2012 Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid: Brief Drive Report Page 2

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But Toyota rejects that logic. In conversations with engineers, we learned that the charging port migrated to the rear simply to save weight--by eliminating long runs of thickly shielded high-voltage cable from the rear-mounted battery pack to the left front area of the car.

Slightly ponderous

Toyota managed to take 150 pounds of weight out of the production car, compared to the prototype. But the Prius Plug-In still feels slightly heavier and more ponderous underway than a standard Prius liftback.

(Since we'd spent all day driving the significantly smaller and nimbler 2012 Toyota Prius C compact, the standard Prius may have seemed large and unwieldy, too.)

In either EV or normal mode, the plug-in Prius accelerates in a linear fashion--though of course it's smoother and much quieter with the engine off.

While there's some whine from the motor-generators and/or power electronics, all-electric operation is still much quieter. The difference in noise level is sufficient to encourage drivers to keep it operating on battery power as long as possible by modifying their driving habits.

Does it make sense for you?

The 2012 Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid is now the very top model in the four-car Prius range.

Whether it makes sense for you depends on how far you drive daily, and how often you can plug in (for up to 3 hours) to recharge the battery pack.

If you're considering the car, take a look at a post in which we crunched some of the numbers to demonstrate how it might (or might not) work for you.

High-end equipment

2012 Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid - production model

2012 Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid - production model

Enlarge Photo

All Plug-In Prius models get remote air conditioning, a charging timer, heated front seats, a Display Audio system with navigation and Entune, and LED running lamps.

The base plug-in model starts at $32,760 (including destination), but the Prius Plug-In Hybrid Advanced trim level--which adds a navigation system, JBL GreenEdge audio, a head-up display, dynamic radar cruise control, a Pre-Collision System, LED headlamps, a power driver's seat, Safety Connect, and smartphone integration--costs $40,285 before adding any options.

The Prius Plug-In qualifies for a Federal income-tax credit of $2,500, as well as various state, regional, local, and corporate incentives for plug-in vehicles.

Last November, Toyota announced that Leviton will offer a 240-Volt, Level 2 home charging station—of up to 30 amps—with special support for Prius Plug-In customers, with the prices of $999 and up.

2012 Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid - production model

2012 Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid - production model

Enlarge Photo

This year the Prius Plug-In Hybrid will only be sold in 14 launch states: California, Oregon, Washington, Arizona, Maine, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, and Virginia.

In several of those states, most notably California, the Prius Plug-In will qualify for access to High Occupancy Vehicle lanes with only a single occupant.

Next year Toyota will roll out the plug-in Prius in the rest of the country.

Toyota says it expects about 15 percent of its total Prius range sales to be the plug-in model, indicating that it hopes to sell 25,000 or more Prius Plug-Ins a year.

That puts the latest plug-in entry in the U.S. market about on a par with expected Leaf sales next year, with the Volt's sales numbers at that level or perhaps higher.

Let the plug-in battles begin.

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