Road test: Three plug-in cars
Cars.com editor Joe Wiesenfelder compares the hands-on experience, mileage and cost results of the Nissan Leaf (a simple battery-electric car), Chevrolet Volt (an electric with a gas-powered range extender) and the Prius Plug-In (a regular Prius that can be plugged in and topped off before you drive, thanks to a higher-capacity lithium-ion battery pack). Get the full story: Three Plug-Ins Head To Head
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With its quick launch off the line, consistency and predictability, the Leaf had this contest in the bag. The Volt came in second. It's not quite as quick, but we appreciated the Volt's consistent feel: Even once the battery is depleted, the acceleration's character remains the same. Residual battery power propels the car, and then the gas engine drives the generator to back-fill it. The Prius PHV a work in progress ahead of a 2012 retail product launch came in a distant third. We were pleasantly surprised that it could accelerate respectably on electric power because it has the same drivetrain hardware as the regular Prius, which goes EV-only solely at parking-lot speeds. But if you want full acceleration, the engine does turn on even before the initial charge is expended. The Prius is known for surging and nonlinearity, and it's even worse in this version. This is about software, so there's plenty of opportunity for Toyota to improve it.