Toyota studies a larger version of the Prius

Article by Christian Andrei, on May 21, 2011

Toyota is considering a three-row version of the Prius hybrid. This won’t be the same as the Prius Alpha offered in Japan, which merely inserts a third row of seats into the cargo area of the five-seat Prius V to be sold in the U.S. beginning this fall. Bob Carter, Toyota Division general manager, clarified that this three-row Prius being seriously studied would be big enough to seat seven people and to carry their stuff as well.

Toyota seeks to sell 1 million hybrid models annually. It plans to launch two additions to the Prius family in early 2012. These include the Prius C compact hybrid vehicle and the Prius plug-in hybrid vehicle.

In addition, Toyota is working on the dedicated Prius platform as well as optional hybrid variants for current vehicles such as the Camry. Carter divulged that the three-row Prius will need to be built on a dedicated hybrid platform.

It also has to have the Prius' aerodynamic shape, achieve a minimum of 40 mpg and offer a strong value-price equation. Toyota has been spending a significant amount on the research and development of other hybrid vehicles.

Toyota is set to present 10 new or redesigned hybrids in its global lineup within the next 20 months. A confirmation was given by Ben Mitchell, Toyota's corporate manager of product planning, that the carmaker is studying many new hybrid segments.

Toyota has been incessant in rolling out its full hybrid technology to new segments of the auto market with the launch of new models like the Auris Hybrid and Yaris Hybrid. Even with those new hybrid vehicles, most people easily see the Prius as a vehicle that features the carmaker’s full hybrid powertrain design. Its latest version has been given revised exterior looks and an enhanced interior quality.

The new Toyota Prius also features better instrumentation as well as multimedia and advanced navigation systems like Toyota Touch, Toyota Touch & Go Plus and Toyota Touch Pro. Just like the generations launched before it, the latest Toyota Prius brings into the segment new high technology features not yet available on other vehicles. For instance, the Toyota Prius comes with a Head-up Display that shows relevant data -- vehicle speed and the Eco Drive Monitor, as well as the status of the optional Pre-Crash Safety and Active Cruise Control systems -- onto the base of the windscreen.

Moreover, the Prius features Touch Tracer display switch mounted on the steering wheel, allowing drivers to better control a number of operations and functions like the audio system, the air-conditioning and the ECO Drive Monitor – all without having to take their eyes off the road or remove their hands from the wheel. Safety systems include the optional Pre-Crash Safety system that integrates Adaptive Cruise Control. This system employs sensors under the front grille to anticipate potential collisions, and thereon activates a series of intelligent safety features.

For instance, the system would pre-tension the car’s seatbelts and then trigger an audible Brake Assist alarm. If it is not possible to avoid a collision, the system would activate automatic braking to reduce the amount of potential impact and damage. Another safety system found on the Toyota Prius is the Intelligent Parking Assist, which could maneuver the hybrid car to into a parking space by employing ultrasonic sensors and a rear view camera to compute the necessary steering movements.

A driver does not need to steer the Prius and only has to control the vehicle speed. On the other hand, the latest Toyota Prius features a combination of remote controlled air conditioning and a solar ventilation system. The solar ventilation system could maintain the cabin air temperature even when the Prius is parked. Designed to work in conjunction with this system is the remote controlled air conditioning that allows drivers to activate this function even while outside the Prius.

This remote controlled air conditioning feature employs the large capacity hybrid battery to cool the cabin for up to three minutes before occupants enter the vehicle. These are some of the features that allowed Toyota to sell almost 100,000 units of the third-generation Toyota Prius in Europe just two years after launch. Moreover, the Prius has been one of the models that first-time Toyota customers have picked. In fact, in the first half of 2011, first-time Toyota customers – shifting from rival brands – accounted for around 50 percent of Prius sales in Europe.

The latest iteration of the Prius was unveiled at the 2011 Frankfurt Motor Show and comes with a more dynamic frontal treatment. The hybrid’s revised Under Priority front bumper design puts the highlight on an enlarged lower grille while its new clear lens headlamp design has a revised LED lamp configuration, with the daytime running lights now integrated in the bumper.

Redesigned indicator lamps are now mounted on the door mirrors, which come with a power-folding function. Toyota also redesigned the rear combination lamps to make the new Prius easily recognizable even in the dark. Optional features include a solar roof, a new 15-inch wheel design or the existing 17-inch alloy wheels.

Customers could have their Toyota Prius wrapped with any of the eight available exterior colors, including the Bordeaux and Dark Blue hues. They may also avail of a new, black interior, as well as silver inserts to the air vents and center console. Customers may likewise opt for a hybrid-blue push start button and new high grade seat upholstery.

Topics: toyota, toyota prius

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