GREEN WHEELING – Prius Wagon, Coupe Debut

Automotive marketers use the term “DNA” when referring to cars’ innate attributes. But the biological analogy rings true in the case of the Toyota Prius, which is growing into a “family” of related vehicles, starting with the introduction of new wagon and coupe versions of the Prius.
Toyota has sold nearly a million Prius vehicles in the U.S. since the car’s launch in 2000. The name “Prius” is synonymous with efficiency. So it makes sense for Toyota to exploit that familiarity by applying the Prius badge to other body styles. Consumers will automatically know when they see a station wagon with the name Prius on the side that they are looking at a true hybrid station wagon.
That wagon is called the Prius v (v stands for “versatility”) and it shares the original hatchback’s basic platform and Synergy Hybrid electric-drive system while adding 50 percent more cargo capacity behind the back seat.
“As much as people love their Prius vehicles, others told us they’d like a hybrid with even more versatility and room to meet their growing family needs and active lifestyles,” said Toyota General Manager Bob Carter.
The Prius v carries five passengers, like the original Prius, but offers extra comfort for those in the second row, with a seat that slides back for extra legroom and reclines to 45 degrees. The wagon is about 6 inches longer than the hatchback and rides on a wheelbase that is 3 inches longer, contributing to more rear seat legroom.
Today’s wagons and crossover sport Utility Vehicle boast airy panoramic sunroofs, so the Prius v offers one to match its competitors. However, putting a big sheet of glass on the roof is heavy and transmits a lot of heat to the cabin, so the Prius v uses a plastic sunroof that is 40 percent lighter and doesn’t conduct as much heat as glass.
The wagon delivers similar fuel economy as the Prius hatch, with expected EPA ratings of 42 miles per gallon city and 38 mpg highway. Hybrid electric drivetrains — like those from Toyota and Ford that use a Continuously Variable Transmission integrated into the electric motor — work more efficiently at lower speeds, producing higher fuel economy in city driving than on the highway. The Prius v hits Toyota showrooms this summer.
Toyota is also planning on an exciting looking coupe with the Prius c (c stands for “city”). Toyota refers to the Prius c as a concept car, so it hasn’t released many details, other than to say that this diminutive car is targeted at younger urban drivers and will be more fuel efficient than the current midsize Prius. The production version will arrive in a year or so and will be Toyota’s least expensive hybrid model, the company said.
Finally, Toyota released more information on the planned plug-in hybrid version of the regular Prius. It will be equipped with lithium-ion batteries that will let it drive as far as 13 miles on electric power alone at speeds up to 60 mph.
The plug-in Prius will arrive in showrooms around the same time as the Prius c (in the first half of 2012), but it will be limited to those states on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts where Toyota makes 60 percent of Prius sales today. If you can’t go to the ocean in your state, then you will have to wait another year to buy a plug-in Prius from your local dealer. Or you could go for an out-of-state beach vacation and drive home a new plug-in Prius from the coast.
That’s the extent of the Prius family tree for now, but watch for additional members to join over time. After all, reproduction is in the DNA. — Dan Carney, Motor Matters

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