If you like the idea of an electric car but you're one of the many who have range anxiety, and you therefore worry about not being able to get where you need to be without having to find somewhere along the way to recharge the battery, the 2017 Toyota Prius Prime could well be the answer. After all, the original Prius is still the first name in gas/electric hybrids, so what could be a better if plug-in hybrids have caught your attention?
New for 2017
The 2017 Toyota Prius Prime is all-new this year, but in some ways it isn't. This is a new plug-in version of the latest fourth-generation Prius hybrid, which has arrived a year after the regular hybrid. However, there has been a plug-in version before you may recall, but this one now has the new "Prime" moniker after its predecessor was discontinued in 2015 after originally going on sale in 2012. Don’t go thinking this is just a regular fourth-generation Prius with a plug and a bigger battery though, as Toyota has made a whole host of changes to the in-vehicle technology, the visual style, and the standard and available features.
Just like the regular Prius, the Prime utilizes a high-efficiency 1.8-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine working in conjunction with a pair of electric motors for a combined peak output of 121 horsepower. Where the Prime differs considerably from the conventional Prius is that the new car defaults into electric-only mode, unless the battery is depleted beyond the point needed to operate as a conventional hybrid, which it does after the battery is depleted. Effectively then, the 2017 Toyota Prius Prime is an electric-only car for the first 20 to 25 miles or so, depending on how it's driven. This means the Prime has a much larger 8.8 kilowatt-hour lithium ion battery pack compared to the 0.75 kilowatt-hour unit in the regular hybrid.
It would have been easy for Toyota to just drop a plug-in hybrid powertrain into the Prius, but that's not what's been done. The Prime does retain the same overall shape and wheelbase, but the front and the rear has been notably restyled and many observers think this is now an even more attractive vehicle than the Prius it's based upon. The front of the Prime is possibly more conventional than the Prius, perhaps even more "more aggressive," as Toyota claims. There are four small rectangular projector headlamps on either side of the front fascia, while at the rear we now have a subtly twin-domed rear liftgate window sitting above rear lights that follow the car's nicely curved shape.
The electric-only range of the Prius Prime is an EPA-rated 25 miles, which is a little better than the 21 miles the manufacturer originally attributed to it.* It also offers a combined hybrid fuel efficiency rating of 54 miles per gallon when running as a conventional hybrid after the battery has been depleted. But it's the energy efficiency figure that's truly remarkable, which at 124 MPGe equals the very best a certain very advanced and costly German rival with a carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic construction can manage.
There are three trim levels available with the 2017 Toyota Prius Prime. The entry level model is the Plus, the middle of the range is the Premium, and the most generously equipped version is called the Advanced. Even the entry level Prius Prime Plus will impress with its standard feature set though, as it boasts cloth-covered heated front seats, steering-wheel audio controls, heated mirrors, and even a built-in navigation system.
*All vehicle mileage based on 2017 EPA mileage estimates. Use for comparison purposes only. Do not compare to models before 2008. Your actual mileage will vary, depending on how you drive and maintain your vehicle.