Wednesday, June 22, 2011

2012 Toyota Prius v: The Birth of Another Prius (Our First Impression)

The Prius v will be available in several colors and three models once it makes its away to the United States.

Highlight: The current-generation Prius hatchback owns approximately 52 percent of the hybrid market share, according to the folks at Toyota.

What’s New: Due to the popularity of the Prius hatchback, Toyota is creating more models under the hybrid's name. The all-new Prius v will be joining the Prius soon. This five seater is a cross between a station wagon and a crossover. So it’s basically a larger version of the current-generation Prius hatchback. Just like the current-generation, the v won’t offer a third-row.

Why It’s Called A v: This new addition is called a v since it represents versatility. According to the folks at Toyota, this hybrid offers 80 percent more cargo room than most small SUVs.

Arrival Date: This fall.

Expected Pricing: No pricing yet! However, the v is expected to be priced higher than the current Prius hatchback, which starts out in the low $20s. And the vehicle will be available in three trim levels.

Standard Engine/Horsepower: 1.8-liter, 4-cylinder engine/134-horsepower

Students from Johnson C. Smith University take a few moments to pose with the 2012 Prius v.

Estimated Fuel Mileage: 44-city/40-hwy

Major Standard Features: a push-button keyless starter; bottle holders built into the front (and rear) door pockets; a reserved spaced for umbrellas under the second-row seats; Bluetooth connectivity; a USB port; 16-inch wheels; automatic on/off headlights; single dial automatic climate control system; and 60/40 partial reclining rear split bench sliding seats with a center armrest

Standard Audio System: AM/FM CD player with 6 speakers

Optional Green Edge Audio System: a premium JBL audio system with an 8 channel amplifier and door-mounted acoustic lens speakers; an available HD radio system enables CD sound quality from digital FM broadcasts; iTune taggings will be available; 3-month satellite radio subscription

Pros: For folks who love gadgets, Toyota is pushing the envelope, offering Entune, the automaker's  first multimedia system. This new system will integrate one’s smartphone, allowing the use of mobile apps, such as Bing, OpenTable and, Pandora and iheartradio.

Also the folks at Toyota are making big moves with the Prius v new audio system with the Entune feature. They’re saying that the new system will allow an advanced conversational voice recognition which will help the driver to stay focused on the road by eliminating the need to memorize thousands of voice commands. The system will also allow for audio read-back and replay capabilities for text messages, with the ability to pre-set quick reply messages like what’s found on most of today’s smartphones. Since we were driving a prepoduction vehicle, the folks at Toyota's headquarters were doing some updates to the system so we didn't have an opportunity to see it in use. We look forward to using this feature during our extensive test drive later this year.

What’s Unique: Toyota is now substituting leather seats for the brand’s new optional signature SofTex seats or what we term as being imitation leather. Toyota says its environmentally-friendly to go this route.

Early Verdict: Toyota is not only looking to remain as the forerunner in offering green technology, but they’re also pushing the envelope with the brand’s first multimedia infotainment system. For those looking for a roomier version of the current model Prius, the v will fit the bill. Not only is it roomier, eliminating the mouse-like pad found in the Prius hatchback, there is no rear center bar like on the Prius hatchback which impedes one’s vision. Also unlike in the Prius hatchback, the Prius v offers more cargo space and horsepower too. Conversely, with the extra horsepower, one will sacrifice fuel economy.

So as of now, this is all we can say about the Prius v --since we only had access to this pre-production vehicle for a few hours. We look for more windshield time later this year beyond the short test drive we experienced while driving around Johnson C. Smith University campus and the outskirts of Charlotte, North Carolina later this year.

The Prius v takes a tour of Johnson C. Smith University tree-lined campus.

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