The base-level Prius and the Touring edition are very similar, especially where it counts: the drivetrain. Both versions have a 4-cylinder aluminum gasoline engine and a 50 kilowatt (kW) electric motor powered by nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) batteries. When working together, the hybrid system cranks out 110 horsepower -- not blazing fast by any stretch of the imagination. However, the Prius makes up for its lack of speed with stellar fuel economy: The car gets 48 miles per gallon (20 kilometers per liter) on city streets and 46 miles per gallon (19 kilometers per liter) on the highway.
Both cars also have a continuously variable transmission (CVT), which does away with the traditional gear system in favor of smoother acceleration and deceleration all the way up and down the speedometer. Anti-lock braking systems (ABS) and traction control are standard, as are power windows and doors, a push-button ignition, air conditioning and more.
All Prius models have packages of options that can be added, like a backup camera, premium sound system, Bluetooth access, navigation system and leather-trimmed steering wheel and seats.
The differences are in what the Touring Edition adds to the Prius. Here's a list:
- Sport-tuned suspension
- 16-inch wheels with alloy rims
- A larger spoiler
- High-intensity discharge (HID) headlights and fog lights
None of these additions change the car's fuel economy, emissions, hybrid system or any of the other factors that have earned the Prius so many fans both in the press and at the dealership. In fact, most of the awards and accolades that have been heaped on the Prius in the past decade have been for the base version, if the awarding body singled out any version at all.
There isn't even much difference in price between the two. Without any optional packages, the base 2009 Prius started at $22,000. The 2009 Prius Touring Edition, with its few extra amenities, started at $24,270. Neither of these prices includes the destination charge nor any federal or state incentives that might be applicable.
The real changes come with the 2010 Prius that hits the U.S. market in June 2009. Let's take a look.