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Prius Family Multiplies

hybrid-prius-v.jpgToyota Intros a Prius Smorgasbord 

Toyota used the North American International Auto Show in Detroit to roll out a family of Prius cars. The Prius line now includes the traditional 4-door hybrid, a new plug-in version, the Prius v crossover/wagon, and the Prius c Concept.

The new Prius Plug-in Hybrid will run 13 miles on charged up battery power before resorting to the gasoline engine. Industry buzz about this car is very positive. Many reviews have noted that it offers the superior fuel economy of the traditional Prius with added EV driving capability. “It represents the best of both worlds,” said ReliablePlanet.com.

The Prius plug-in reportedly can reach driving speeds of up 60 miles per hour on electricity alone. After the 13 mile range on battery power alone, the car runs like a standard Prius 3rd Generation car. It takes roughly three hours to recharge the battery with a 110 volt plug and about an hour and 45 minutes using 220 volts.

While the plug-in model was well received, the Prius v got the bulk of the attention at the show and in post-show coverage. The “v” stands for versatility in that the Prius crossover/wagon is designed to appeal to the needs of the traditional SUV and crossover crowd (namely, families with an active lifestyle), while offering the fuel economy and features of the Prius brand.

To that end, the Prius v offers 50 percent more interior room than the current Prius 3rd Generation car. It offers seating for five and has a 60/40 folding rear seat to provide more storage room. Road & Track noted that despite being larger, the Prius v “still manages to slice through the air quite efficiently…which helps when it comes to boosting fuel economy and lowering wind noise.”

The powertrain for the Prius v includes a 1.8-liter 4-cylinder engine and Toyota’s electric hybrid system. According to Toyota, the “v” has a total output (gasoline and electric combined) of 134 hp. That won’t make the Prius v the fastest crossover in town, but it delivers a very decent 42 mpg city and 38 mpg highway.
Not everyone was impressed by the Prius v. A Detroit Free Press article about the auto show’s hits and misses stated that “the v is basically a stretched, lower-m.p.g. minivan-like version of the 2-year-old Prius hatchback.”

prius-c-concept.jpgRounding out the introductions at the Detroit show was the Prius c Concept car. While the “v” stands for versatility and targets active families, the “c” is aimed at city drivers who want a smaller car and the fuel economy of a hybrid. The Prius c is expected to deliver the highest mileage of any non-plug-in hybrid when it goes on sale in the first half of 2012. And the car is expected to be smaller to make it easier to park in urban settings.

As for any hints as to the look of the new car, Motor Trend said that “if the Prius c makes it to market looking anywhere close to this concept, it will certainly be a head turner.”

> View a CNet photo gallery of the Prius line here.
> Get a close-up view of the Prius c Concept car in this Road & Track photo gallery.

By Jeff Carey

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