To most people, the words "sporty" and "Prius" probably don't go together ? but a new accessory package available on the 2011 Prius might change that notion. Called the Prius PLUS Performance Package, the new option group is engineered by Toyota's TRD performance division, enhancing the hybrid hatchback's look and handling by giving it a more aggressive stance and added poise in corners.

Prius models equipped with the new PLUS package will be easy to recognize from the outside. That's because the package adds a seven-piece aerodynamic ground effects kit, giving the hatchback an aggressive low-profile stance with front and rear bumper spoilers, sleek side skirts and a uniquely styled rear diffuser. Also standard with the package are 17-inch, five-spoke alloy wheels ? a major upgrade from the Prius's standard 15-inch alloys ? and unique PLUS package floormats and badging.

But the PLUS package isn't all for show. It also lowers the Prius 1.1 inches in the front and 1.3 inches in the rear, improving turn-in and enhancing steering response and cornering. A rear sway bar will also aid in handling, keeping the Prius composed by reducing body roll through hard turns.

First debuted at the aftermarket-themed SEMA show in Las Vegas, the PLUS Performance Package will add $3,699 to the bottom line of Prius Two, Three and Four models, or $2,999 on the upscale Prius Five when it goes on sale in July. Toyota says the package will be available with four of the Prius's most popular colors: Blizzard Pearl, Black, Classic Silver Metallic and Winter Gray Metallic.

The package should serve as a much-needed boost for Prius sales, which were down more than 50 percent in May. While demand has remained high for the popular hatchback, supply has been low following the massive earthquake that struck Japan in March.

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Jeffrey Archer is fortunate to have turned a passion for cars into a career. His wide-ranging automotive experience includes work for automakers and dealers in addition to covering the news. When not writing, he spends his time searching for unique cars on AutoTrader.com.

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