Just Car Blog
|2012 Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid Review & Test Drive||
The 2012 Toyota Prius continues to embody the purpose-built principle of being one of the most fuel efficient vehicles on the road today. To expand on the Prius’ technological advancements, a new Prius plug-in version has been introduced for the 2012 model year to further push the fuel efficiency envelope to new heights.
I had the chance to experience firsthand on the highway and in city traffic if there were any beneficial attributes to a plug-in hybrid version of the Prius. To summarize the differences in the new Prius plug-in hybrid version and a normal 4-door Prius, you do not have to stretch your imagination too far. The new Prius plug-in hybrid (PHV) takes the traditional Prius and introduces an electric-only range of about 13 miles and the ability to charge the larger battery through a standardized plug. All else remains to be a Prius hybrid in the traditional sense of mustering out about 50 mpg in the city and highway.
The conception of the new Prius plug-in hybrid is somewhat of Toyota’s answer to the Chevy Volt and with a dab of essences of the Nissan Leaf. The Leaf and Volt are totally different vehicles as they are when compared to the Prius plug-in hybrid. The Leaf is completely electric and the other, having an electric drivetrain with a gasoline motor acting as an active generator, is essentially an extended range electric vehicle. The Prius plug-in is still the concept of a traditional Prius, it only adds the capability to charge a larger and heavier nickel-metal hydride battery pack and have a viable electric-only range by means of a higher threshold of electric propulsion before kicking in the gasoline engine.
In terms of power output of the 2012 Prius plug-in hybrid, it is the same combined 134 horsepower output rating derived from a 98-horsepower 1.8-liter inline-4 cylinder engine and 80 horsepower electric motor as found in the regular Prius hybrid. The total horsepower figure, by means of some fuzzy math, is consequent of how the power is transmitted, which finds its way to the front wheels through a specialized continuously variable transmission (CVT).
The 2012 Prius plug-in hybrid, aside from the specialized PHV badges, silver paint on the door handles and extra cutout in the left front fender for the charging plug, there are no distinctive characteristics to differentiate a plug-in hybrid Prius from the normal Prius hybrid. The same goes for the interior, and for the most part, the way in which it drives. However, driving the new Prius plug-in hybrid, with the added weight (about 330 pounds) of the larger battery pack, tends to get in the way of performance. Prius and performance go together like oil and water, even more so in the new plug-in hybrid version getting a 0-60 mph time of 11.3 seconds – a step in the wrong direction from the already lackluster time of 9.8 seconds in the standard Prius sedan.
After much time spent in development of the Prius, still holding the title for today’s quintessential hybrid vehicle, the new Prius does everything that it is supposed to do without any fuss. When you think of a Prius and an appliance, they are both purpose-built and sometimes one may gain a few pounds to add extra features to keep the consumer happy. That is just what the Prius plug-in hybrid is all about, a continuation of not disappointing its main consumer base.
Driving impressions of the Prius plug-in hybrid are about on par with Sebastian Vettel taking his Infiniti FX to his next F1 race, sure it will get him around the track but it won’t win any races even if he is getting better gas mileage than everyone else. The electric mode for the new Prius plug-in hybrid is good for traveling up to 62 mph and topping out a range of around 13 to 15 miles. Just getting the Prius near highway speeds in electric mode is somewhat of a challenge, even on a fully charged battery, due to relatively low load constraints on the electric motor. Low speeds are not such of an enduring task, though the LCD dashboard information screen does a good job at actively displaying your throttle/load conditions so you may accelerate softly without demanding the ECU to turn-over the gas engine. After the main battery is depleted, the Prius plug-in hybrid is back to the normal expected modes of a ordinary Prius hybrid. It will actively charge the temporary battery storage for those times when you are crawling around town or in stop-and-go traffic.
The hybrid system in the new 2012 Prius and Prius plug-in hybrid are the best that they have ever been. The time when the engine turns over is hardly noticeable without any abrupt power transitions. Even the braking system has been tweaked to limit as much unnatural feedback when the generators kick in to put power back in the battery during slowing. Toyota has almost mastered the efficiency of their hybrid system to get as much juice out of every drive through an advanced control system that works virtually seamless in the background.
