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2011 Toyota Prius
 
       The 2011 Toyota Prius is the best car for you if you want the most fuel-efficient hybrid on the road -- and aren’t self-conscious about it.

The 2011 Prius is a rerun of the 2010 Toyota Prius. It retains its 50-plus-mpg rating and innovative options such as a solar-powered ventilation system. The 2011 Prius represents the third-generation version of the world’s most recognizable hybrid. Following a full redesign for model-year 2010, Prius is larger, more powerful, and more fuel-efficient than the second-generation 2004-2009 model. And it remains the world’s best-selling hybrid by far.


Over most of the last decade, there has been one benchmark when it comes to automotive fuel efficiency: the Toyota Prius. Its reputation is so strong, in fact, that Toyota decided to create an entire family of Prius vehicles, beginning this year with the Prius V. 

Since 1999, Honda has been producing its own line of hybrids. Its first, the Insight, was a fuel economy champ itself. But no Honda hybrid since has been able to match the Prius. That may change with the new 2012 Civic Hybrid, which is closer than ever to becoming "Honda's Prius." 

 To find out how Honda's latest stacks up against Toyota, we devised a two-day, two-route, 550-mile test to challenge the two fuel economy all-stars. One route covered the city streets to approximate a week's worth of commuting; the other was an all-highway blast to replicate a road trip. We filled up both cars for each route at the same pump, at the same gas station. Can the Prius hold onto its top spot as the reining fuel economy champ? 
Toyota uses a pair of electric motors, and a continuously variable transmission (CVT) to join them, mounted to the 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine. This system allows the Prius to use several combinations of electric and/or gasoline power—including an all-electric mode. There's even an EV switch that locks the Prius in battery mode until the range of the 6.5 amp hour nickel-metal hydride pack is used up. Toyota delivers a total system horsepower of 134. 

Honda's system, meanwhile, is very similar to the last Civic Hybrid and the current Insight. The electric motor sits in between the CVT and the gasoline engine. So, unlike the Prius, the gas engine in the Civic must always turn—when in electric cruise mode, the gas engine essentially freewheels. The Civic's four cylinder has grown to 1.5-liters from 1.3-liters. And when combined with the new, more powerful 23 hp electric motor, it delivers 110 system horsepower. But the big news is the lighter and more powerful 4.5 amp hour lithium-ion battery pack (still mounted behind the rear seats).  
The Prius can become expensive quickly as you add options like the self-parking system. It's not uncommon to see a fully loaded Prius sticker for close to $35,000. The new Civic Hybrid doesn't offer these options, so it is generally much less expensive. We opted to test a $24,369 Toyota Prius 2 model against a $27,500 Civic Hybrid Nav model. 

The EPA rates the Prius at 51mpg city and 48 mpg on the highway, while the 2012 Civic Hybrid is rated at 44 mpg for both city and highway. But how do they handle real world testing? 


The Highway Drive

Beginning in Santa Monica, we cruised up the California coast to U.S. Route 101 and pressed onward, north of Santa Maria. To even out any differences in driving style between PM's testers, we switched cars often and locked the cruise control at or below 70 mph whenever possible. 

The Civic may have an all-new, more aerodynamic skin, but beneath it the chassis tuning feels quite similar to the last Civic Hybrid we tested. Actually, of any hybrid we've tested, this new Honda comes the closest to the ride quality of the Prius—partly because they ride on the same 196/65R15 Bridgestone Ecopia tires. 

The Civic's new dash and display look much like the Prius's, except they are located in front of the driver's sight line and easier to read. The Prius's futuristic dash lets everyone know that you've got plenty of advanced tech onboard. But the fresh, modern dash and center console of the Civic is more inviting if you prefer a conventional car, which we do. Both cars are far from luxurious, however. Hard plastic covers most of the interior. 

Slide into the backseats, and the two cars appear to have equal headroom. But there's a bit less legroom in the Honda, and its roofline requires that taller passengers duck as they exit the rear doors. In terms of cargo, the Civic's trunk holds 10.7 cubic feet—an increase from the previous model, but just half the capacity of the Prius. 

