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2012 Toyota Prius Plug-In Advanced: RideLust Review

Posted in Car Reviews, Featured, Import Review, RideLust Review, Toyota by Kurt Ernst | November 26th, 2012 | 12 Responses |

2012 Toyota Prius Plug-In Advanced

Thumbs Up: If you want fuel economy and range, this is your car.

Thumbs Down: Nothing here for driving enthusiasts, cheap interior.

Buy This Car If: You care more about spending as little as possible on gas than you do about performance or handling.

This may come as a shock to driving enthusiasts, but the cold, hard truth is this: most people don’t like to drive. For the masses, driving is an act to be tolerated, not enjoyed, and any conveyance that gets them from point A to point B with as little fuss and expense as possible is optimal.

2012 Toyota Prius Plug-In Advanced

That explains the popularity of boring-but-reliable compacts and midsize sedans, and it also explains why the Toyota Prius has become the most popular green car on the planet. Instead of precise handling, stunning acceleration or pull-the-glasses from your face braking, the Prius serves up a generous portion of frugality and bulletproof reliability. For many buyers, that’s the winning combination.

2012 Toyota Prius Plug-In Advanced

There are some for which even the Prius isn’t frugal enough, which is why Toyota launched a plug-in hybrid variant for the 2012 model year. In addition to the Prius’ 50 mpg combined fuel economy rating, the Prius Plug-In can travel an estimated 11 miles on battery power alone, at speeds up to 62 mph. That may not be enough to get you back and forth to work, but chances are good it’s plenty for running daily errands.

2012 Toyota Prius Plug-In Advanced

Unlike electric cars, which require lengthy charging periods to achieve full range, the Prius Plug-In’s 4.4 kWh batteries can be replenished in about three hours on 110 volts, or about an hour and a half on 220 volt service. When the batteries are depleted, or when the driver wants maximum power, the car’s 1.8-liter gasoline-fueled engine steps in to provide a helping hand. In fact, keeping the car in full electric vehicle mode takes some practice and requires very gentle applications of throttle, with the car kept in Eco mode. Acceleration, therefore, is minimal, and drivers trying this would be wise to check the rearview mirror for rapidly closing pickups or SUVs.

2012 Toyota Prius Plug-In Advanced

Styling wise, the Prius’ semi-futuristic shape lends to its appeal. An aerodynamic form is essential to the car’s superior fuel economy, yet the Prius serves up a generous amount of interior room. Its large daylight opening helps visibility, too, although the rear deck lid spoiler does significantly reduce what you can see in the rear view mirror. Compared to standard Prius models, the Plug-In version (in Advanced trim) is distinguished by its metallic front bumper strip, exterior chrome accents, blue headlight surrounds and unique wheels. Whether that’s an improvement or not depends upon your exterior styling tastes.

2012 Toyota Prius Plug-In Advanced

Inside, the Prius Plug-In is a bit disappointing, especially in light of the car’s $40,000 sticker price. The dash is an expanse of hard, drab plastic, but Toyota does get bonus points for using a plant-derived, environmentally-friendly plastic. There’s an odd pass-though space, fitted with a shallow tray, beneath the center console, but access is awkward from the driver’s seat. As for layout, we do like that the center stack controls are oriented to the driver, creating a cockpit-like space that separates the driver from the front-seat passenger.

2012 Toyota Prius Plug-In Advanced

We’ll admit to liking the Prius Plug-In’s instrumentation, too, although the information display does take some setting up and some getting used to. It’s amusing to see that this press-fleet example has spent 99-percent of its current lifespan in gasoline mode, while only one-percent of its accumulated mileage has been in full electric mode. We suspect that Prius Plug-In owners who pay a $7,800 premium over the cost of a standard Prius will be far more diligent about using their cars in full-electric mode.

