The Toyota Prius continues to lead the market for hybrid automobiles that it started 15 years ago. With its 50-MPG fuel economy rating, Prius is the most fuel-efficient gas-powered passenger car available in the U.S. today. Prius offers its stellar fuel economy in a versatile five-passenger package that is recognized as a midsize car by the EPA. Since 2000, Toyota has sold over one million Prius models in the U.S.
The third-generation Prius, which was all-new for the 2010 model year, gains updated headlamps and tail lamps, plus a new front fascia and bumper for 2012. The Prius Two gains new 15-inch wheel covers for 2012 and standard LED Daytime Running Lights (DRL). The Prius Three adds a standard three-door Smart Key entry system, and the Prius Four features standard auto on/off headlamps. The Prius Four also provides enhanced comfort with new SofTex-trimmed seats and an eight-way power adjustable driver’s seat.
There’s big news for the 2012 Prius in the audio/infotainment area, with new standard systems for Prius Two, Three and Four models. The Prius Two, features a new Display Audio touch-screen system with a 6.1-inch screen. The AM/FM CD player unit offers MP3/WMA playback capability with six speakers, a USB port for iPod® connectivity, auxiliary input jack, Bluetooth® hands-free phone capability and audio streaming. The display also provides vehicle information and allows the driver to customize vehicle settings.
The Prius Three adds navigation and Entune, plus an integrated backup camera display, SiriusXM Satellite Radio capability, HD Radio™ with iTunes® Tagging, advanced voice recognition and text-to-speech with programmed and customizable text responses. The Toyota Entune system is a collection of popular mobile applications and data services, with three years of complimentary access. Once a smart phone is connected to the vehicle using Bluetooth wireless technology or a USB cable, Entune’s features are operated using the vehicle’s controls or, for some services, by voice recognition. Entune offers mobile apps for Bing™, iHeartRadio, MovieTickets.com, OpenTable®, and Pandora®. Entune data services include a fuel price guide, sports scores, stocks, traffic and weather.
For 2012, the Prius Four includes that system plus eight JBL® GreenEdge™ speakers and an eight-channel JBL amplifier. GreenEdge technology significantly reduces electric draw on the vehicle, which can help enhance fuel economy. When the Deluxe Solar Roof Package is ordered for the Prius Four, that system is further upgraded with a Head-up Display and Premium HDD Navigation System, which uses an exclusive seven-inch touch-screen with split-screen capability.
The Solar Roof Packages continue to offer the world’s first sliding glass moonroof packaged with solar panels, located over the rear seating area, that power a ventilation system. The solar powered ventilation system helps reduce the interior air temperature when parked directly in the sun. Cool-down time is shorter when the driver returns to the vehicle, thus reducing the use of air conditioning. The available remote air conditioning system was the first in the world to function on battery-power alone, and it allows remote operation so the driver can cool the interior temperature for comfort before getting into the car.
The top-of-line Prius Five model’s Advanced Technology Package for 2012 includes the Premium HDD Navigation System, plus the Head-up Display, Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, Pre-Collision System and Lane Keep Assist. The Pre-Collision System retracts the front seatbelts and applies the brakes in certain conditions when it determines that a crash is unavoidable. Lane Keep Assist can help the driver stay within the lane.
The dealer-installed PLUS Performance accessory package gives the Prius a decidedly sporty demeanor, as well as sharper handling. The Toyota Racing Development (TRD) engineered package starts with a seven-piece aerodynamic ground effects kit that delivers an aggressive and lower-profile stance. The custom body kit was aerodynamically designed and engineered to reduce the vehicle’s coefficient of drag, maintaining its already great fuel efficiency.
Seventeen-inch forged alloy wheels reduce the upsprung weight. The wheels are fitted with low profile 215/45R17 tires and have a custom offset, which increases track width yet maintains the car’s low rolling resistance. Track-tuned lowering springs lower the vehicle 1.1 inches in the front and 1.3 inches in the rear to enhance steering response and improved cornering ability. A tuned rear sway bar helps reduce body lean for flatter cornering.
