Because of the increase in frontal area presented by the taller and wider windshield, the coefficient of drag (cD) of the “v” increases from the base Prius’ 0.26 to 0.29. Toyota has taken some remarkable measures to keep that cD under 0.30. For example, the front headlight shells include aerodynamic winglets molded into their exterior surface to promote boundary layer airflow adhesion in this critical area. While the 232 pound-heftier “v” can’t match the existing Prius’ spectacular fuel economy of 51 MPG City/48 Highway, it still returns highly efficient numbers: 44 MPG City/40 Highway/42 combined.
To compensate for the expected weight of more passengers and cargo, Toyota redesigned the suspension components of the existing Prius. Up front, the coil over springs have been increased in diameter and rate, with beefier shocks benefiting from a redesigned upper mounting point. A new front suspension member now houses the ring and pinion steering mechanism for more precise steering feel. At the rear, a twist beam axle depends on uprated springs and struts to control oscillation. Toyota has installed wheel speed sensors to detect ride irregularity. These trigger a system called “Pitch and Bounce Control” which uses torque of the electric motor to damped unwanted suspension motion. On a long drive through bumpy Wild Horse Canyon near San Juan Bautista, the “v” scored well in the deportment department. We tested versions with both the standard 6.5 x 16 inch wheels (Yokohama 205/60R16 BlueEarth S34) and optional 7 x 17 inch alloys (Toyo 215/50R17 Proxes A20), and found little to choose between them. The Pitch and Bounce Control seems to negate 16 versus 17 inch handling differences.
The more auto makers preach to us about the dangers of distracted driving, the more they try to distract us from the task of driving. The latest Prius is engulfed with reams of such technology unrelated to operating a vehicle. To insure that you spend nary a moment in quiet contemplation, Toyota offers a dazzling array of alternatives to thinking. Topping the list is Entune, a multimedia system that “leverages the mobile smartphone to provide a richer in-vehicle experience.” Want to check your stocks on the NYSE? No problem, just push the appropriate button hardwired into the dash. Same for Bing, OpenTable and movietickets.com. Of course, none of this works if you’re so antediluvian (or cheap) as to reject ownership of a smartphone. In addition to Entune, the “v” is equipped with Bluetooth wireless for hands-free phone calls, plus an automatic phone book transfer protocol. Optional HD radio comes with iTunes tagging (for future purchase) plus XM Satellite Radio. All you need is a designated driver so you can lounge carefree in the passenger seat, swaddled by all the technology.
2012 TOYOTA PRIUS v SPECS
- ENGINE: 1.8 liter aluminum DOHC, 16 valve VVT-I in line four plus 650V Motor Generator
- HORSEPOWER: 134 hp
- TORQUE: 258 lb.-ft.
- FUEL CONSUMPTION: 44MPG City/40 MPG Highway
- PRICE AS TESTED: TBA
David Colman has been writing vehicle tests for 25 years. His work has been featured in AutoWeek, the San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco Examiner, and Marin Independent Journal. In 1987, he helped start Excellence, The Magazine About Porsche, which he edited for many years. He has been an active participant in racing and solo events since 1961.
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