2012 Toyota Prius Plug-In Advanced

We’re not really fans of the Prius Plug-In’s front seats, either. Though supportive enough for commuting duties (and complete with power-adjustable driver’s lumbar support in Advanced models), they’re wrapped in a material called SofTex that Toyota says is lighter and more durable than leather. That may be, but SofTex also has a decidedly artificial feel, and we can’t imagine climbing into the car on a hot day, wearing shorts. We’ve flogged this particular dead horse enough times in the past, but we’ll say it again: we’d take cloth seats over fake leather seats any day of the week. In fact, we’d even pay more for decent cloth seats that we’d pay for those skinned in cow-from-a-test-tube.
2012 Toyota Prius Plug-In Advanced

2012 Toyota Prius Plug-In Advanced

As for the rear seats, well, they’re wrapped in SofTex, too. On the plus side, there’s a decent amount of head and leg room for average sized adults, so we doubt that second-row passengers will complain much about the accommodations on short trips. Unless, of course, it’s summertime and they’re wearing shorts.

2012 Toyota Prius Plug-In Advanced

Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive blends a 1.8-liter, four-cylinder engine with a pair of electric motors that double as generators. Combined, the drivetrain puts out 134 horsepower and mates to a continuously variable transmission (CVT), which further boosts fuel economy. A 4.4 kWh battery pack gives the Prius it’s 11-mile electric range, though critics are quick to point out that’s not really enough to be practical. The EPA says the Prius Plug-In will return 51 mpg in the city, 49 mpg on the highway and 50 mpg combined on gasoline power only; factor in the battery power, and the car gets a rating of 95 MPGe. As you’d expect from a car focused on fuel economy, acceleration is on the leisurely side; in Power mode, the best you can hope for is a time of around 10.1 seconds to get to 60 mph.

2012 Toyota Prius Plug-In Advanced

On the road, the Prius Plug-In’s ride is on par with others in the economy car class. That means its neither too soft nor too firm, though there’s no chance you’ll mistake the car’s ride quality for a luxury car. Likewise, it isn’t sporty by any definition of the word. The steering feels light, yet the car feels oddly heavy. Push hard in corners, and there’s surprisingly little body roll, probably because the low-rolling-resistance tires don’t offer up much in the way of grip. While “entertaining” isn’t a word we’d use to describe the Prius Plug-In’s handling, words like “predictable” and “safe” do come to mind.

2012 Toyota Prius Plug-In Advanced

So perhaps the Prius Plug-In is a reality check for us. We can’t imagine any kind of alternate universe where we’d be in the market for one, because it simply doesn’t meet our expectations for what a car should be. For the thousands of satisfied Prius owners, however, the car represents the best alternative for getting from one place to another while consuming as little fuel as possible. These buyers don’t care about things like 0-60 times, or lateral acceleration, or even stopping distances; instead, they speak of miles per tank or miles per gallon with the same gleam in their eye as we have when discussing lap times. They’re every bit the enthusiasts we are, albeit with a slightly different focus.

2012 Toyota Prius Plug-In Advanced

Toyota supplied the 2012 Prius Plug-In Advanced for the purpose of this evaluation. Total sticker price on the car, which came without options, was $40,365.

The Prius Plug-In Advanced is a difficult car to draw a comparison with, since it exists in a gray area between hybrids and electric cars. For illustration, a comparably-equipped Prius Four would sticker for $29,030, but wouldn’t include the Prius Plug In’s battery-only driving range. A similar Chevy Volt would sell for $42,785 but includes a significantly longer range (up to 50 miles) on battery power alone. When the range-extending generator kicks in, however, the Volt simply can’t match the Prius’ fuel economy.

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12 Responses

  1. Tom says:

    While I mostly agree with your review – the Prius is somewhat dull – I don’t know that I’d confuse a consumer’s desire to buy a practical vehicle as “hate” for driving.

    If people who buy practical cars hate driving, does that mean that people who buy outrageous sports cars (i.e. Ferrari, Porsche) hate money? Or perhaps lack self-confidence and need a fancy car to prove something?

    Obviously those are unfair stereotypes…much like saying that Prius owners hate driving. :-)

    • Kurt Ernst says:

      Tom, I never really said that Prius owners hate driving, just that they look at it as a necessary but tedious task. Think “toasting bread” and you get the picture.

