesting to go back and forth between the Prius and the Infiniti. It's such a night/day difference between an econo-box and a performance sedan. Guess which one I'll vote to drive every time my wallet (cost of gas) isn't involved...

Update: 7/7/2013

  • On the bottom of the car, you know how I mentioned that there was a splash guard shield for the engine? Well when I went to perform the oil change I noticed that the oil change flap was ripping since it's all very thin plastic for the pivot line. Well the day after the oil change was completed, the pivot side of the flap ripped off and was scraping against road. I had to jack it back up and remove the plastic pins that were keeping the opposite side still up, thus removing the whole flap. Stupid design. I guess in hindsight I should've just removed the whole shield instead of using the flap but WTF is the flap for if you can't use it? Yeah I looked it up on the forums and it's a common occurrence where it's hit or miss for Toyota will replace it or not. Since they already gave me a hard time when I tried to get them to pay for some other bottom plastics replacements, I doubt they'll be accommodating. So yeah, bad design and crappier service.
  • This weekend I drove the Prius long distance for many-a-hours with 5 adults in the car and a trunk full of luggage and groceries. My MPG went down to 43.3 from my normal 49 MPG for the trip. Acceleration was significantly slower and used a bunch more from the gas engine. I also had to re-calibrate my own stopping distance for deceleration. Still not bad MPG for a loaded car, but food for thought.

Update: 4/17/2015 - AC Foul Smell Removal

Update: 6/25/2017

  • So since moving down to 114 degree weather, I have discovered one more thing about Prius and probably with hybrid cars in general. The system really doesn't like the heat. When it's super hot and the Prius has been sitting there, the engine doesn't turn off and the hybrid system doesn't kick in. This is a very noticeable thing since the hybrid engine is usually the primary and the ICE engine is only a helper when needed, but yeah something about the heat disconnects the system for a long while. When you get is a very underpowered ride. The ICE engine strains to accelerate and keep up with traffic and the engine noise is super groaning. It's weird that the hybrid engine is totally nowhere to be found as opposed to just working less... I'm going to guess this happens to other hybrid cars as well. MPG plummets to around 36-38 MPG when driving in this mode. This is down from the average 43 MPG which is the de-facto average now that the car is 7-sum years old.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Worst Parking Lot Ever

I never used to think that I needed to bring my A-game when driving through a parking lot, but the clientele of Whole Foods has added this as a mandatory requirement. I rarely go shopping there because of obvious reasons, but when I do, holy shit do you have to be on-point with your driving skills and situational awareness.

I noticed that there are two categories of people who frequent the store who totally suck at driving. The first is your average rich person, both male and female. The males are all alphas who drive black luxury cars and never yield or use their brakes. They usually just proceed right on through parking lot intersections with no care in the world because they think they are just that awesome. The females are the ones who don't have a day job and just sit at home being wealthy, waiting to have lunch with a friend or waiting for a reason to look in the mirror hoping that they will see something of substance looking back at them. These women usually drive white or red luxury cars and are just blind to anyone less wealthy than them. Unlike their male counterparts, they do use their brakes, but they do so because they are trying to find something in their purse or trying to think of how to form letters into words for a text message.

The second category of customers are those nature vegan types who like to wear brown linen Huck Finn pants, sandals, and carry around satchels. These people probably plant their own vegetables in their backyards and wash themselves with special soaps even though it does nothing to hide their natural BO. These folks usually drive older Volvos or Subarus and are the ones who back up oh so slowly while not physically turning their heads. It's like they think nothing can ever be behind them, so what's the point in looking? It's really damn frustrating when your lane is blocked and you have to sit there watching these fools putt putt along. Worse is when you're waiting for one of these people to get out of their spot at the exact same time another is in the process of backing into the side of your car. I'm not sure why these people are even shopping at Whole Foods since it's so damn expensive there and none of them seem to be employed.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Oh Baseball

So I think I figured it out. Going to a baseball game is not about watching the actual is more about BSing with whomever you go with and partaking in liquid refreshments that don't seem to cause urges of upchucking or headaches to most others.

This is the second baseball game I've been to in my life. The first was the Padres vs Astros in San Diego back in the late 80s. I remember being shorter then.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

World War Z (Action 2013)

Yeah the book was so much better than this movie, but that wasn't too hard to predict. This movie was OK but nothing too spectacular. I would say that it felt like a more visually stunning version of 28 Weeks Later in that it had a plot line and main characters.

The film really had nothing to do with the book at all. All the characters were different, the story was not journal-based, and hell the zombies themselves were way too fast in this movie. It was essentially what one would expect from a big budget zombie flick; no originality.

Unfortunately I have to say that it's one of those that can watched on a lazy weekend while multitasking because all you see is Brad Pitt traveling from one place to another while trying to find a cure. Some locations were cool but everything happens so fast that you don't have time to ground yourself and care about anything or anyone.
Rating - B

Friday, June 21, 2013

Man of Steel (Action 2013)

Alright, just got back from the theater so everything is fresh in my head. Let me just start out with the fact that the music in this film was great. MI was very well done and it does get a rise out of you. Next positive is that this is the first Superman movie that actually spent a pretty good amount of time on Krypton and on some of the background of the other Kryptonians. Another positive was the style of storytelling as the main plot moved along but had a good number of flashback scenes which were all well placed.

Now to the bad and pretty much the only bad. This movie had WAY too many fist fight scenes. I mean how many times can you see someone get tossed through 6 skyscrapers or get slammed to the asphalt or get sent through a train? It was much too overdone, and I shit you not, a solid 35-40% of this movie was CG fighting where this type of hand to hand combat was going on. Those computer animators must've been very busy during development.

