Join Date: Apr 2011
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
|View Poll Results: Do you like the 2012 Toyota Prius V|
|Voters: 2. You may not vote on this poll|
The Prius has gone plural, and the 2012 Toyota Prius V we have before us is the first model variant to hit the streets. Essentially, the Prius V is a Prius wagon, but for some reason that perfectly descriptive term is marketing kryptonite. Cue the silliness and copy editor headaches.
Our wagonesque Prius hybrid test car wears nothing but a diminutive "V" for a model name, intentionally lowercase and italicized in Toyota's press information as if it should be whispered conspiratorially so as to detract less attention from the hallowed Prius brandwagon. Officially it stands for "versatile," which seems fair enough.
Another reason why that "V" is intentionally tiny and tilted is to keep us from mistaking it for the Roman numeral V because, well, this is most definitely not a Prius Five. That would be dumb.
On the other hand our test car is a 2012 Prius V Three, in which the Three is the name of the specific midgrade trim level we're testing. The groundwork for this plan was laid months ago, when Toyota quietly eliminated Roman numerals from the regular Prius' trim level nomenclature, changing 2010 Prius III to Prius Three for the 2011 model year.
Confused? You have every right to be, because what Toyota has whipped up here is a heaping helping of marketing "huh?"
Oh Yeah, the Car
As for the vehicle itself, the 2012 Toyota Prius V (wagon) truly is more versatile than your garden-variety Prius (hatchback). And by versatile we mean bigger.
In a more or less proportional upsizing, our Prius V is 6 full inches longer than a Prius and it rides on front and rear axles that stand 3 inches farther apart from one another. It's also 3.3 inches taller and 1.1 inches wider than a V-less Prius.
Dimensionally, the new Prius V casts about the same shadow as a 2012 Mazda 5, Mazda's small minivan.
Cargo volume benefits most dramatically, owing to a cargo compartment that's 3 inches wider, more than 4 inches longer and more than a couple inches taller beneath a more vanlike roof line. Seats-down maximum capacity jumps by a massive 70 percent, from 39.6 to 67.3 cubic feet.
It's much the same story with the rear seats in use, where a 59 percent increase in space results in 34.3 cubic feet instead of the regular Prius' 21.6 cubes. In pure luggage terms the 2012 Toyota Prius V Wagon holds six of our well-stuffed carry-on test suitcases behind and below its rear headrests instead of four.
A Better Taxi
Anyone who's ever sat in the back of a regular Prius knows it has a serious amount of rear legroom — enough that Prii make decent taxis. But that distinctive sloping rear roof line always made rear-seat access a little iffy and, once you got in, cozy three-across seating waited for you in a narrow backseat cabin.
Here in the V, that flatter vannish roof line hikes the rear corners of the rear doors way up. Our own measurements tell us the tops of those rear doors stand 4.8 inches higher than those of a Prius. Ducking and head protection are no longer recommended.
Things are far more comfortable inside, too, where 2.1 inches of extra rear shoulder room make the backseat a far more platonic environment for three-across passengers. And unlike in a regular Prius, the V's 60/40 rear seats recline. They'll even slide forward to turn excess rear legroom into even more luggage space.
Our scales tell us that the V's extra size amounts to 244 pounds of extra Prius to cart around — not all that much, but impossible to ignore. What's more, the additional height and width require the powertrain to punch a bigger hole in the air as the V rolls down the highway.
But there's no beefed-up engine here, no larger electric motor and no bigger battery to make up the difference. The 2012 Prius V motivates itself with the same 1.8-liter Atkinson-cycle gas engine and Hybrid Synergy Drive system as a regular Prius, which is why the V's peak blended horsepower comes in at the same 134 horses.
Thing is, measured performance doesn't suffer much. The last regular 2010 Prius we tested got to 60 mph in 10.1 seconds and finished the quarter-mile in 17.3 seconds: no speed demon, but enough to hold its own in traffic. Our 2012 Toyota Prius V reaches those milestones in 10.3 (10.0 with a foot of rollout as on a drag strip) and 17.4 seconds — pretty much the same story.
How is this possible? Gearing. Yes, the Prius V is regulated by the same planetary CVT hybrid transmission, but as in all vehicles there's a final-drive ratio between the transmission and the drive axles. That ratio is 3.27:1 in a garden-variety Prius. The Prius V uses a more aggressive 3.70:1 final drive gear.
