When we recently took delivery of the 2012 Toyota Prius V Five, here at "Drive...He Said," we called the optional, optional Advanced Technology Package "a Maraschino cherry atop a $36,300 Matterhorn sundae of family gas-electric hybrid wagons." Consider that the $5580 price of the package makes up about 25% of the base M.S.R.P. of a standard Prius.
We heard the modest sound of the JBL GreenEdge sound system, saw the light through the panoramic glass roof and worried slightly less over freeway vehicle cut-offs with dynamic cruise control. Sigh.
And then we let our fingers do some more walking, first, over a driver's side lower dash switch and then onto touch screen where we stumbled upon the Advanced Guided Parking System (AGPS). With a myriad of screen selections including target boxes and path markings we confoundedly turned to the Prius V User Manual, digesting as much of the fifty pages of park assist high- and low-lights as our admitted impatience would allow.
AGPS can be used for either parallel or perpendicular parking in reverse. OK so we are skeptical about the need for the latter capability, even if we did let the park assist back us into our two-car driveway without smashing through the garage door.
Should you want to impress all your neighbors we were suggest engaging AGPS to do some night-time parallel parking. Imagine the possibilities of hawking tickets for a few performances to pay off the cost. A megaphone squawks, "Come one, come all to the Greatest Feat on the Street. Behold, in pitch black darkness, as we shoe-horn a 15-foot long Prius V into spots so taught that a mere foot and a half of space separates parked vehicles fore and aft."
Upon selecting the correct screen for parallel parking, the Prius V's 8.1" center screen advises very slow creeping until it finds a space which it measures as sufficiently large. The park assist system relies on sonar sensors bouncing sound waves off of adjacent objects. Upon passing a suitably large space AGPS audibly advises stopping the Prius V and then engaging reverse. The center display then switches to wide-angle camera mode where a yellow grid signifies the location of the Prius V on the street and a blue rectangle is used to identify the target parking space. With a bit of practice, we learned to touch and drag the blue rectangle to a position sufficiently away from the curb to avoid the embarrassment of backing over the curb, something AGPS isn't quite smart enough to prevent.
Upon making a final selection of the target space, with lots of faith, and beads of sweat forming, we yank both hands off the steering wheel and cautiously release the brake pedal, with right foot but a a millimeter away. Since only the driver can depress the brakes to stop the Prius V, park guidance can tell if you are moving to fast and, take it from us , it will!
The rest is automotive electronic nannying at its finest hour. The steering wheel first saws in the direction of the curb, then opposite to straighten the whole matter out. No repetitive backing in and out allowed in this performance. As the Prius V entered the space, we measure just 4" of clearance between the aft parked vehicle's rear left corner and the Prius V's front right. Success is met with the announcement of "the Guidance is Finished." Judging by the pool of perspiration we thought our feat should be followed by a chant of hurrahs].
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