2012 Prius Plug-In

Reviewed by Susan Frissell

Chicago to Vermont. Admittedly not a Hybrid fan, nor a potential buyer of a hybrid vehicle, I still can appreciate the value of such transportation. Having grieved the disappearance of the V-8 engine years ago, I can tell you it was welcome news when auto manufacturers decided to bring it back. Driving a car is all about the power and aesthetics. Otherwise, what’s the point.

With this in mind I was determined to focus on the good points of owning a hybrid vehicle; in this case, the 2012 Prius-Plug-In.  Road-tripping from Chicago to Vermont in the Prius is only one way of realizing the virtues of the hybrid gas/electric vehicle: the obvious-good fuel economy. But that wasn’t all. The Pruis is a very comfortable, quiet sedan and it performed effortlessly on the open road.

A modest investment of time and money creates lifelong memories when taking to the road. Heading for Woodstock, VT we traveled through Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York. Interstates in this part of the country are excellent, provide not only good, direct routes but also some pretty special scenery.

Experiencing North America’s greatest natural wonders is the stuff of lasting memories, says mommy blogger Alisa Abecassis. Pick a theme, she advises. It can involve natural wonders (dunes, coastal views), historical spots or holiday themes (July 4). Road trips can be enjoyed alone, with a special canine companion or with a friend; either way, bonding takes place.

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As car buffs know, bonding can happen with our car, too. Those who own a Prius swear by its virtues and often tell non-owners that they’ll be hooked once they take a ride. If only for the great fuel economy, they say. But they know otherwise. There will be such positives as a quiet, uninterrupted ride, ease of operation and even space to tote your stuff.

And our 2012 test Prius did pack a considerable load when returning from Vermont to Chicago: family treasures took up just about every empty spot. This writer was amazed at how much it held. The first Toyota to make the big leap in fuel efficiency, the 2012 Prius Plug-in sports all the same features and looks as the 2013. Our seafoam green Prius seemed to reach higher speeds with little effort. Of course, the plug-in isn’t in electric mode too long before miles and speed turn it over into fuel mode.prius

Our route was heavy on hills when reaching parts of Pennsylvania and New York, and of course, glided through Vermont, we see-sawed up/down several hills, thinking if we lived here, we’d surely be replacing brakes more often. Although fuel-economy readouts may be optimistic by federal standards (and Toyota’s), we managed 48-52 mpg. when in fuel mode. Not really sure of what the hybrid battery pack offered, but we guessed somewhere near 60 mpg.

It would seem that the viability of a hybrid/plug-in vehicle might depend on the owner’s geographic location. Surprisingly, we did not find a single plug-in setup in the nearby vicinity of middle Vermont. A fact that surprised us since Vermont is surely a very environmentally-friendly state. We also did not see a lot of Prius’ on the road, as expected.

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The Prius is available in six trims and 11 styles. Our test 2012 Prius came equipped with a few options including carpet floor mats ,trunk mat ($225), cargo mat ($49), first aid kit ($29). The Prius comes with many standard features such as 7-inch touch-screen with back-up camera, AM/FM/CD w/MP3/WMA 8 JBL speakers, Navigation, two front power outlets, 12 ov charge cable, Hill-start assist control, tire pressure monitoring, ER tire puncture repair kit, and Smart Stop Technology, a system that automatically reduces engine power when accelerating and the brake pedal is pressed simultaneously.

Those familiar with Hybrid systems know Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive System utilizes a computer controlled gas engine and electric motor to provide the most efficient combination of power for the vehicle. To conserve energy when the brakes are applied, the braking force generates electricity which is sent to traction the battery. In addition, the engine shuts off when the vehicle is stopped.  At 120, 2.5 hours are needed to recharge the battery; at 240, 1.5 hours.

All this translates into the best driving combination: better fuel economy, reduced vehicle emissions and improved performance.

One of the nicest features on the Prius is the Distance Control Mode which sets the cruise at a certain speed and then decelerates to maintain a selected distance from a slower vehicle traveling in front of you. The vehicle then accelerates back up to a selected speed if the vehicle in front of you changes lanes or speeds up. The system can change the vehicle-to-vehicle distance to long, middle, or short distances.

Our road trip to the east coast from Chicago was much more pleasurable in the Prius Plug-in. Worries were left at home knowing there probably wouldn’t be any problems on the road. Seating in the Prius is comfortable over the long haul, and all features easy to understand and operate. The navigation system helped out when in unfamiliar territory and fewer stops for petrol was a plus. All in all, there were few, if any complaints about spending 17 straight hours in the Prius. It handled all roads well and comfortably, humming along at speeds in excess of 60 mph. One had the feeling the Prius could cruise at 100 mph, without any effort at all.

SPECS

MSRP:  $39,525; total vehicle price $40,588; destination $760

Engine: Hybrid Synergy Drive, Enhanced AT-P2EV, Gas/Electric 4-cylinder, 1.8-liter, DOHC 16v, VVT, 98 hp., 105 lb.ft. torque, KVH LI-ion battery, EV/ECOP WR modes

Transmission: Automatic, FWD

Wheelbase:106.3 in.

Length: 175.6 in.

Width: 68.7 in.

Height: 58.7 in.

Category: 5-door hatchback; 5 passenger

Weight: 3,042 lbs.

Fuel economy: 51/48 mpg.

Fuel tank capacity: 11.9 gal.; cruising range: 571.20 miles

Tires: P195/65R15

Wheels: 15-inch alloy

 

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