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    Two Extroverted Cars With Unmistakable Style

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    An extroverted look can come in many forms: a drag queen and a gym god both get lots of looks, for different reasons. Two cars I recently drove brought this to mind; both the Toyota Prius Eco Two and Nissan Maxima SR generated a lot of attention, and the expressions they received varied greatly. That’s because they both have strong expressions themselves.

    The Prius was redesigned for 2016 with a radical new look. My social media friends had a field day with the pictures I posted. They called the new Prius everything from a pinched rodent to a modern-day Edsel. When driving it through the Castro, I noticed that it received lots of sidelong glances, where people weren’t necessarily enjoying what they saw, but they still engaged with it all the same.

    The Prius needs that kind of attention these days, as low gas prices have depressed hybrid sales in general. And the Prius already has a loyal customer base, and so the styling is charged with bringing in new buyers. This redesign makes the Prius the first to ride on Toyota’s New Generation Architecture (TNGA), which lowers the Prius’ center of gravity to enhance the handling, and it seems to have done the trick–the Prius now is happier to hold your line through curves, and the body is less likely to lean in turns.

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    Meanwhile, the Prius’ usual virtues make it clear why every other Uber you climb into is one of them. It’s roomy and comfortable, and the Prius has lots of cargo space, whether the rear seats are raised or folded. It’s less than 180 inches long, so the Prius is parkable, and it scores top ratings in crash tests. It is, of course, efficient, with the Prius Two Eco test car claiming 58 mpg in the EPA city test. I got in the mid to high 40s, which is typical in the way that San Francisco’s hills can flatten your own personal fuel mileage. Unlike the Three or Four trim levels, the Prius Two has few options available, and so our test car rang in at $26K.

    The Maxima SR, on the other hand, gets attention that is admiring, particularly from men. There’s a lot to take in with the Maxima–the U-shaped chrome grill bar, the floating roof, the flowing contours–and people tended to like what they saw. Even better, those I asked clearly saw it as a premium sedan, which means that Nissan has done its job in making the Maxima SR stand out from the many competitors at its $38K price point.

    The Maxima SR debuted to ads in The Advocate and Out magazine. Our community is known for embracing outsized expressions, and Nissan sees LGBT as a likely fit for this look. As with the Prius, the Maxima won’t be mistaken for others.
    So if it’s the funny frugality of the Prius or the aggressive angularity of the Maxima, the extroverts among us could probably find much to like in either one.

    Philip Ruth is a Castro-based automotive photojournalist and consultant at www.gaycarguy.com. Check out his automotive staging service at www.carstaging.com