    • turbosrt says:

      Truth be told most Prius owners do hate to drive. Like many modern car owners they see driving as an inconvience and just wish they could instantly go where they want to go and not have to own a car. Is this model prius really worth over 40 grand? Im shocked people dont see the ripoff in this where you could get a well equipped comparitive Focus, Cruze or new Dart for less than half the price. Is over 40mpg really not enough? Im not even going to get into how Chevy loses 49 grand on every volt they sell. So sad the state of things.

      • Kurt Ernst says:

        Turbosrt, blame the high cost on the lithium ion battery pack. For a very narrow range of buyers (those with meticulous driving habits living less than 5 miles from work) I suppose you could make an argument for this car.

  2. Tex says:

    This review is BS. First off, if you were a true auto enthusiast site, you would not review this shitbox because enthusiasts would not pay money for it. You might as well be CNN with the F************G news if you are putting this on your site. Secondly, people do like driving, a hell of a lot better than walking biking or taking the bus cause people choose to do it everyday. I have lost so much respect for this site, insulting the car enthusiasts, why would someone look at this site? because theyre into cars, not cause they want to know how gay they can look while sitting upright in a toyota. This is why Ridelust is behind all the leading sites like TST Hooniverse, and Autoholics. You are on the level of Autoblog, great blog for a SOCCER MOM. Looking at the quality of this site, it will probably die soon. Hopefully you take this info from a fellow Auto enthusiast website contributor.

  3. Tex says:

    Do you see any other website reviewing the prius? NOOO!!!!!! Your FIRED FIRED FIRED. If this was the Trump Tower you would be FIRED YESTERDAY. I hate to be such a hater, but the truth is the truth.

    • Kurt Ernst says:

      Wow Tex, looks like you’re off your meds again.

      First, if you actually READ my review of the Prius Plug-In, you’d realize that I never put down auto enthusiasts. Of course it’s easier to criticize something if you haven’t read (or comprehended) it, isn’t it?

      Let me explain how the game works to a “fellow writer.” Manufacturers give us cars to drive and review. We do this, which attracts readers and sponsors. Sponsors pay us money, so we can keep a roof over our head and Internet connectivity.

      In a perfect world, we’d only drive sports cars, GT cars and supercars, but this isn’t a perfect world. That’s the beauty of the Internet, though – if you don’t like the site or our reviews, you can simply head to another site that meets your narrow expectations.

      • Tex says:

        So you begin your reply with a personal insult to anyone struggling with mental illness, then you give your opinion in a condescending way. Real mature for someone who gets paid to write about toyotas. Your basically making the excuse that your site sucks so much that you have to review different types of priuses to get paid. And people pay you for this? It wasnt even a great detailed review, not any video added either. I’m not the first to say this, but car-oriented sites are for car-oriented people, so reviewing a Prius, the dullest overpriced anti driving fun car there is seems pointless, unless you are losing your site and other sites are passing you up with great event coverage and serious reviews. Did any other big site review the Prius? No cause nobody cares. Does this mean nobody cares about what’s going up on Ridelust.com.? This may very we be the case. I always knew ride list was a second hand site, now it’s getting pathetic. Are soccer moms looking at ride lust everyday? Are you trying to be like edmunds? Why be such a try hard?

        • turbosrt says:

          Wow I have an extreme hatred for the Prius as well but I fail to see how reviewing everything Ridelust can get its hands on is a bad thing. He clearly did the review remaining as neutral as possible and I commend him for that. If I was given a Prius I would set it on fire and send it back to Toyota. Next time attack the Prius not the guy giving the info.

  4. Tony says:

    I`m so tempted by a Prius, but I really struggle with its looks. Hey, I`m a child of the 80′s so I`m down with the angular look, but the Toyota looks ugly sadly.

    Real shame.

  5. turbosrt says:

    This reminds me tho. What happened to the Rust or Lust reviews? I loved those. Best one was of my SRT4 and the camaro review. Please bring them back.