Just the other day, I was trying to convince my dad to put the truck up on eBay, forget the Kia Optima, and look into the Prius v. I repeatedly told him that the Prius was a studly “man-car.” So, just to show him that maybe trucks aren’t as cool as they seem on the surface, the Prius v has a spot on my blog. Forever. I was hoping to tell him that the “v” isn’t a Roman numeral, but actually the first letter of a word starting with “v.” I was hoping (along with other writers) that the “v” stood for vigilant, vicious, voyager, or vivacious , or some cool big word like that. But, no. It HAS to stand for versatility. But, while we’re on this topic, why not forget the word versatility for a while, and think of it as virtuous. Let’s talk about it’s virtues, shall we?
In 2003, the second generation of the Prius came out. There were enough armies of doubters to fight WWIII to the death. And then some. I think they doubted it because it seemed to deliver the impossible: comfort, safety, well equipped, cheap price, and 50-mpg. The critics could not be dissuaded from their beliefs that: the batteries would leave owners stranded in cold weather. The battery replacements would cost a fortune, and the discarded battery packs would end up in landfills, leaching toxic materials that would send HAZMAT running for the next 5,000 years. Some grumped that the technology was too complex. Statisticians argued with economists about Toyota selling it at a loss. Detroit said it was homely and slow. Sucks for all those grumpies. All right, I’ll let them have that last one…
But, now, all of those people must sit at home and stew in their epic wrongness. Nine years later, the Prius, in it’s third generation, is the best-selling hybrid in the world, let alone one of the best-selling cars IN the world. Toyota has sold more than two MILLION Prii (the plural of Prius! It’s even true!) globally. more than half of those sales are in the U.S. According to Toyota, only 3% of all the Prii sold since 2003 aren’t on the road (mostly because of accidents…). The “far-too-complex-technology” gag hasn’t been made fun of by South Park yet (at least, not that I’m aware of…), but Saturday Night Live “talked” about it. That technology, Hybrid Synergy Drive, has proven to be more reliable than the old Dodge Slant Sixes. The nickel-metal hydride batteries have outlasted even the most optimistic estimates by a few years. Besides, when the cars are torn apart, the battery packs are 100% recycled for all of their valuable metals.
As Dan Neil of the Wall Street Journal said, “To this day, if you want a five-passenger, five-door car under $30,000 that gets 50 mpg or more and doesn’t require a plug, your shopping list is one car long.” Through almost any pair of eyes, the Prius is one of the most significant automobiles in the long history of the automobile.
To make customers (namely Americans) happier, Toyota is basically making the Prius a brand of it’s own, adding the Prius v station wagon (close to it, so I’ll call it a station wagon [sorry Volvo and VW!]) first, and the Prius v will soon be followed by the Prius c; a smaller, five-door “coupe.” Someday in the near future, Toyota hopes to have and sell more Prii variants than the very popular Corolla and Camry. What’s after the Prius c, Toyota, a Prius f, a Ferrari competitor (if so, I’ll be customer number 1!…)?
Behind the relatively spacious second-row seat (which is almost as large as a 2012 Chrysler 300’s rear seat), there is a max cargo space of 34.3 cubic feet behind the 60/40 seats. When you fold down the seats, it increases to 67.3 cubic feet, which is almost exactly the amount that a VW Jetta Sportwagen has (with it’s seats folded down, of course). So, flamethrower holders rejoice! Why not buy a Jetta Sportwagen TDI diesel, which costs about the same as a Prius v (about $25,000 before options come in), is immeasurably more fun to drive, and a bladder-busting range of almost 600 miles. Just thinking about it makes my bladder feel like a water balloon…The Prius v has a couple of good defenses that those Germans forgot to add: amazing rear-seat access, especially for child seats; an amazing in-cabin infotainment system (which is basically the available Internet enabled Entune infotainment system); and better in-city fuel economy, which may be the sort of driving you do. The EPA says that the Prius v averages 44 mpg in the city, which makes the VW drivers pale, with their noisy diesels only returning 30 mpg in the city. Haha! FYI, the v’s combined highway/city mpg is 8 mpg lower than the “normal” Prius hatchback’s 50 mpg, at 42 mpg. That’s because of extra aerodynamics drag and 232 extra pounds of flab (without driver or any human stuff in it).
The now quite-familiar Prii gas-electric drivetrain is under the hood, but the CVT’s (continuously variable transmission) gearing has been made lower to help compensate for the extra weight when you start. Call 0-60 mph about 11 seconds. The normal Prius does it in about 9 seconds. Also, the Prius v struggles a bit going up hills, or starting from a stoplight or stop sign (so, cut those moms and dads some slack!).
I wouldn’t call the Prius v a Ferrari or Maserati in terms of driving pleasure. It’s basically just an EKG flatline in terms of driving pleasure. It’s not meant to be speedy, agile, or anything related to going fast. But, it does get around town and the highway with enough vibe for an officer of the law to give a hello. But, there is one cool trick that very few cars nowadays have. It’s a piece of programming that can sense undulations and random oscillations in the road surface and due to our processing speeds, the traction motor’s torque output imperceptibly pulses. That’s kind of cool, isn’t it? I think it is pretty cool, especially for the rough roads of Sonoma County.
Dan Neil of the WSJ basically took care of my closing paragraph. “I don’t care how iron-headed you like to think you are – it’s your problem. If you can’t acknowledge the pure genius of the Toyota Prius, you just don’t like cars, engineering, or technology. This thing is, in its way, simply amazing. True, the Prius is not for everybody. But, with the v, the c, and whatever other letters are coming our way, it’s getting there.” Once we run out of alphabet letters, let’s brace ourselves for the Egyptian hieroglyphs that’ll be coming our way. After all, Toyota did say that there would be more variants than the Corolla and Camry. I’m guessing that Toyota meant Corolla and Camry variants combined. Besides, that number is at least 35…
Here’s some more info on the Prius v, dad…http://www.toyota.com/priusv/