It's official - the 2011 Toyota Prius v will not be reaching American showrooms until mid-October of this year, pushing back its original launch date from the end of the upcoming summer season. The delay had been hinted at before, but was confirmed recently amidst a flurry of information being released about the new, larger edition of the popular Toyota Prius hybrid.
Some of the facts and figures provided by Toyota about the Prius v had already been disseminated earlier in the year when the vehicle was introduced to the public at the Detroit Auto Show. These include the fact that the vehicle offers 124 horsepower from essentially the same Hybrid Synergy Drive system found in the standard Prius (consisting of a 1.8-liter, four-cylinder engine paired with two battery-powered electric motors), allowing it to claim fuel mileage of 44 miles per gallon in city driving and 40 miles per gallon on the highway. A four-mode power management system (standard, Eco, EV and Power) provides a range of different driving profiles that can either maximize battery life, use battery power exclusively to propel the vehicle forward or marshal up all of the Prius v's horsepower when needed for better acceleration and passing performance.
Additional details about how exactly the larger and heavier Prius v manages to maintain solid fuel efficiency is part of the expanded info pack that Toyota first published this week. Engineers at the company were able to keep the new hybrid's drag coefficient at a very sleep 0.29 without compromising on interior space (five passengers, 34.3 cubic feet of storage space behind the second row and a whopping 67.3 cubic feet in total with those seats folded forward). Aerodynamic details such as flush front panels and smoothed wheel covers combine with the extensive use of materials such as polypropylene, high tensile steel and urethane that keep the Prius v's weight down to a manageable level. Even the vehicle's panoramic sunroof is made out of a special resin product instead of traditional glass.
The key difference between the new Prius v and the Prius compact hatchback is, of course, its size. More interior volume gives rear passengers the change to stretch out in seats that slide and recline, and a greater number of interior storage compartments have been scattered throughout the inside of the automobile. A revamped electric climate control system is on hand to keep passengers comfortable despite the demands of the larger cabin, and a number of advanced audio and entertainment systems join the options list to help keep occupants busy during longer trips.
The Toyota Entune system will also make its world premier when the Prius v hits the market this fall. Toyota Entune is positioned as a competitor to other in-car entertainment services such as Ford SYNC, and it offers web searching through the Microsoft Bing search engine, as well as online radio (iheartradio, Pandora) and access to other Internet-enabled services (MovieTickets.com, OpenTable, sports, stocks, news and weather updates). Designed to integrate with mobile devices like smart phones, the Toyota Entune system also features a voice-controlled interface to help lower driver distractions behind the wheel.
The 2012 Toyota Prius v is Toyota's great experiment - not only the first member of a planned Prius family of vehicles that will operate as its own sub-brand, but also a testing of the waters to see how hybrid fans will react to a larger, less efficient edition of the extremely popular compact Prius. If it is successful, the Prius v could represent an important bridge between the worlds of fuel efficiency and practicality in the dedicated hybrid segment.