Strengths and weaknesses:
- fuel economy
- somewhat bland styling
- return on investment
Capital investment in Prius
Ottawa is the perfect location to enjoy outdoor activities other than sightseeing many of Canada’s most iconic symbols. Everyone is familiar with Parliament Hill, 24 Sussex Drive, the National Gallery of Canada and, of course, skating on the Canal Rideau, but did you also know the back roads around Ottawa are the ideal place for a driving enthusiast to let loose? Sitting behind the wheel of the spirited 2011 Toyota Prius, there was only one way to find out.
I know what you’re thinking - Toyota Prius? Spirited drive? Surprisingly, it is possible to drive with a conscience and enjoy the experience at the same time. Though no one could convince me the Prius is a reasonable substitute for a sports car, it does return sensible and mostly enjoyable driving dynamics for those willing to invest a little time and energy.
Acceleration is courtesy of a 1.8-litre DOHC 16-valve four-cylinder gasoline engine and electric motor. Toyota refers to this as the 3rd Generation Hybrid Synergy Drive system. Channelled through an electronically controlled Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT), performance numbers indicate 134 horsepower. Maximum torque for the gasoline engine is rated as 105 lb.-ft. at 4,000 rpm.
Inside, the Prius sedan feels luxurious in a minimalist sort of way. Nothing about this car screams opulence, but Toyota has done a masterful job of incorporating a new way of thinking with the practical side of driving.
Seats are comfortable, both front and back; there is plenty of storage space in the center console and trunk; and all gauges are easy to use and read. There is even a dash mounted video adventure waiting to be explored by cycling through the “disp” button located on the steering wheel. Lesser hybrids are green with envy.
The Prius is best known for exceptional fuel economy, and there is little doubt this is the main intention of our ride as we explore. Consumption ratings specify an average fuel economy of 3.8 litres per 100 km, combined. Our best on this trip is considerably less, but given the time of year, some snow on the ground and suitcases in the back, we still achieve excellent results.
The Fairmont Chateau Laurier, Ottawa is as familiar a symbol of our capital city’s history as any in the downtown core. In fact, it is quite possible this grand hotel has been featured in more pictures than the Parliament Buildings themselves.
A total of 429 guest rooms, including 33 suites decorate the interior of this magnificent hotel. Fairmont Gold rooms are located on a separate floor, providing the best in accommodations and attentive service. We check in late at night after a six hour drive. The night air is crisp, with no sign of snow or rain in the forecast. Outside, the city lights twinkle brightly; it feels like a fairytale stay in a castle on the hill.
Dining takes place in one of three unique locations. The award-winning Wilfrid’s Restaurant is the main setting for evening meals and Sunday brunch. Views look out over Parliament Hill and the Rideau Locks. Zoe’s Lounge, named after the beloved wife of Canada’s 7th Prime Minister, is the stylish location for live entertainment and casual fare. La Terrasse requires dining outside with superb views of downtown from beneath the confines of a brightly coloured umbrella during the warmer months.
Activities at the hotel include access to a lower level Health Club and Pool, but it is the location in the heart of the city of which we take advantage. Shopping, pubs and great sights are the order of the weekend and it is late in the day when we finally have a chance to get back behind the wheel.
Driving eco-smart through a tight twisting road isn’t nearly as much fun as driving fast; but it is a lot easier on the pocketbook.
Where to Stay:
Fairmont Chateau Laurier, Ottawa
1 Rideau Street,
Ottawa, Ontario, K1N 8S7