Driving the Prius plug-in hybrid to the limit is almost a necessity when peculiar traffic situations demand it. The Prius has just enough power to not be dangerous when keep up with flowing highway traffic. The ride quality is fairly good and never overly soft. Traction and stability control is sometimes overly sensitive drowning out any bit of wheel spin or loss of traction.
The interior of the new Prius plug-in hybrid, basically identical to the regular Prius hybrid, features a floating console setup with storage space underneath it. The futuristic cabin design makes the best use of all available space, while the central mono-green LCD information screen reading out a multitude of vehicle data and hybrid drive status.
What is more of a disappointment with the new Prius’ interior is the use of plastics that actually look somewhat cheap. Hard plastics are used throughout the interior leaving the only soft surfaces to the leather seats. Though, most of the interior plastics mesh well together, which is more of an expected characteristic for a Toyota than the overshadowing use of hard plastic. Seating position for the driver seems somewhat disconnected due to the long distance to the dashboard and far reach for what is a telescoping steering wheel.
Considering that enthusiasts will probably pass on the purchase of a new Prius and the plug-in hybrid version, it still serves to be the most sought-after hybrid vehicle and gas miser on the road today, and for good reason. I saw a steady 46 mpg on the highway when really pushing the Prius plug-in hybrid beyond the boundaries of what the speed limit signs had posted. Around the city fuel estimates hovered around 53 mpg.
With emerging hybrid competition coming into the picture from many automakers, the Prius may eventually have its work cut out. Something tells me the Prius does not have much to worry about with its decade-long jump on the market when it comes to hybrid vehicles in the states.
The new 2012 Prius plug-in hybrid has a starting price of $32,000, about $8,000 more than the standard 2012 Prius hybrid starting at just $24,000. Is the premium of the plug-in hybrid version worth it? It all depends on your usage. One could consider the plug-in hybrid if they commute 10 miles to work each day, they could essentially utilize the electric mode and hardly ever use gas.
COPYRIGHT: 2012 AutomotiveAddicts.com
- Price: Base Prius Plug-in Hybrid MSRP $32,000 Prius Plug-in Hybrid Advanced trim As-Tested $40,365
- Engine: 1.8-liter gas engine with hybrid synergy drive electric motor – total 134 horsepower @ 5,200 rpm/105 ft-lbs. torque @ 4000 rpm
- Turning circle: 34.2 ft.
- Total length: 176.4 in.
- Total width: 68.7 in.
- Total height: 58.7 in.
- Track: f/r-59.6/59.4 in.
- Ground clearance: 5.3 in.
- Headroom: f/r-38.6/37.6 in.
- Legroom: f/r-42.5/36.0 in.
- EPA interior volume: 115.3 cu.ft.
- EPA cargo volume: with rear seats up-21.6/with rear seats folded-39.6 cu.ft.
- Fuel tank: 10.6 gallon
- Curb weight: 3,165 lbs.
- EPA mileage est.: 51 mpg city / 49 mpg highway
- 0-60 mph: 11.3 seconds
|Toyota Prius Coupe for 2014||
Toyota, obviously not satisfied with whatever they have made of the Prius, is now expanding the squad. Or, that is what we guess from the announcement made about the possibility of the Prius c and Prius v editions. Apart from this, we also hear that Toyota is looking at making a Prius Coupe for 2014.
The Coupe is likely to be inspired from the concept of the futuristic Lexus GS that was revealed recently. We guess Toyota will make a larger Coupe this time around .
The carmaker is expected to release the vehicle with a plug-in hybrid technology, a lithium-ion battery and a manual transmission features. Stay tuned for more on that.
|2012 Toyota Camry Likely Later This Year||
Any chance for a redesigned Camry soon? It seems so. Vice President of Toyota USA Bob Carter has hinted at a redesigned Camry that could possibly be unveiled by the end of this year.
