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USA: 2012 Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid: Brief Drive Report

In the world of plug-in cars, the Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt may get all the attention, but a new arrival will make it very much a three-car race.

The 2012 Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid is just now arriving at Toyota dealers in California plus a dozen or so other states.

While it may look just like a standard Prius hybrid, it has a very important difference: Like the Volt and Leaf, it plugs into the wall to recharge its battery pack.

The plug-in Prius has a much smaller battery pack than either of those cars, however, giving it 12 to 15 miles of electric range.

Electric range, interrupted

And that’s not necessarily continuous electric range, as it is in the Leaf and Volt. Like a standard Prius hybrid, the Prius Plug-In switches on its engine to drive the wheels under demanding conditions.

As we found out during a couple of short test drives last month in San Diego, this means that–even if you have 10 miles of electric range r maining–an uphill freeway on-ramp will switch on the engine at full howl when you floor the accelerator to merge into fast-moving traffic.


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