2012 Prius v First Drive

Available on the Prius v is a premium “environmentally optimized” audio system by JBL called Green Edge™. Lower weight of the system components and lower power consumption, they expect, will impress the early adopters and environmentally conscious customers who will consider this car. Also new inside is an innovative new heat, AC, ventilation control knob that twists and rocks. I like that piece a lot.

The European and Japanese markets will get a three-row seat version of the Prius v, but here in the US we only get the 5-passenger, two-row seat version. Across the big ponds they’ll also get a new lithium-ion battery pack, perhaps portending li-on availability here someday.

The Prius v will be at dealers sometime this fall, though our Toyota folks won’t specify a particular month or date. The introduction was initially delayed because of the earthquake and tsunami that devastated northern Japan but we’re assured that all the Japanese Toyota production plants are back to 90% capacity, so they expect no further delays. We’ll see.

Prices for the Prius v have not been announced but we expect the premium over the regular Prius price will be a couple thousand dollars, making its base price range from about 26 to 31 grand depending on the trim level you choose. Three trim levels are planned for the v to begin with. The basic car is quite well equipped and with the higher levels come larger wheels, more sophisticated audio, fancier lighting, more luxurious seating and trim.

The typical Toyota warranty applies with three years or 36,000 mile coverage on the whole car, five years or 60,000 miles on the powertrain and five years with unlimited mileage on corrosion perforation. Additionally, the hybrid-related components are covered for eight years or 100,000 miles.

We’ve always worried about the cost of replacing a battery pack if it wears out or goes bad. Originally the pack cost was around $5,000. Now it is less than half that. Don’t look for a lithium ion pack here soon even though its smaller and lighter with greater power density. The cost is still too much higher.

We had the opportunity to spend an hour in the Prius v driving around rural Ann Arbor, Michigan last week to get a feel for it. Like previous models this Prius is a pleasure to drive. It’s not fast or flashy and it doesn’t draw admiring looks but it is entirely pleasant to drive and for those in the know it makes a statement on your personal commitment to environmental awareness.

We’ll have a more thorough review and road test of the Prius v when it becomes available in the fall. So watch this space.

© Steve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions, All Rights Reserved

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