The v in Prius v stands for versatility. Here's the long-awaited 2012 Prius wagon. The v uses the same powertrain as the sedan, with a few improvements to Toyota's Hybrid Synergy Drive system. The v is all about the new wagon body that provides a 58 percent increase in cargo space.
It's 230 pounds heavier than the sedan, and loses 8 miles per gallon; the EPA rating drops to 44/40 city/highway from 51/48, on 91 octane fuel. It also loses acceleration, from 0 to 60 mph in 10.4 seconds, the sedan in 9.8 seconds.
So the new Prius v is slower and thirstier than the sedan, and at $26,400 base, it costs $3300 more. The price was just announced, less than what they said it was going to be, back in June when it was introduced. Capitalism. Ongoing rotten economy. More optimism in June.
So for $3300, what you gain is family functionality. And style, finally. The Prius sedan thing has gotten old.
The v is handsome, like a swoopy small minivan. Itís 6 inches longer than the sedan, 3.3 inches higher, and 1.1 inches wider, on the same track. Nearly as wind-slicing as they come, with a 0.29 coefficient of drag.
Power comes from the 98-horsepower 1.8-liter 4-cylinder Atkinson cycle gas engine with an 80-hp electric motor utilizing a nickel-metal hydride battery pack. Combined horsepower is 134, and combined torque 105 pound-feet. Transmission is by CVT (continuously variable transaxle), functional but boring without the capability to shift manually like others. Around town you're not aware the CVT is there.
The v handles and corners well, much like the Lexus CT200H. Itís easier to drive around town than the sedan, being nimble and having good visibility. Unfortunately the ride doesnít match the handling. You can feel every bump, and itís soon irritating. It seems to be a Prius thing.
Prius v offers more cargo space than three-fourths of the compact SUVs and midsize wagons on the market. Thereís an optional panoramic roof for sky-watching. The front seat folds flat, like the Honda Fit or Jeep Patriot.
There's a Prius v Two, Prius v Three, and Prius v Five. Standard equipment in the Two leaves little to want in the cabin, too bad the fabric seats aren't sporty or rugged-looking. It's surprisingly buzzy in there, mostly engine noise but also road noise. Surprising because the Prius sedan is like that, and you'd think Toyota would have fixed it.
Bottom line is, glad the v is here, as a good alternative to the Volkswagen Jetta TDI Sportwagen. Two good cars, hybrid or diesel, make your choice.
I know that people don’t drive around off-road all day in their Subaru Foresters, but I gotta tell you how good the Forester is in the dirt. It’s fantastic in the dirt. How they get a suspension to work that well both on the road and off it, I’ll never know. Its handling is more secure than the Volvo XC70 I drove for 130 miles on dirt roads around Whitefish, Montana last year. But the difference could have been the tires, you never know. That’s why comments about grip shouldn’t be gospel.
The redesigned 2009 Subaru Forester was launched by Subaru in Laguna Beach and Catalina Island. The bottom lines of the new Forester: slightly bigger, more horsepower, huge cargo capacity with seats folded, same gas mileage measured by tougher updated EPA testing, lower emissions, standard equipment now including electronic stability control and side curtain airbags, for a base price that’s $1200 less than before. Some things, like cars, just keep getting better.
We had dinner the first night at a Japanese restaurant in Laguna called San Shi Go. I wondered if my last ex-girlfriend would walk in. She lives just up the street. On my right side was Michael McHale, a car-loving Brit who works for Subaru. I knew Mike from when I drove a John Cooper Works Mini Cooper S from the southern to northen tip of Ireland—Mike was with BMW then, and did the Mini Cooper. To my left and across the table were two Japanese leaders of the Forester program, Kazaharu Ichikawa, the project manager, and Kudo Masamichi, who spoke English and translated. Mr. Ichikawa had just flown in from the Geneva Auto Show. He should have been under the table from jet lag, but he was more alert than me. He kept that sushi coming! He said it was as good as sushi in Japan.
