You no doubt remember Al Gore III driving his Toyota Prius at 100 miles per hour last summer. The story didn't reflect too well on Mr. Gore, but made the Prius suddenly look a lot more macho than anyone expected. No longer a car for high character and low speeds, the Prius was downright sporty.
Add off-roading to its list of unlikely accomplishments. Saturday night in Jackson, a blue Prius with Massachusetts plates turned off of Main Street onto the section of trail that heads up a short hill from the rental shop to the area in front of the lodge. The trail was not at its iciest, but definitely packed powder. The Prius surmounted it without the slightest problem, even when the driver hesitated, noticing two of us in the only lighted windows, pointing and laughing incredulously.
Realizing the mistake, the driver of the Prius cranked off a quick three-point turn at the top of the rise. We wondered, half-hoping, whether the car would pitch backwards off the small embankment, lifting its front wheels and stranding it in its embarrassing predicament, but the driver got lucky and reversed course safely.
I did not have a chance to ask or observe what kind of tires the car had.
I don't see how this squares with reports of traction control failures in these cars on slippery inclines. Maybe our intrepid Massachusettsan was just trying to test his own car's response to a slippery slope in a place where he knew help was close at hand.
We have no confirmation at this time that Toyota is really planning to introduce a high-powered, all-wheel-drive version of the car, called the Priapus, for 2009. For people who want to save fuel and reduce emissions while driving like a -- well, you know.