I've only driven the Prius very short distances in my job as a rental car transporter, so when I had the opportunity (read: I drew the short straw) to transport one from Goldsboro to get an oil change, I took the opportunity to give it a fair shake.
During the endless drive down I-40, I tried to think of positive things to say about the Prius. All in all, it didn't seem like a terrible car. It wasn't suicide inducingly horrible like my old nemisis, the Chevy Aveo, but it was more boring to drive than Toyota's other cornerstone car: the Camry. Up to this point, the most that I could say about it was that it made me feel numb. As I fought off a daytime form of highway hypnosis, I could only think of two positive things to say:
1) It brought the hatchback back into the American public consciousness.
2) It more successfully re-introduced concept of the EV after GM's EV-1 SNAFU.
I was about to succumb to the dioxin carcinogens emanating from the overly plastic interior, when I finally arrived in Wilmington. That's when everything went to shit.
While Toyota touts the fact that the plug-in model can be used as an EV, the reality is that the only people who would find it usable as an electric vehicle are the people who need as much room as a 4-seat GEM e4 but think that the GEM's speed and power are a bit too excessive. The lack of power from the electric motor means that in the city you're going to get run over by that F150 behind you in any mode but PWR mode, which keeps the gasoline engine turned on all the time, but ruins your fuel economy.
All this was annoying, but the really infuriating part came when I pulled up at Sears to get the oil changed. There was a line of cars ahead of me trying to get into the automotive center, so I decided to chill out and put it in park.
Now, I've had trouble with this thing before, but after the longest hour and a half of driving, I thought I had it figured out. As you can see, the shifter in the current generation of Prius is somewhat confusing and completely lacks a Park mode. There's a button marked P so I figured that this would engage the parking brake. I pressed the button and the indicator on the dashboard went to P, and the car didn't move when I let off the brake, so I figured everything was good.
The trouble came when I tried to get it going again. I pushed the shifter left and down to D and heard an unusual beep. When I tapped the gas pedal, the gasoline engine turned on and revved up like it was in neutral, but the car didn't go anywhere. I moved the shifter left and down again and it beeped again. This time I noticed that the dashboard indicator said that it was still in Park mode. I pressed on the P button, but that didn't seem to do anything (not that this car is great at giving you firm confirmation even when you have done something) so I pressed it again, this time for a bit longer. Still nothing. I pressed the P button twice, like double clicking a mouse. Still nothing. Next, I pressed the starter button to turn the whole thing off and then back on. Shifter left and down to D.
I tried everything all over again, but this time I felt like I was Zoolander trying to get files from a computer.
What sort of sorcery was going on here?
One of the guys who works at Sears noticed the gap between the Prius and the car in front, saw that I was in stress, and walked over. He asked if I was having trouble and I told him what was going on. He asked for the key fob and told me to turn off the car. He remotely locked and unlocked the doors and told me to try it again.
He then asked me to get out. He closed the door behind me, locked and unlocked the door with the key fob, got in, turned it on and then and only then did it go into D. He looked up at me with a look of absolute disdain and said "God, I hate these things."
When I got back to the office, I made it abundantly clear that I was never driving another Prius ever again. I'm a CS major in college, I've done rather substantial amounts of maintenance on a number of different types of cars, and I was a UAV instructor operator in the US Army, but I couldn't figure a fucking Prius out. Either I'm retarded, or this is one of the dumbest cars ever invented.