There was this odd God, morality, evolution thing going on which I didn't appreciate either. Good thing I ignored hints of this, but yeah, keep that shit out of my action movies.

So it's weird. Emotionally I did get into this film because the music was indeed superb, but I wasn't really entertained as much as I should've been. Louis Lane was ugly, the most interesting character was one of Zod's female officers, and Superman screamed one too many times. Definitely worth a watch but how much is that 'worth'?
Rating - B

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Jack the Giant Slayer (Fantasy Adventure 2013)

Yeah this movie was another mediocre one. Ewan McGregor was in it and yeah that’s about it. The rest of the primaries I either barely recognized them or didn't at all. They only played minor characters in other films. The main chick, Eleanor Tomlinson, did look like Portman from some angles, so that made for some interesting scenes. But yeah unfortunately she was coupled with the main guy, Nicholas Hoult, who had a most peculiar lower jawline that I found bothersome to look at.

As for the rest of the movie, the scenery was good, special effects were fair,and plot was elementary. Overall it was a rainy-day dollar rental but that’s about the extent of it.
Rating - C

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Oz the Great and Powerful (Fantasy Family Adventure 2013)

This movie was very Disney in that it 100% felt like a Disney film from all of the characters, extras, locales, etc. So as a Disney movie it was fine, but as a real movie it was a bit 'young' if that is the correct word to describe a demographically-targeted film.

All actors did a good job and the make-up/costume design on Mila Kunis' character was grand. Plot was fast and everything was nice and predictable. My only comment would be that older peeps will be pretty bored and uninterested after 30 min or so but youngins and teens would probably find it entertaining throughout.
Rating - B

After Earth (Sci-Fi Action Drama 2013)

Although the movie wasn't as good as it could’ve possibly been, it wasn't absolutely terrible either, much like M. Night Shyamalan's other films. He’s such a hack if you really think about it...ain't no way he's the same person who made The Sixth Sense; yeah I'm throwing that out there...fuckin' fraud.

So yeah this movie came out close to the same time Oblivion did and they both lacked in the same environmental and character building arena. Maybe it's because the worlds in both of them were so large, vast, and new that a whole hour could be dedicated to a background or overview description, but yeah After Earth definitely felt lacking.

In this film we see Jaden Smith whining, crying, and being a little bitch and we see Will Smith essentially playing a military version of his Hancock character in that he is all tired and lethargic even though he was injured in this story. I will say that the weird accent the actors used in this film was pretty cool. I couldn't put a finger on what it was a mix of but it did sound impressive when done right.

The movie ended as quick as it started with no real take away. Disaponting to say the least.
Rating - C

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card (Book 1985)

So since there is a movie coming out based on this old-school book, I thought I would give it a whirl beforehand. It's about a futuristic world where humans are at war against some insect-like enemy...think Zerg meets the bugs from Starship Troopers. So yeah these genius kids bred and trained to command starships against these baddies and Ender is the name of the primary.

The story was OK starting out as it built up the main character quite a bit. Things progressed steadily and then it had a pretty good ending. The way way ending started down the road of philosophical suck though... Don't know what it was...just not about the plot anymore. Yeah this book was the first in a series and I won't be reading any more. The ending totally set itself up for the sequels but yeah everything interesting happened in this book and there is not really much that could interest a reader who is not looking for some deep meaning in this Sci-Fi landscape.
Rating - Mid

Saturday, June 08, 2013

Oblivion (Sci-Fi Action Drama 2013)

Yeah I had higher hopes for this Sci-Fi flick but alas it wasn't that great. After the first 30 min or so you pretty much guessed 80% of the storyline and although it was OK, there were way too many implausable potholes that can't be rationally explained.

One good thing was that the music was pretty good and engaging. Only if they coupled it with a better story and with more character development, this film would've turned out much differently. It didn't seem rushed, like some movies sometimes do, but they left out a good number of details that would've made it more compelling to sink into.
Rating - C

Monday, June 03, 2013

The Great Gatsby (Drama 2013)

This movie was pretty damn engaging. For once I'll start with the acting because two people did a sensational job: DiCaprio and Joel Edgerton. Yeah during one pinnacle scene the tension was through the roof. I actually thought I would start yelling at the screen, yeah weird feeling but glad I didn't go there.

I remember reading this book back in Jr. HS or HS and I think I would've been much more interested had I seen this film first. Yeah for once the movie beats out the book. Some of the music was great but then a few of the rap songs seemed misplaced. Costumes were excellent and a few dance numbers would've had me down on the floor raving it up.

Overall I didn't expect to like it as much as I did, but it was a good drama with great character development. The music and ambiance only added to the story and wrapped everything up into a nice package.
Rating - A

Saturday, June 01, 2013

A Good Day to Die Hard (Action 2013)

This one was so bad I couldn't believe it was an actual movie. I mean what happened to actually having a real story? The action movie equation has not changed that much in the last three decades. Back in the 80s/90s Die Hard and especially 2 were the shit, and a big part of my childhood. They gradually got a bit more over the top as time went on, but at least those had a real plot and a partial purpose.

From the very beginning John McClane made so many lame wisecracks it became very hard to watch. After he showed next to no emotion while driving a stolen Mercedes SUV over other smaller cars in the middle of Russia was when the book closed for me. The whole movie was going to be just like this... To make matters worse Bruce Willis wasn't even acting; he was just saying lines. It was as if he wanted everyone to know that this was just a movie and he couldn't be bothered to give any sort of effort.

Towards the end of the film they tried to compile together a makeshift bad guy and his stereotypical lust for money/power, but it was a pointless endeavor. The whole movie was a joke, not even worth a was sheer nonsense. Do you remember The Last Airbender? Ha just kidding, it wasn't that bad, but we’re not too far away
Rating - F