Of course nothing is free, so the gearing, the weight and the aero conspire to take a chunk out of the Prius V's fuel economy. Toyota reckons the Prius wagon will return 44 mpg in the city and 40 mpg on the highway for a still-impressive combined rating of 42 mpg. Sure, a regular Prius can do 50 mpg, but a same-sized Mazda 5 is good for just 24 mpg combined. We averaged 40.1 mpg in our Prius V during our test regimen.
More déjà vu resides within the fenders, as the V also rides on a MacPherson strut suspension in front and a twist-beam axle out back. It's all suitably upsized, of course, including the slightly larger 205/60R16 Yokohama low-rolling-resistance tires.
Physics nonetheless dulls the edge off track performance that was never razor-sharp to begin with. Our Prius V requires 131 feet to stop from 60 mph instead of 118 feet. It circulates the skid pad to the tune of 0.75 lateral g instead of 0.78g.
Slalom performance, such as it is, is curiously better, albeit by a miniscule degree. Our V dodges the cones at 59.3 mph, 0.2 mph faster than the last 2010 Prius that visited. Here the V's extra width may be paying off, as its tire contact patches are separated by an additional 0.6 inch up front and a full inch out back.
On real roads our 2012 Toyota Prius V still feels like a Prius. Its electronic power steering and computer-regulated braking system both exhibit that familiar Prius feel in that they simulate rather than stimulate. Neither precisely translates what's going on into the native tongue of our hands and feet — kind of like a dubbed kung fu movie.
But there are also subtle differences. On the one hand the Prius V's chassis feels a bit heavier and a slightly higher seating position alters the driver's sensation of roll. On the other hand the extra weight makes the V feel a little calmer, a bit less up on tiptoes. There's also a unique pitch and bounce control system that uses rapid-fire computer-induced throttle tweaks to counteract cabin motions.
At the Helm
Our V persists with the Prius' signature centrally located instruments, high on the dash. The layout is cleaned up and a generous overhanging hood does a better job of shading them, but we still find it odd to glance through the steering wheel spokes and see nothing.
The best part of the V's unique and simplified center stack design is a new central climate-control knob that can be spun, poked and shuffled side to side to make a number of setting adjustments without hunting around with our hand.
And then there's Entune, Toyota's brand-new cloud-based data system. It uses an easily downloaded app on your iPhone, Android or RIM smartphone to feed Pandora and iHeartRadio to the audio system and Bing location data and a suite of reservation services to bolster the functionality of the touchscreen navigation system.
It all works pretty seamlessly with an Android phone paired to our test car, but in true Toyota fashion our ability to use certain aspects of Entune requires either voice commands or a full stop at the curb. App load times and Pandora sound quality are supposed to improve once the car goes on sale and the Entune system moves from prototype test servers to the permanent ones. Fingers crossed.
What'll It Cost?
Pricing has not yet been released, but should come soon, as the 2012 Toyota Prius V is slated to go on sale in October 2011. Unlike a regular Prius, the base Prius V is the Prius V Two, not the One.
We're estimating a starting price of $26,000 or thereabouts for the V Two, which has touchscreen audio with Bluetooth, USB and iPod connectivity. It has alloy wheels, a power driver seat and push-button start. Our Prius V Three has all that plus navigation and Entune and should cost about $27,500 or so.
Curiously, there is no Prius V Four. The next one up is the Prius V Five, and it sports 17-inch wheels, LED headlights and premium seats. The only option is the fancy-pants Advanced Technology package and it's only available on the Five. It contains adaptive cruise control, parallel parking assist, a panorama moonroof, premium audio and nav and other doodads.
With no Prius V Four, it seems to us the Five should be the Four, and the Advanced Technology package should become the Prius V Five. But that would make a kind of sense that doesn't exist in the quirky nomenclature of the 2012 Toyota Prius V.
What makes a lot of sense is the car itself. The 2012 Toyota Prius V is everything a Toyota Prius hatchback is, only bigger. If the only thing holding you back from a regular Prius was the size, the 2012 Prius V is your car. And why don't we just call it a wagon and move on?
The interior on Prius's always tend to disappoint me, but they are functional interiors. The Prius V would get more points with me if it had a 3rd row seat in America. I understand the difference in the various markets, but common now Toyota....at least make the 3rd row seat an option.
Toyota doesn't notice that adding the Prius V third row seat option is a big plus from a sales point.