After 354 highway miles, we decided that the Civic was the more comfortable of the two—the Prius feels a bit more susceptible to crosswind and generally produces more freeway noise. But when we filled both cars up at the end of the day, the Prius was the highway fuel economy champ, returning 51.4 mpg. The Civic delivered a very respectable 47.1 mpg. 


The City Drive

The next day, we headed east and hit the streets. For this test, we'd drive an all-city route from Santa Monica to San Bernardino, and back. We never put a tire on a freeway and never exceeded 45 mph—a true test of city fuel economy. 

On these roads, the Prius was nearly silent most of the time, creeping along in electric-only mode. The Civic always needed its gas motor to idle, but the smart and aggressive engine stop-start system would often cut power when we were coasting up to a light under light loads. As soon as the light turned green and our foot released the brake, the engine started quickly. And once under way, the Civic stays in electric mode longer than before. 

On a few of the backroads near Glendora, the Civic was the more engaging partner. Neither car will be mistaken for a sport sedan, but spirited driving just feels more natural in the Honda. 

After 198 miles and ten hours of traffic congestion, the Prius once again came out on top when we refueled back in Santa Monica. This time, the Toyota delivered 50.2 mpg to Honda's 43.7 mpg. 

 

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    Bugatti History

    

Bugatti, one of the most respected names in automobile history, Has come, once again, to mean the highest level of excellence in automotive engineering and design. The almost one-hundred year history falls into three distinct phases. This is a very short version of that passionate, colorful company history.

Bugatti History Phase I

Ettore Isidore Arco Bugatti was born in 1881 in Italy but lived most of his life in France. At the age of just seventeen, he started building and racing cars. His successes caught the attention of investors and in 1909 he started his own firm in Moslheim, a town in Alsace.

Between 1924 and 1927 Bugattis won 1,851 races. By the mid-20s the factory had 1000 employees. In Great Britian the Bugatti was the car of choice for its superb handling on winding, narrow country roads.

In an effort to attract the not-so-wealty automobile buyers, the new Type 40 was introduced in 1926 and a chassis could be purchased for as little as $1,770 in Great Britian.

The Type 40 offered a new touring chassis for the 1628cc 4-cylinder Type 37 engine - shorter and lighter than the frame on the 8-cylinder Type 38. It had the traditional handling of a Bugatti - good steering, excellent brakes, and overall comfort.

Production of the Type 40 ended in 1930, and then only 50 of the Type 40A cars were produced in 1931. Its main feature was an American-style, 2-seat roadster body designed by Jean Bugatti, the son of Etorre Bugatti.

The new Bugatti Type 40 engine had a coil instead of a magneto and a lower compression ratio than the Type 37 racing car. The Type 40 could reach a top speed of 75 miles per hour - quite daring for those times and roadways.

World War II took its toll on both the company and Mr. Bugatti and there was very little meaninful production after the War.

  

Bugatti History Phase II

In 1986, Italian entrepreneur, Romano Artioli, purchased the rights to the Bugatti name and logo. Work was begun on a car to rival the design and performance of other exotic cars such as Ferrari and Lamborghini. This time, Bugatti would be an Italian made automobile.

Some say there has never been a car that was more overhyped and over-engineered, but you had to admit that the new Bugatti EB110GT was a great looking supercar. The problem was that EB110GT became available just as the European economy was in a downward spiral and most of the probable clientele canceled their orders.

The project staggered on until 1995 when the company declared bankruptcy, and only a handful of cars were delivered.

Bugatti History Phase III

The trademark rights to Bugatti were purchased by Volkswagen Ag in 1998. In 2001, the decision was made to go into series production of the Bugatti Veyron 16.4 with a maximum of 300 cars. In December of the following year, Bugatti Automobiles S.A.S. was established, a subsidiary of Volkswagen France, with headquarters in Molsheim. And nearly a year to the day thereafter, at the end of 2003, Dr. Thomas Bscher took overall charge of the Bugatti project as the new President of Bugatti Automobiles S.A.S.

In September, 2005, the much-awaited Bugatti Veyron 16.4 went into production with plans of delivering the first new Bugatti before the end of the year.

 


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