Here’s proof the Toyota Prius can be cool | Top Gear
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Thursday 21st September

Here’s proof the Toyota Prius can be cool

All it needed was a big wing, slick tyres and a 500bhp 5.4-litre V8 from a GT3 car

Published: 11 Apr 2019

The Toyota Prius is automotive spreadable yeast extract. It’s loved by Uber drivers and Dirty Mike and the Boys, but loathed by people who appreciate decent driving dynamics and doors that are a gauge thicker than a sardine can’s lid. However, you can’t argue with the stats. Being the all-time best-selling hybrid in the world, they’ve shifted a bucket load of them. Well, quite a few buckets. But stats aren’t cool. What is cool are big wings, slick tyres and a 500bhp 5.4-litre V8 from the Lexus RC F GT3 car. And that’s the treatment the Prius has just had. 

It’s a new high-performance suit of armour so it can race in the fastest race series in the world for road-going cars: Japan’s spectacular Super GT series. Consisting of seven rounds at circuits throughout Japan – with an eighth mid-season event held in Thailand – it’s the toppiest of top-flight touring car series. How fast is fast? Put it this way, Maserati tried to enter its MC12 racing car a few years back into Japan’s Super GT500 but it was deemed too slow (by almost a second a lap, entirely down to aerodynamics in corners). So it’s a lot more akin to DTM – the regs are actually smashed out in unison – but the GT cars are about two-seconds a lap quicker than those guys too. Which is a lot. 

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The series is split into two categories; the halo GT500 class – populated by the most powerful machines and is usually reserved for manufacturer-backed teams. And the GT300 class, where teams have total freedom with aero, suspension, and gearbox design so is a hit with privateer teams and tuners. That’s where these two Prius plug-in hybrids will do battle. But they’re by no means standard. 

Only the A- and B-pillars, half of the roof, some of the floor pan and elements of the front bulkhead remain of the road-going car. The rest is simply chopped out and put in the bin. That’s where the eco-friendly drivetrain has ended up to. It was ripped out and replaced by a honking great 500bhp V8 from a Lexus RC F GT3 car as the rulebook states that any powerplant made by the vehicle’s manufacturer can be used. A fine choice, then. 

So upfront (new regulations dictate that it must remain where the standard engine does) is a 5.4-litre eight-banger. But, interestingly, it remains a petrol-electric hybrid. Yep, just like Toyota’s LMP1 car, the GT300 uses leccy power as well as traditional motion lotion but on a smaller scale. It’s the same hybrid system from the JDM Toyota Crown Hybrid. But, unlike the production car, the battery pack (an experimental capacitor) is housed where the [Uber] passenger would normally sit.

They're being championed by APR Racing, with Hiroaki Nagai and Max Orido at the controls (not at the same time) of the highlighter yellow car, while the red #31 car is being piloted by Koki Saga and Yuhki Nakayama.

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Now, if all Priuses looked like this, don’t you think they’d sell even more? We sure do. *Takes out Top Gear Maths calculator*

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