Test Drive: 2012 Toyota Prius V Wagon

?2012 Prius V : Expands Toyota?s Hybrid family?

The Toyota Prius for 2010 was better in nearly every way imaginable, moving from its pioneer status to that of a Hybrid icon. It was a genuine ?Hyper-miler?. The claimed EPA mileage estimates were 51 mpg City, 48 mpg Highway, and 50 mpg combined which could be bested with only a minimal amount of effort and focus, but given the way most Prius owners really drive their cars, the actual mileage will probably fall considerably short of the Prius? potential for economy.

The regular Prius lineup began with a single grade or base level, with four equipment level upgrades, for a total of five model choices. Each progressive grade from the base model on up, added significant features and equipment above the models that preceded it. Optionally available packages could be chosen to further round out vehicles to the consumer?s liking, including: a Navigation Package, a Solar Roof Package and an Advanced Technology Package.

The Atkinson-cycle engine moved from 1.5-liters to 1.8-liters. Toyota?s Hybrid Synergy Drive System now consists of the 1.8-liter / 1798cc 2ZR-FXE (Atkinson cycle) 4-cylinder aluminum block and head, double overhead cam 16-valve VVT-i. ? plus a Permanent Magnet Synchronous Motor DC650V ? 60kw/80 hp/153 lb-ft. torque with a Nickel-Metal Hydride hybrid battery pack that yields 36 hp. Full Series Parallel System. The Hybrid system delivers a net 134 horsepower, while the gasoline engine generates 98 horsepower and 105 pound feet of torque. Motive force is delivered to the front wheels through an electronically controlled, Continuously Variable Transmission.

In terms of its appearance, the Prius V still looks like a Prius, but now in a considerably more refined way, and in a more versatile and spacious wagon form. It actually now appears to be more balanced with better proportions. The coefficient of drag is now 0.29. The wheelbase for the V (which, by the way stands for Versatility) is now 3-inches longer at 109.4?, with the LOA expanded?by 6-inches to 181.7?. Height is 3-inches more (62? / 63? with the Panoramic sunroof), and the width has been increased by one inch to 69?. The upper grille slot has been minimized to improve airflow over the body?s upper half, while the lower grille opening below the bumper has been enlarged reducing air flow resistance, in addition to increasing cooling efficiency, with emphasized aero corners, accentuated by flat wheel well arches that smooth air flow around the?wheel well opening. The windshield rake angle has been increased, giving the cabin a sleeker image that flows into the raised rear with an integrated spoiler lip. Passenger area volume has been increased by 3.5 cubic feet (a total of 91.2 cu.ft. with the seats folded flat), with more shoulder and hip room.

Inside, the gauging format has been revised, while still providing a wealth of operational feedback, with the surrounding panel and seat inserts executed in a leaf vein pattern, and rear seat room has been increased offering greater rear passenger comfort. The 60/40 split rear seats both recline and fold flat. There are rear cargo bins along with a stowable tonneau cover and the center console features a removable tray. In all, the cargo space has been increased by 38 percent.

Toyota recently staged a test program in and around Monterey, CA for Western regional automotive journalists. There are three levels of trim and content for the 2012 Prius V: Two, Three and Five. Preproduction units used for the launch program were in varying levels of trim. Our test vehicle was a loaded to the hilt Five level model sporting a Dark metallic Blue exterior, with a two-tone grey interior. Pricing has yet to be announced for the Prius V wagon, which will go on sale in the Fall, but is expected to be only slightly higher than a fully equipped current Prius sedan. We?re guessing somewhere in the mid to high $30,000 range for a well-equipped top trim level model.

SUMMARY: The Prius V wagon is the latest model to be introduced, and is sure to be a welcome addition to the Prius stable. Toyota plans to launch ten new models within the next 20 months, six of which will be totally new.

The Prius V will be available exterior colors and three interior color themes, with trim level packaging dictating equipment and feature content. Soft touch materials add to the interior?s ambience, and the Five level trim debuts a new Softex material. The hybrid battery pack is now more compact which is a contributing factor to the increase in interior volume long with the bumping up of physical dimensions. Battery replacement cost is currently $2,300 but many existing earlier Prius models have logged 250 to 350 thousand miles without any negative issues.

In our view, the Prius V is still a Prius and has sacrificed none of the sedan?s earlier principles, while managing to evolve intelligently to an ever better and more ecologically friendly vehicle. It is only slightly slower than the sedan (0-60 mph in 10.4), and performs well on the highway or in the inner city, while?delivering a comfortable ride with admirable handling characteristics from the perspective of both genders.

The Prius V wagon drives and handles just like its sedan counterpart, but with greater versatility and more functionality, and for the ecologically conscious, there are four operational modes from which to choose: Normal, Power, EV and ECO. EPA mileage estimates are 44-mpg city and 42-mpg highway. Hypermilers will certainly be capable of doing considerably better.

Technology abounds in the Prius V, with an impressive multi-media system with EnTune, a smart key, 7 standard air bags, backup camera and a pre-collision system, and for the most part, controls and switchgear have been simplified for optimum user friendliness.

Toyota continues its quest for optimum fuel economy, and by 2020, the plan is to have a hybrid option for every Toyota model. Prius is destined to sell in 80 countries around the globe, with the highest Hybrid brand awareness globally. More than 2 million have been sold to date with 97 percent still operational. The Prius outsells all other hybrid brands combined.

Bottom-line, if you?re a fan of the regular Prius Sedan and need more space and features, you?re going to love the Prius V.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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