We haven’t announced the next-gen Camry, but I will tell you the current Camry is very close to the end of its lifecycle, and a fall introduction is a pretty good educated guess.”
He also expressed his hope that Prius will eventually become the top selling model of Toyota. Earlier, Toyota had unveiled its third generation Prius at the Detroit Auto Show. It claimed to have a higher fuel economy nearly 25% better than the first generation Prius.
But it is less likely to become the best seller at this stage. However, the peaking fuel prices may lure the consumers towards the hybrid.
|Prius Family Expanding; Billboard Drops Hint of New Arrival||
Finally, on the tenth anniversary year of the launch of the Prius, Toyota seems to be adding to the Prius family. At the party celebrating the Prius’ tenth year in the market, Toyota unveiled a billboard that displayed a people carrier that stated that the Prius family was getting bigger. It is expected that Toyota will be bringing out three new variants of the Prius – a hatch, a people mover and a smaller compact car.
The people mover is said to be much bigger than the existing Prius. But industry watchers say that it is likely to be similar to the Prius hatch. Earlier information had revealed that the prototype was to be similar to the size of the Mazda 5.
The company had also stated that there would be three rows of seating inside, which would accommodate seven adults.
It’s possible that the extra room will help engineers to use the underneath of the vehicle to stow away the 4-cylinder engine and the batteries.
The compact addition to the Prius family is expected to be a more appealing version of the original Prius – which may rule the roost as the leader in the MPG segment after it is released.
|Toyota Prius Minivan Version Caught on Spy Camera||
Spy photos of what appears to be the long-anticipated minivan version of the Toyota Prius have surfaced. The hybrid minivan, rumored to be the Prius Alpha, was spotted in California following a new Lexus CT200h with its logos covered. From the picture, it can be clearly seen that the minivan appears to be having a Prius-like front fascia. It is also evident that the windshield, front window line and tail lamps of the minivan are similar in design to that of the Prius.
Earlier reports had suggested that the Prius MPV will be having three rows of seats with space for up to seven passengers and will be powered by lithium-ion batteries (to improve mileage and may even allow for more electric-only propulsion opportunities).
Toyota, which currently sells three hybrids in the U.S. with the Prius, Camry, and Highlander, hopes to launch six new hybrids worldwide by 2012. Look for the Toyota Prius Alpha hybrid to hit the market around 2012.
|Toyota’s Six New Hybrids by 2012||
Toyota has announced that they have plans to introduce six new hybrid vehicles by the year 2012. The company has not revealed too many details yet, apart from the at that they are planning to have three of thee models only as hybrids and the other three will be hybrid versions of models that are already out on the market, which are currently running as petrol versions.
The sources at the company have also revealed that the Prius Plug-In Hybrid will be priced at $3,000 to $5,000 more than the standard Prius. This would set the base price at $25,800 – $27,800, which would still be far more affordable than the Chevy Volt – priced at $41,000.
Sources say that a mid-2012 launch is anticipated for US markets and that annual sales are expected to total 20,000 units. Sources also commented on the RA V4 EV, which is being developed in association with Tesla Motors.
They said that work on the vehicle has already started at the company’s technical center in Michigan and that the vehicle will be introduced during the 2010 Los Angeles Auto Show. The plan is to have it go on sale in 2012.
|Toyota Verso-S to Debut in Paris||
Toyota has announced the Verso-S, which will debut at the Paris Motor Show. The Japanese auto giant also has plans to unveil other new models in Paris, but the main focus will be on Verso, a car which the company claims to be “small, spacious and smart”.
Toyota is eyeing the European MPV market with the new hatchback that has been spruced up with IQ-inspired styling and flexible interiors.
The company is sticking to its philosophy of going green too with two new hybrid models set to be launched alongside the Verso. It will introduce the Prius Plug-in Hybrid and the Auris HSD (Hybrid Synergy Drive) as part of this initiative.
Toyota has also lined up a few other treats for the show, including an updated iQ, an interactive Hybrid Synergy Drive Gallery and the FT-CH concept, which as you all know, originally made its debut at the 2010 North American International Auto Show.