Mirai deputy chief engineer Ryotaro Shimizu said that the company was looking for a more “emotional design” for the new model. Gone are the quirky vertical air inlets on the nose (necessary for the fuel cell to breathe) in favor of a massive forward grille. The car is a couple of inches shorter and wider, and nearly six inches longer than its predecessor. Most of that space has been used for better legroom and comfort, and to make room for a fifth passenger. Depending on specification, it ships with either 19- or 20-inch wheels, making everything look a little more aggressive and sporty compared to the 17-inch wheels on its predecessor.
Inside, the biggest change beyond the fancier, Lexus-esque interior, is that the primary display is no longer housed in the central console. Driving the first Mirai (and the current Prius, for that matter) you needed to look too far down, off the road, to see the GPS display. Now the screen is mounted next to the instrument cluster, and it’s angled to favor the driver, which should make it much easier to use.
There was some free space between the driver and passenger at the leg level in the original Mirai, but in the updated model there’s now practically a dividing wall. It’s filled with bins and a mobile phone charging plate, but this was primarily changed to make room below for the longer, centrally-housed fuel tank. It should, at least, provide plenty of space for the doodads and ephemera that taxi drivers — a big customer for the Mirai — like to keep on hand while they’re driving around.
Toyota also wants to dispel the notion that the new Mirai will handle as, uh, gracefully as its predecessor. Driving fans often berate the Prius for its sluggish handling and feeling of disconnection from the road. The new Mirai has rear-wheel drive, with multi-link suspension, a sportier option compared to the front-wheel-drive first model. In addition, the centrally-mounted hydrogen tanks mean the car has a lower center of gravity, a more rigid body, and, Toyota says, close-to 50:50 weight distribution. Don’t expect it to handle like a race car, but maybe it’ll feel a little less like driving a cruise ship.
Shimizu added that when you hit the gas pedal, you should feel a “very good kick,” suggesting acceleration has also been improved. Toyota has also added something called an “Active Sound Creator,” a built-in fake engine noise to help the driver understand what’s going on with their car because the Mirai has been designed to be impossibly quiet on its own.
Making the Mirai roomier would have been difficult unless Toyota could shrink the car’s most cumbersome element; the fuel cell. The 114kW unit from the first car occupied 33 liters of space, dominating the engine bay. Toyota is boasting that the new model takes up nine liters less, at 24 liters, but is 10 percent more efficient, outputting 128kW despite the smaller size. As well as being smaller, it has fewer, uh, cells in its stack: 330, down from 370 before.
This allowed Toyota to install the bigger hydrogen tank, which runs along the floor of the car. It’s joined by…
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