2016 Prius V

Notes from an owner

January 2016

I have never felt so bad about a new car as I do about the Prius V. :-(

I've been driving a Nissan Altima for the last 8 years. It has 100k miles on it, not bad. But it doesn't have any advanced electronics. Everytime I have to press the go button on my excellent Blue Ant hands free unit I think, "why don't I have an integrated speaker phone?"

We also know that in the last several years there's been an explosion in safety features. I particularly like the idea of radar cruise control and anticipatory breaking. With that in mind I set out to find a new car.

My first thought was to stay with a Nissan; I really like my Alitima. Unfortunately, their advanced electronics package only comes on the Maxima. And the Maxima only comes with a moon roof. I don't mix well with moon roofs in sedans. I sat in the Maxima and it didn't have the headroom to accomodate my 6' 4" body. My head banged on the moon roof.

I found that all the big Japanese car manufacturers bundle a moon roof with the advanced electronics package. I don't care for a moon roof; I'd be happy without one; it isn't possible. The Nissan, Mazda, and Subaru all bundle the moon roof; they all lack the head room I need. My one joy was the Toyota Prius V. I fit in the Prius V even with the moon roof. I paid $35,000 out the door and drove one home.

First let me mention the things I like. The radar cruise control is great; as I approach a car ahead of me the Prius V begins to slow down and eventually to break, if needed. That is very cool. Supposedly it will also break hard if I am about to hit something. I'm not sure how to test that, but I like the sound of it. There is a lot of room in the back seat, so my passengers don't have to be cramped behind me. People complain about the split rear window in a normal Prius; the Prius V does not have this. The lane departure warning is nice. If you cross a lane without signaling it will sound a light warning chime; seems like a good idea. The high beams auto dim when another car approaches; cool. And the head room. I want to mention again that a normally proportioned 6' 4" person can sit in this car without mussing their hair.

A few things that bother me a bit... The steering wheel moves in and out, but not very far. The seat can go way back to accomodate long legs, but the steering wheel will cause you to lean forward in an uncomfortable way - at least to me. And the steering wheel itself is an odd duck. I'd like to place my hands at 10 and 2, but there are no molded places to hold on to. I've been told to hold the wheel closer to 9 and 3, but there are spokes right there. I'd also be ok with 5 and 7, but there are also odd things coming from the hub to those points on the wheel. Maybe I'll get used to it, but right now it feels odd. And the wheel is a bit small in diameter for my taste; feels like a go cart to me.

There's no good place to put your sun glasses. The normal Prius has a holder in the roof above the rear view mirror. In the Prius V with the moon roof that spot is taken up with the emergency call system; something I don't need. I've found that the luggage area cover does not fully cover the luggage area. When deployed it leaves little slits of spy-areas around the edges. It seems like a bad guy could look in that and possibly see that something is worth stealing. In my old Toyota Matrix the luggage area was well covered. I'm going to look for an after market solution. The rear view mirror has auto dim when headlight appear; it doesn't give me that much relief. I still point the rear view mirror down when driving at night.

And this is what really drives me nuts: lack of iPhone integration. When the dealer says "oh yes, it works with the iPhone," you should ask them, "What about the Siri Eyes Free feature?" You'll hear, "oh...umm.. that is not available on the Prius V." In my package this is mentioned on page 36 of the 2016 Entune System Quick Reference Guide. What you will find is that there is no way to talk with Siri from the car. If you want to talk to Siri you have to press and hold the button on your iPhone - how is that hands free? And, once you are talking to Siri, not everything works. A key example: Activate Siri and the Entune system will wake up so you can use the in-car microphone. Tell Siri to play some music. The iPhone starts playing music to the connected Blue Tooth device, but the Prius V Entune system displays "call has ended." Now you have to activate the Entune system and say "play blue tooth audio."

I bought my $35,000 car hoping to have Blue Tooth integration with my phone that would be at least as good as my old $200 Blue Ant unit. It is not. I find this deplorable.

Ok, why not just talk to Entune instead of Siri? All iPhone users know that Siri can be a petulant 15 year old at times; Entune is a moron. I ask Entune to "play songs by David Bowie" and it has no idea what I mean. Despite claims to natural language understanding, I have to precisely say, "play the artist David Bowie" to get it to take action. Oh, by the way, Entune can't voice play songs on your iPhone. Voice play only works for songs on a USB drive that you stick in the only available USB port.

Voice dial only works for contacts that have been uploaded to the Entune system. That happens automatically, but I've gotten into my Prius V and asked it to dial someone only to be told, "voice dailing is not available while the contacts are being loaded." Why is it doing that? Why can't it use the previous contact list? And when I dial someone with more than one phone number it displays them and asks me to pick one. So I have to look at the Entune screen... how is that a good idea? The iPhone remembers which number I call, why can't Entune? Of course Entune doesn't know "my girlfriend," "my mother", etc. Ok, always activate Siri from the phone and do it that way.

Have you looked at the Entune GPS system? Wow, kind of reminds me of my 2002 Tom Tom unit. Very old school. To voice activate directions it wants me to say the city and state. How about just looking near by? Then it also seems to want information in a particular order and I don't know which order until I've done it wrong. Some times it wants "700 Market Street San Francisco California," while other times it wants "San Francisco, Market Street, Seven Oh Oh." Oh, oh, I think I'll stick with Siri.

Entune brags about having an iPhone app that links the in-car system to things like Pandora, iHeart radio, etc. So? It uses my cellular data plan and I have to use the brain dead Entune voice system to command it. Why not just bring up Siri, stream Pandora, and leave it at that? They also offer the "Scout GPS Link" iPhone application. Does that mean the included Entune system is not so good? Toyota is already offloading the mapping work to an iPhone app? I have not tried Scout GPS but when I looked the iTunes store has some terrible reviews of it.

I have to wonder how fast Entune will evolve, if at all. Apple and Android phones can update their voice recognition constantly. I'm not sure Entune will be able to move as quickly, if at all.

I will admit that I wondered if this was all just me getting my tech dander up. Then a friend in the east bay heard that I had a new Prius V; coincidentally he just bought one too. His big question to me? "Have you found a way to make it work with your iPhone?" Oh my.

I think I've said enough for now. If you are not a smart phone user today, then you'll probably think the Entune system is pure magic. I remember back to when the first Prius had some voice recognition and I envied my friends. That was a long time ago. Since then this super computer I carry in my pocket has become a well oiled information machine, able to interpret even the strangest of syntax. I'd like my pocket super computer to tell my Leviathan automobile what to do; a bit like Master and Blaster.

For me, a power iPhone user, the Prius V is quite a disappointment. Instead of forming a close working partnership between my car and my phone, I feel like the car is always jumping up in front to say, "let me do that that for you," yet it is hopelessly incapable. I've bought a car mount device now so that my iPhone can remain always in my face, ready to do my bidding. How sad for Toyota.