Kudo said it was very important for the new Forester to succeed, especially considering how great the previous Foresters have been. It’s often a case of honor in the Japanese car-building world, like so much of their corporate world. We were also talking about sports. The two subjects somehow overlapped.
“We are not a strong people,” said Kudo, meaning physically, and using the example of some Japanese cross-country skier, but suggesting it’s the same with Subaru versus the European manufacturers. “We must work harder to succeed. It is our destiny. Business is very difficult. Sometimes it’s fun and sometimes it’s not. It’s always challenging. But working hard is all we can do. We cannot change history.”
Mike McHale nodded. “We think it’s working late to stay at the office until ,” he said. “When I go to Japan, I see executives at Subaru regularly working till at night.”
Just a bit of anecdotal evidence suggesting why Japanese cars are better than American cars.
The next morning there was a presentation at the Surf and Sand Hotel in Laguna Beach. If you read my latest post on the Bandit Blog http://www.sammoses.com/BanditBlog-Scored-an-Engine-83.htmland thought, Well la-te-da, lucky him, staying in a hotel with the surf crashing under his balcony … remember, it was a Subaru junket. A bit beyond my personal budget, if not my personal style. At the presentation, Subaru’s Dominick Infante dazzled the group by showing how much storage space had been designed into the new Forester. It’ll hold 4590 granola bars, or 2192 cans and bottles to be recycled.
To demonstrate the Forester’s superior visibility out the back, he had a Toyota Rav4 there for comparison, with a little cutout kid behind each car. You could see the cardboard boy in the rearview mirror of the Forester when he was just 7 feet from the rear bumper. In the Rav4, the kid couldn’t be seen for 23 feet behind the car. As a parent, I’ve probably had fewer fears than most that something tragic and terrible would happen to my children, but I was always paranoid that I would back over one of them. This paranoia was a good thing. I never moved a car backwards unless I could see both boys. I made them stand in front of the car.
We did some highway miles in the morning, but the treat was taking a 7-minute flight over to Catalina, and driving the dirt roads on the island. Subaru basically rented the place from the Catalina Conservancy, a valuable and effective group that preserves the island. Why would they ever let a bunch of cars, for three afternoons, drive around the island’s dirt roads that residents aren’t even allowed on? Because the damage to the dirt roads wasn’t that bad, the Subaru people and journalists were nice, and the income from Subaru will be spent to further preserve the island.
We had lunch in a cove where natives were living in paradise 500 years ago, hosted by the Catalina Conservancy. Catered buffalo burgers or Japanese kobe beefburgers or mahi mahi, take your pick. I picked a buffalo burger, presumably from the buffalo they raise on the island.
It was a privilege to be touring Catalina Island, enjoying spectacular views and standing on land that’s seen by very few people. It was a beautiful day, clear and warm. My driving partner, Greg Morrison, the director of BumpertoBumperTV, shot me making the best run of the day up the special stage, a hillclimb. This picture is the view from the top. All the photos in this post were taken by Greg Jarem, btw.
Thevideo of me blasting up that steep hill is on YouTube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yJtrGXqg4Q8.It was harder than it looks. You had to pick the line carefully to stay out of the ruts, and for the super-steep final 100 yards or so, my foot was on the floor of the turbocharged XT. It has a brilliant 2.5-liter boxer four engine making 224 horsepower and 226 pound-feet of torque that comes on at a very low and useful 2800 rpm. That’s why the Forester could make it up such a hill; not many of what they’re now calling CUVs—Crossover Utility Vehicles—could ever make that hill. The engine’s torque also allows the Forester to tow 2400 pounds.
Here's the trouble with life: You sometimes don't know whether you should do a lot of preparation or none, or whether you should listen to a lot of people or nobody. Not that the opportunity to drive a Ferrari 333S P at Daytona could ever under any...