The current Prius extends its record of continuous improvement in fuel economy. The first-generation Prius was estimated at 41 EPA combined MPG, and the second-generation model achieved a 46 MPG EPA combined rating. Toyota increased fuel efficiency for the third-generation Prius to an EPA estimated 51 MPG in city driving, 48 MPG highway and a combined 50 MPG. Mileage is especially improved in cold-start conditions and at higher speeds.
A 1.8-liter Atkinson-cycle, four-cylinder engine produces 98 horsepower at 5,200 rpm. Together with its electric motor, the hybrid system generates a combined 134 net horsepower. Due to the unique way that Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive combines the power of the gasoline engine and electric motor, the driver experiences a feeling of torque in the Prius that makes it feel even more powerful than the output numbers suggest.
Use of an electric water pump and an exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) system also contributes to the engine’s efficiency. The 1.8-liter Prius engine was the first Toyota powerplant that requires no accessory drive belts, helping enhance powertrain efficiency and also potentially reducing maintenance costs.
Prius has been an uncompromised “full” hybrid since its introduction. This means it can run on the gasoline engine alone, battery alone, or a combination of both. The Hybrid Synergy Drive was completely re-engineered for the third-generation Prius, with lighter, more efficient components.
The 2012 Prius offers four driving modes (“Normal,” “Power,” Eco” and “EV”). The EV Mode allows driving on battery power alone at low speeds for about a mile, if conditions permit. Power Mode increases sensitivity to throttle input for a sportier feel; Eco Mode helps drivers achieve the best mileage. A multi-information display panel that monitors fuel and energy consumption is standard. It provides feedback on the Prius’ efficiency using three different displays to help the driver adopt economical driving habits.
The 2012 Prius is certified as a Super Ultra Low Emission Vehicle (SULEV) and an Advanced Technology Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle (AT-PZEV) in California, as well as those states applying California emission standards. The AT-PZEV certification requires the SULEV exhaust standard linked with the ability to meet a zero-fuel-evaporative standard, a 150,000-mile durability demonstration, extended emissions system warranty, and technology deemed by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to advance future fuel cell vehicles. In the rest of the country, Prius is certified as Tier 2, Bin 3.
The third-generation Prius received more hours of wind tunnel testing than any other Toyota in history, resulting in one of the cleanest aerodynamic profiles of any mass-produced vehicle in the world. By focusing on the shape of the body, underfloor, wheelhouse liner and wheel face design, the designers reduced the coefficient of drag (Cd) value to 0.25, one of the lowest for any production car.
LEDs (light emitting diodes), optional in low beam headlamps and standard in DRLs, tail and stop lamps, help reduce the vehicle’s power consumption. An exhaust heat recirculation system reduces heat waste by warming engine coolant during cold startup, for improved performance. It also heats up the passenger cabin more efficiently.
Viewed from the cockpit, the center cluster smoothly flows from the instrument panel to the console. Simple, fin-type air vents and judicious use of silver accents add a finished, technical feel. A space-saving contoured front-seat design maximizes rear seat legroom.
The available Touch Tracer Display features touch sensors on the steering wheel switches that are designed to reduce driver eye movement for better concentration on the road. When the driver touches the audio or trip switch located on the steering wheel, a duplicate image is displayed on the instrument panel, directly in front of the driver. Touch Tracer was the first display system in the world to allow steering wheel controls to display in the instrument panel.
In pursuit of new technologies for sustainable mobility, Toyota uses plant-derived, carbon-neutral plastics in the third-generation Prius. Known as “ecological plastic,” the new material is used in the seat cushion foam, cowl side trim, inner and outer scuff plates, and deck trim cover. Ecological plastic emits less CO2 during the production process than conventional plastic; it also helps reduce petroleum use.
Active headrests are used in both front seats to help reduce the possibility of whiplash injury in a rear collision. An Anti-lock Brake System (ABS), Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD), Brake Assist (BA), Traction Control (TRAC), enhanced Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) and the Smart Stop Technology brake-override system make up Toyota’s standard Star Safety System™. A Dynamic Radar Cruise Control system, using advanced millimeter wave radar, is an available option. Also available is Safety Connect, which includes automatic collision notification, stolen vehicle locator, emergency assistance button (SOS) and roadside assistance (1-year trial subscription included).