Typically, if I explained I was driving a Prius at complete clip all around a segment of Bundy Hill Offroad Park in Jerome, Michigan, men and women would feel I’m either ridiculous or deliberately hoping to break the matter. But not today — in its place, I’m strapped into a six-place racing harness in a 2020 Toyota Prius that is been reimagined as a suitable rally vehicle. And it is not just some believed workout, possibly this automobile has currently participated in American Rally Association racing, albeit in an exhibition class, generally because no one definitely looks to know how to categorize the car just but.

Like any present day rally car, the Prius’ inside is fully stripped of any unwanted weight, no matter whether it truly is items of the dashboard or just about anything owning to do with audio deadening. The glass windows are gone in favor of plexiglass, which Toyota’s engineers inform me they ended up incredibly lucky to procure prior to the get started of the pandemic. Peek through any of that plexi and your eyes will land on the total FIA-spec roll cage within. Other improvements include things like a correct pair of racing seats, the aforementioned harnesses and a little roof-mounted scoop to pull neat air into the cabin. Only a few vestiges of the primary Prius inside continue to be, which includes the gauge cluster and the transmission controls.

Where by we are heading, we never need roads, but we do require gravel tires.


Toyota

Because there isn’t really a “sanctioned rally” site in the Toyota Prius parts catalog, it can be no surprise that the engineers in charge of the job wanted to think outdoors the box for a couple of items. Each the entrance and rear suspension borrow components from the TRD-trimmed RAV4 SUV for some further off-street ability, with front springs coming from a Camry and rear springs nicked from an Avalon TRD, imagine it or not. The Prius wears 15-inch wheels, which is the measurement needed for rally tires, so the automaker was in a position to keep these, and though the brakes are mainly stock, there is a established of high-efficiency pads in the calipers to increase stopping. Cooper rally tires measuring 195/65R15 spherical out the evident exterior updates, in addition to a slick vinyl wrap and some additional exterior LED lights for included visibility.

Just one point that goes unmodified, even so, is the powertrain. The Prius’ standard getup continues to be intact, mating a 1.8-liter Atkinson-cycle inline-4 gasoline motor to a lasting-magnet synchronous AC electric powered motor up front, with a independent motor-generator on the rear axle to help electronic all-wheel push. Output stays the exact same at 121 web horsepower, and of course, it must even now realize the EPA-believed gasoline economic climate of 51 mpg metropolis and 47 mpg freeway. The one tweak listed here is the addition of a cutoff swap that discharges each the 12-volt electrical system and the significant-voltage hybrid bits, which is mandated to ensure security in the celebration of a crash.

Dashboards? Who needs ’em.


Toyota

After contorting all my gangly limbs to slip via the roll cage, I find myself in a single of the strangest places I’ve ever been. Once I am strapped in, I am so tightly certain to the seat that I can’t even attain over to pull the doorway panel shut. Somebody else takes treatment of that for me, a person of the engineers presents me the thumbs-up indicator, and I’m off. A deep jab of the throttle and the Prius launches alone forward with a complete bunch of wheelspin, the Coopers accomplishing their best to dig into the gravel underfoot.

That’s when I grow to be intimately acquainted with my new co-driver: sound. Folks consider the insane volume of audio-deadening product in a automobile for granted, mainly because when it is really long gone, you can find very little but clamor. Each individual rock strike manages to plink its way into the cabin, filling my ears with a audio that generally presages imminent destruction, but not right here — the Prius normally takes a lickin’ and keeps on tickin’. Contemplating all the further underbody safety used for rally, even major rocks really don’t have a possibility of mucking anything up, but it is tricky to tuck my feeling of self-preservation into bed. Yet, I soldier on, the in the vicinity of-silent whir of the hybrid powertrain pushing me forward though chucking rooster tails of gravel in the reverse route.

Next time you get completely ready to rag on the Prius for what ever reason, remember this motor vehicle.


Toyota

Even with the addition of the electric powered motor on the rear axle, the Prius rally auto is extremely a great deal a entrance-biased affair. It is much easier to get the rear end to kick out by utilizing the vehicle’s momentum and flicking it into a turn though lifting off the accelerator. Power-induced oversteer is nonetheless probable, while, and it is really tough not to hamfist this point like it can be my initial time in an empty, snow-covered parking good deal. Just level the steering wheel’s 12 o’clock stripe in which you want the Prius to go, and bam. Toyota’s engineers are timing me, but each time I induce even a little drift, I’m owning way way too substantially fun to care about how quick I am likely via this system.

Looking at as how the Prius rally motor vehicle is just not on its way to serial manufacturing or anything, there is not some overarching lesson I master that can be translated to individuals. Effectively, Okay, perhaps you will find one particular issue that can be resolved listed here: stigma. Whether or not you feel it is really unfair or not, many men and women have built up their minds about the Toyota Prius in advance of even looking at or driving one particular. Preconceived notions are hard to get previous, but a minimal bit of ingenuity goes a long way, and many thanks to the hard perform of some Toyota engineers, there is at the very least a person hybrid hatchback out there performing its best to crack the mold and get individuals to look at the Prius in a various way.