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.