January 10, 2011 was the day the Toyota Prius stopped being a single model and became a range. “Today we’re going to plant the family tree,” said Bob Carter, Toyota Division group vice president and general manager at this year’s Detroit auto show.
The newest car to wear the favorite badge of the eco-conspicuous is the Prius V. “The V stands for versatility,” said Carter. “Consumers inspired us to expand [the Prius] line.”
It’s still a five-seater, “built especially with young families in mind,” with the same hybrid drivetrain we have all come to know and at least respect, an aerodynamic shape (its drag coefficient of 0.29 is low) and a panoramic resin moonroof that is claimed to be 40 percent lighter than one made from conventional glass.
Yet the Prius V – categorized as a mid-size station wagon – adds more headroom than its “normal” sibling, a higher driving position and, with 34.3 cubic feet to play with, 50 percent more cargo space. The front passenger seat even folds flat for a little more hauling capability. Meanwhile, for more seating flexibility, the 60/40 split second row slides back and forward, and can even recline up to 45 degrees.
Consumption is rated at 42 mpg in the city, 38 on the highway and 40 combined. Standard equipment includes hill start assistance and a back-up camera. As with every other Toyota model, the Prius V gets the company’s Star Safety System array of protective features, as well as the Smart Stop brake override function.
The V will also be one of the first Toyotas to offer Entune, the company’s new voice-activated infotainment system that provides the Bing search engine, OpenTable restaurant reservation site, Movie Tickets.com and Pandora, the personalized music streaming website. And it can give locations of gas stations and current prices.
The Prius V goes on sale toward the end of this summer. Prices will be announced nearer that time.
Going from a bigger production model to a smaller concept, Toyota also unveiled the Prius C, a “city-centric” compact hatch. Carter would only say that this idea is serving as “an inspiration” for another addition to the Prius range, set to come out in the first half of 2012. Toyota claims it will have the highest gas mileage of any hybrid that does not have a charging cord and also be the most value-oriented hybrid.
Speaking of cords, Toyota has in circulation around 150 experimental Prius models using lithium-ion batteries (the other two showroom models have tried-and-true nickel metal hydride batteries) and plug-in technology. It can go up to 13 miles in EV mode alone, while recharging takes three hours at 110 volts or 1.7 hours at 220 volts. There is no on-sale date for any production version of this model just yet, although Toyota is aiming for the first half of 2012. But the company has a lot of work to do at the moment, since Carter has promised 11 new models in the next 23 months, with seven of those being “entirely new.”
COLIN RYAN has driven hundreds of cars thousands of miles while writing for BBC Top Gear magazine, Popular Mechanics, the Los Angeles Times, European Car, Import Tuner and many other publications, websites, TV shows, etc.