First Drive: 2012 Toyota Prius V

IT DRIVES A LOT LIKE A REGULAR PRIUS You push a button on the dash to turn on the vehicle, which starts in electric mode. A new warning tone for pedestrians, not audible from inside the car, sounds a bit like a sucking noise through a tube. This is to compensate for the fact that, at low speeds, there’s no conventional engine noise to alert pedestrians to the presence of the Prius.

The huge, broad windshield makes for excellent forward visibility. You can manually elevate the driver’s seat quite a bit, so you feel like you’re riding high, or you can pump the seat down toward the floor and you feel like you’re appreciably closer to the ground.

There’s lots of CVT drone and mooing as the Prius v struggles to accelerate up the mountain toward Skyline Blvd. This is not exciting. Once we’re bounding along this mountaintop road through the trees, though, the Prius provides reasonable and predictable body control. There’s decent heft in the steering, but it feels artificially weighted and isn’t linear off-center. Still, it’s easy to place the car in a corner, and after driving the Prius on a number of challenging roads at a pace that few drivers ever will, we’d say it ain’t bad at all. Sure, there’s the usual oddness to the brake pedal response, but that improves a bit if you move the gear lever into the B setting to engage more engine braking.

Southbound on the 280, we noticed some wind rush over the A-pillars and a bit of road noise, but the Prius v has a very comfortable freeway ride. A new Pitch and Bounce Control system varies the amount of torque the hybrid motor sends to the front axle to suppress pitch and dive. It’s subtle, but it does appreciably help keep this bigger, longer Prius on an even keel.

With 44 city; 40 highway; 42 combined rating, I will prefer my Jetta Sportswagon TDI any day over the Prius V.... AT 39 city and 50 highway my 2010 Sportwagon is a drivers car.... And when the Prius batteries are just about dead at 150,000 miles, meaning $8000 for new batteries, the TDI engine has just about gotten to its half life....
Well, Toyota seems to be doing exactly what it ought to do to come out of its recent troubles. It's building on its strengths. Every generation of the Prius has gotten better to drive, here's hoping that they continue that trend.That being said, it is surprising that 232 pounds and a few ticks of aerodynamic coefficient should have such a huge effect on the MPG. Nearly ten miles per gallon worse? Geeuh. When the Scion Xb got the bloat, it was 600 pounds heavier and a lot more powerful, but the MPG stayed surprisingly close.

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