Nice car, if you can refuel it

Toyota Mirai Full Overview

Most of our long-term fuel cell-powered Toyota Mirai updates are dedicated partly (or completely) to complaining about a lack of reliability in the nascent hydrogen fueling infrastructure, which isn’t really fair to the cars. Having said that, to be fair to us, Mirai didn’t give us much to complain about — at least, those of us under 6 feet tall.

The reason we don’t talk much about the car is that we can only find so many ways to say that the Mirai is comfortable and cool. Let’s forget the new fuel cell drive system for a moment: If we paid $52,000 for any car that represented us the way the Mirai does, we’d say we got our money’s worth.

How much is Toyota and how much is Lexus?

The credit for Toyota’s luxurious personality must be split. Some go to Mirai’s electric drivetrain. If you’ve never driven an electric car (even though the Mirai uses hydrogen, that hydrogen is converted into electricity to power the electric motors), you should try one: There is no vibration and no neck vibration as the transmission shifts gears (because there is no swap speeds). Aside from the screeching pedestrian warning and the soft hum of a gear train, Mirai accelerates (quickly) in near-quietness.

Crediting this quietness over the Mirai’s electric motor only isn’t fair to Toytoa’s engineers, as not all electric vehicles are so peaceful. One advantage of an internal combustion engine—for people who design cars—is that the engine’s compression masks a lot of background noise. Drive, say, a Porsche Taycan, and you might be surprised at how loud the wind and road noise can be, because there’s no engine to sink it. Toyota has done a really good job here. The Mirai hits the road with levels of Lexus-like refinement.

We imagine this is due to the second reason the Mirai feels stylish: It is based on the same TNGA-L (Toyota New Global Architecture) platform as Lexus’ flagship LS. This totally blows our minds, because from a mechanical standpoint, the LS and Mirai have as much in common as the donut factory and county fair. (However, we could make the connections if we really tried; both are set up for a basic rear-wheel drive, and both need room for components — drive/exhaust shaft or hydrogen tanks — that run under the car’s spine.)

We’ve said from the start that the Mirai has a Lexus-like look and behavior, and the Mirai hostess has spent a lot of time with sister publications. carThe long-running Lexus LS500, the family resemblance is clearly visible. Mirai has the same strong feel as a big car, and the SofTex faux leather upholstery does a decent imitation of Lexus’ genuine leather. (We haven’t confirmed it, but we imagine SofTex is pretty much the same stuff as Lexus’ NuLuxe.)

Mirai Luxor drivers are the happiest Mirai drivers

Overall at this point in most of our long-term testing, we’ve accumulated a bunch of complaints, but not so for Mirai. Several of our 6-foot-tall friends stuck out and groaned on entry, even though the Mirai’s roofline is no less than that of a Lexus LS. (Maybe they spent too long in SUVs.)

The problem is the huge hydrogen tanks, which crowd inside in ways that aren’t immediately obvious. One of the three tanks runs in the center of the car, which explains the generously wide center console; Man-level passenger space is narrower than one might expect for a car of this size. The rear seat has a hydrogen tank underneath and a hybrid-style buffer battery behind, which keeps it crowded toward the front row. The effective result is that there’s less space inside the Mirai than you’d expect given its exterior dimensions, but the shorter staff isn’t complaining.

The Mirai’s third hydrogen tank is located under the trunk, which limits luggage space (as is the lack of a foldable seat in the back – as mentioned above, the battery is on the way). However, this was not a problem. Given the Mirai’s limited range and the fact that nearly all gas stations congregate around three California cities, this is not a vehicle one would need to regularly pack for a Great American Road Trip. So far, the 9.6-cubic-foot trunk has proven convenient for taking bags to the airport as well as transporting First Aunt and a closet full of clothes from Orange County to Thousand Oaks.

Quality-wise, we didn’t experience any issues, aside from a set of wiper blades that needed replacing (which we blame on the harsh summer in the San Fernando Valley). Otherwise, we don’t have anything – the Mirai is as reliable as we expect Toyota to be.

845 miles of range?

Scope remains our outstanding problem. We were somewhat baffled to hear about a Mirai here in SoCal traveling 845 miles on a single fill, until we read that superstar Wayne Gerdis was behind the wheel. We know Gerdes, and there’s no fuel-economy trick he doesn’t — he can convince Kenworth up to 40 mpg. Gerdis and the Toyota team averaged 152 mpg (mpg). We don’t necessarily need 800 miles of range, but we’d like to see 400, and to do that we have to average out in the mid-70s.

So far, this does not happen to us. We monitor our mpg-e numbers (which we rely on in the car’s trip computer; hydrogen is delivered in kilograms, there’s no way to check if the tank is full to the brim, which makes computing difficult), and the Mirai offers its best economy in slow traffic. But it is moving steadily. Under those circumstances, we saw good mpg-e numbers in the ’80s and sometimes even the low ’90s with little effort on our part.

Mirai’s Realistic Leadership Group

Although we live in Los Angeles, we don’t spend everyone Our time in traffic. We drive in the suburbs, with frequent starts and stops, steep hills, and highway driving at 5 or 10 mph over the limit — in other words, the kind of people who drive in population centers do it all the time. Driving as we usually do produces mpg in the mid-sixties. We estimate the approximate range by adding the distance traveled on the last fill to the vehicle’s specified remaining range. The numbers are looking a little better lately; The car may be broken, or we may be subconsciously slowing down after the recent refueling difficulties, but we’re still seeing 320 to 360 miles per tank, with an altitude of 369. Even allowing a few miles to spare when the range hits 0, we’re on the roads of 402 On the plus side, the math on the back of the envelope indicates that the problems are more to do with the real-world economy of the Mirai rather than less than filling the entire UPS.

Speaking of hydrogen refueling stations, we’re seeing some improvements: Many of the stations we use carry more stock, making them less likely to run out of fuel, and reliability seems to have improved—or at least continued until just before we presented this report. This past weekend, all but one of the stations in the valley were in Fritz condition at one time. We rushed to True Zero station in Mission Hills and found three cars using their four pumps, with the fourth pump resting briefly. Conditions weren’t ideal – it took two attempts to get the car full, the second attempt after giving the station a five-minute rest – but the station handled better with the overload than others we’ve seen. We were also excited to see a new station just opened about a mile from Mirai’s residence – but the first time we used it, it broke.

Given how much we liked the car and that the biggest problem we had was fueling, we can’t help but wonder what the Mirai could look like if it were battery powered. With easy recharging at home – presumably a little more interior space due to the more flexible packaging of the batteries – we’ll have almost nothing to complain about. We’re more than half way through our long-term experience, and Mirai has yet to sell us the feasibility of hydrogen (although we remain optimistic and open to a change of opinion). But it convinced us that Toyota can build a solid electric car. As long as the hydrogen continues to flow, we will continue to enjoy the Mirai.

Look well! More details?