The Toyota Prius Prime Plug-in Hybrid-Electric (PHEV) is new to the market and already outselling the Tesla Model S, Model X, Chevy Volt, and Bolt. The car is catching on with consumers because Toyota is already a leader in hybrid technology and a trusted brand.
It has a number of advantages that consumers seem to like. We saw those advantages firsthand when we drove the top-of-the-line, 2017 Toyota Prius Prime Advanced.
What’s New For 2017
The Prius Prime is the new plug-in version which replaces the prior Prius Plug-in Hybrid. A larger battery gives more electric-only range than the outgoing model, while its fuel efficiency in hybrid mode edges higher than that of the base Prius.
Features & Options
The range-topping 2017 Toyota Prius Prime Advanced ($33,100) is packed with a long list of tech features. It comes with a power driver’s seat, an 11.6-inch central touchscreen, upgraded multimedia system, premium synthetic leather (SofTex) seats, automatic headlights, keyless entry, satellite radio, and wireless smartphone charging.
The Advanced trim also comes with extra technology features like premium audio, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, heated steering wheel, auto-dimming mirror, heads-up display, a smartphone app with a charge management system, remote climate control, rain-sensing wipers, and a semi-automated parking function. Our tester came with the optional 15-inch alloy wheels ($899) and illuminated door sills ($299). Total MSRP including destination: $36,305.
The Prius Prime feels modern inside, and the first thing we noticed was the giant 11.6-inch touch-tablet that controls just about everything. It’s fairly intuitive and you get used to it pretty quickly by simply playing with its many features. The new Prius Prime offers seating for four and comes standard with bucket-style seats in the rear. The front seats are heated and trimmed in a SofTex synthetic leather that’s close to leather upholstery.
Passenger space is typical to what you’ll find in most compact cars, with overall volume being a tad less here than its other Prius stablemates. The raked roofline does cut into head space for taller passengers, but it doesn’t impact visibility from the driver’s seat much.
The 2017 Prius Prime offers up 19.8 cubic feet of cargo space, which is above average for a compact car but less than the standard Prius hatchback’s 27.4 cubic feet. The cargo hold is less due to the Prime’s rechargeable battery, which is mounted in the rear of the car. The 60/40 split-folding back seat adds extra cargo-carrying ability, however.
Engine & Fuel Mileage Specs
The Toyota Prius Prime is powered by a 1.8-liter 4-cylinder engine and a hybrid synergy drive system featuring a rechargeable Lithium-ion battery. The hybrid system’s net power is 121 horsepower (90 kW). It comes mated to an electronically controlled Continuously Variable Transmission (ECVT). The combination drives the front wheels.
The new Prius Prime gets an EPA-estimated 54 combined mpg on gas only, and 133 MPGe electricity plus gasoline, making it the most fuel-efficient plug-in hybrid available. It has an all-electric driving range of 25 miles and when fully fueled and charged, the Prius Prime has a range of 640 miles. Using regular unleaded fuel, the Prius Prime offers one of the best costs per mile of energy of any vehicle in America.
Unlike battery-electric vehicles, the Prius Prime does not need a special home charger which will save owners thousands. On a 120 volt circuit, the Prime can charge to 100 percent in about five and a half hours. Homeowners that use a dedicated 240 volt circuit will be able to recharge in about two hours.
The Prius Prime has driving dynamics very similar to the standard Prius. Aside from the annoying drone of the continuously variable transmission winding up under power, the Prius Prime can be fun-to-drive with its surge of electric acceleration. It was especially enjoyable as we zipped around the city streets of Denver easily because of its compact size.
The 2017 Toyota Prius Prime doesn’t offer the greatest acceleration when getting up to highway speeds, but it shines in getting excellent fuel mileage. We noticed more cabin noise than the traditional Prius, likely because of its harder tires designed for maximum mileage. But the engine noise from the 1.8-liter plant is well suppressed.
We took the compact hybrid up in the high country as we headed up I-70 into the mountains west of Denver, and found it to have ample power. In the tight mountain corners, the Prius Prime didn’t lean over too much and the city-hauler hugged the curves fairly well.
The Prius Prime has a new engine, more than double the EV range of the past Prius Plug-in Hybrid, offers more standard equipment and technology, and more driving flexibility than its peers. For those looking for a very fuel-efficient commuter, the Prius Prime offers consumers one of the best overall values of any vehicle in America.
Denis Flierl has invested over 25 years in the automotive industry in a variety of roles. Follow his work on Twitter: @CarReviewGuy