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2012 Toyota Prius V first drive (photos)

In Toyota's efforts to expand its Prius model into a new hybrid line-up, it is launching the Prius V, with increased interior space. The Prius V uses the same hybrid system and engine as the Prius hatchback, but it is tuned for more torque to move the heavier vehicle. The extra size means mileage suffers a bit, but the Prius V still outshines the competition.

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Wayne Cunningham
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Toyota, capitalizing on the success of the Prius, plans to offer multiple different models carrying the Prius name. The first of these to hit the market is the Prius V, a slightly larger car using the same hybrid drive system as the standard Prius.
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From the front, the Prius V looks very similar to the hatchback Prius. As the V is a little taller, the fascia underneath the grille gains a little height. Toyota will offer LED headlights as an option, which should improve fuel economy slightly.
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Similar to the hatchback Prius, the V relies on a 1.8-liter gas engine coupled with an electric drive system. Together, the gas engine and electric motor have a combined output of 134 horsepower.
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The Prius V's difference is most apparent from the side, where the roofline retains its height all the way towards the back of the car. This accommodation for more cargo space worsens the aerodynamics, giving the V a .29 coefficient of drag versus the standard Prius' .25.
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The Prius V is six inches longer than the standard Prius, and has a three inch longer wheelbase. It also has a 1.1 inch higher roofline.
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The cargo area is 50 percent greater than that of the standard Prius. The rear seats fold down in a 60/40 split, maximizing cargo area. The rear seats also slide forward and back, and recline, offering a variety of space and comfort configurations.
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The optional dual sunroof is made from a polycarbonate material that is 50 percent lighter than glass, and offers better thermal insulation.
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Greater width for passengers gives the front seats an almost minivan-like space.
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The rear seats recline and slide, allowing increased comfort for larger passengers.
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Toyota uses new synthetic materials in the cabin that replicate the feeling of leather, but eliminate the guilt factor.
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The Prius V retains the centrally located all digital instrument cluster of the current Prius. The standard navigation system uses a 6.1 inch touchscreen and flash memory-stored maps.
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The power animation, showing when the gas engine and electric motor are turning the wheels, gets an updated graphic treatment in the Prius V.
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With the standard navigation system, Entune uses a paired smartphone for data, bringing in traffic and weather. It also powers apps such as Pandora and Bing search.
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One intriguing feature is integrated email. The system will read the contents of new email, and provide a few canned responses. This system only works with a few phones that support the standard, such as Blackberrys.
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The Premium Navigation option brings in a seven inch touchscreen, and uses maps stored on a hard drive.
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This navigation option offers similar data services as the basic system, but the interface is different. The optional navigation system gets data for traffic, weather, and a few other service through satellite radio.
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To run any of Toyota's new Entune services, you must have the Entune app installed on a smartphone. The data for the apps comes from the smartphone's data plan.
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Bing sends search terms to Microsoft's servers, and returns results based on locations near the car. Users can either use the touchscreen or a voice input system to enter search terms.
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The Pandora interface offers a list of stations, and the ability to give the currently playing song a thumbs up or thumbs down. When parked, users can also create new stations.
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The OpenTable app lets you make reservations at nearby restaurants, and loads a restaurant's address into the navigation system.
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The MovieTickets.com app lets you view movie times and purchase tickets on the car's LCD.

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