Can the 2017 Toyota Prius Prime Plug-in Hybrid Go the Distance?

2017 Toyota Prius Prime plug-in hybrid

The 2017 Toyota Prius Prime is a fresh take on a vehicle that takes a direct aim at the Chevrolet Volt. With a unique nose, tail, interior and electronics, the 2017 Toyota Prius Prime is a much more sophisticated ride compared to its regular Prius (some call it the “liftback”) brethren. Without a doubt, the 2017 Toyota Prius Prime’s numbers are impressive.

Here’s Toyota’s estimates:

  • 124 MPGe
  • 55 mpg city, 53 mpg highway and 54 mpg combined
  • Total driving range – up to 640 miles (yes, six hundred and forty miles)
  • Up to 25 miles range strictly in EV mode
  • Up to 84 mph in EV mode
  • Level 1 (120 volt) charging time: approximately five hours and thirty minutes (5:30)
  • Level 2 (240 volt) charging time: approximately two hours and ten minutes (2:10)

The 2017 Toyota Prius Prime is powered by an aluminum 1.8-liter, Atkinson cycle 4-cylinder engine, which is the same used in the regular Prius, and it makes a total (when combined with the electric power) 121 horsepower or 90 kW of power. The power is channeled to a ECVT (Electronically-controlled Continuously Variable Transmission). Toyota added a one-way clutch that aids in efficient power delivery.

By comparison to the current regular Toyota Prius, the 2017 Toyota Prius Prime has 95 lithium-ion battery cells (over 56 in the regular Prius), nominal voltage 351.5V (over 207V in the regular Prius) 25Ah of battery capacity and 8.8kWh of battery capacity. The last generation Toyota Prius Plug-in had 21.5h and 4.4 kWh of battery capacity. The 2017 Toyota Prius Prime also has a new battery warmer which enhances EV drivability, boosting battery temp at low temperatures.

The 2017 Toyota Prius Prime has six driving modes:

    • Normal – Utilizes the optimum balance between efficiency and acceleration feel
    • Power – Taps into power for the best acceleration feel
    • Eco mode – All systems work toward the most economic power consumption
    • EV mode (default) – As long as there is enough power in the batteries and the speed is kept below 84 mph, the gas engine will not start. This is considered the “all electric” mode.
    • HV mode – Basically, this is the mode the regular Prius uses most of the time. It combines electric and gas power for a balance of efficient/effective driving power.
    • EV Auto mode – this mode automatically switches between EV and HV mode based on driving conditions and the position of the accelerator.

Another new feature for the 2017 Toyota Prius Prime is the Charge Management system. You can set up the Prius Prime to automatically prime your climate system while it’s still plugged in charging up to 10 minutes before departing. There are up to 15 charging options that can be preset and it can initiate the battery warming system before departure too.

2016 Toyota Prius Hybrid System

All 2017 Toyota Prius Primes come with TSS-P safety system. This safety enhancement includes a pre-collision with pedestrian detection system, lane-departure alert with steering assist function, automatic high-beams and full-speed-range dynamic radar cruise control.

The 2017 Toyota Prius Prime will be available in three trims:

  • Prime Plus – base model comes standard with the TSS-P system and a 4.2″ color dual multi-information screen along with a 7″ premium Entune audio with integrated navigation. Heated front seats covered in fabric.
  • Prime Premium – (In addition to, or upgrading from the Prius Plus equipment) 11.6″ HD multimedia display, smart charging cable lock, Softex-trimmed front heated seats, Qi-compatible wireless smartphone charging and a Smart lid opener.
  • Prime Advance – LED fog and accent lights, rain-sensing variable speed wipers, color heads-up display (HUD), Intelligent Clearance Sonar with parking assist, blind-spot monitoring with cross-traffic alert, JBL Audio, Heated steering wheel and Safety Connect.

Driving the 2017 Toyota Prius Prime: Just like the regular Prius, the Prius Prime has a independent rear suspension and, for an economy car, good cornering performance. In Normal, Power and HV mode, the Prius Prime scoots quickly. It feels lively and has no problem passing and merging in normal traffic.

Steering feel is nonexistent and the steering wheel weight (the amount of effort that goes into moving the electrically enhanced unit) feels a bit rubbery. Still, the Prius Prime is easy to maneuver and the whole vehicle responds to steering inputs accurately and assuredly.  Accelerating and braking were just as reassuring to modulate. This car is a breeze to drive.

The seats are comfortable and the noise levels are well controlled. Forward outward vision is great, but rear vision is slightly compromised by the rear pillar. This is where the blind-spot detection system helps.

2017 Toyota Prius Prime plug-in hybrid

Complaints? Just a few issues that are pretty obvious to most. The biggest gripe is the deletion of a third seat-belt in the back seat. That’s right; the 2017 Toyota Prius Prime is strictly a four-seater. Odd thing is: the old Prius Plug-in had the distinction of  having a third seat-belt over the old Chevrolet Volt.

Now, the new Chevy Volt has three seat-belts in the back and the new Prius Prime (plug-in) does not. Odd. It all comes down to packaging and Toyota is quick to point out that the two rear seats are big and comfy; and that most buyers rarely need a third seat-belt in this segment.

A minor quibble; the gear lever/selector is now on the dash and is not as easily accessible as the old unit.  The cool looking rear (double-bubble) rear glass cannot house a rear wiper, which is a bummer for folks in the snow-belt. Also, the (easily removable) hubcaps are very unattractive.

Other than that, the 2017 Toyota Prius Prime is an outstanding runabout with a range that challenges small diesels.

Check out the video here.