Toyota Prius Prime - not unexpectedly better than the outgoing Prius PHV in almost every way

Toyota Prius Prime - not unexpectedly better than the outgoing Prius PHV in almost every way

One of the most anticipated plug-in vehicle debuts of 2016 is the upcoming Toyota Prius Prime (don't call it the Prius PHV...although it is still called that in Japan).

Toyota Prius Prime debuted in the US in March (InsideEVs/Tom M)

Toyota Prius Prime debuted in the US in March (InsideEVs/Tom M)

The second generation of Prius plug-in gets twice the battery capacity of the older model, now with 8.8 kWh - which gives the Toyota a 22 mile/35 km real world (EPA) range - up from just 11*miles/18km, along with blended efficiency mark of 120 MPGe - up from 95 MPGe.

Full model details/specs can be found here.

Even more important to sales than the extra range will be the pricing, and while that is not yet know, we know via the new/larger battery pack, it will get an incentive boost from the US federal government - up to $4,168.

To start the media blitz rolling this month, Toyota has flown out 'Prius personalities' and journalists to Japan for a first drive.  Naturally, Danny from Priuschat was one of those to make the trip (why not? it is "the source" for all things Prius after all).

The 2017 Toyota Prius Prime Arrives In The Is In ~ November/December

The 2017 Toyota Prius Prime Arrives In The Is In ~ November/December

Design

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  • striking new look, as if the current generation Prius was getting a product refresh after less than a year on the market
  • Prius Prime Chief Engineer Toyoshima-san tells PriusChat many features in the Prius Prime would have been on the standard version, had the company had the extra development time
  • redesigned tail lights helps the rear of the Prime look less bulbous than the hybrid Prius
  • as we highlighted a few months ago, the solar option on the Prime will not be available outside of Japan, as it was a marketing decision to not offer the $3,000 option, ditto for CHAdeMO outlet

Toyota Prius Prime Interior

Toyota Prius Prime Interior

Only thing we aren't a fan of in the new Prius Prime, more trunk filled up with the larger 8.8 kWh battery

Only thing we aren't a fan of in the new Prius Prime, more trunk filled up with the larger 8.8 kWh battery

Interior

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  • mostly unchanged from the standard Prius
  • that is except for a 11.6" touch screen option in the higher trim levels and,
  • only 2 seats in the back instead of 3 - which PriusChat calls "regrettable", the Prime weights in 300lbs heavier than the petrol version (at 3,362), so the seat apparently had to go
  • on the plus side of the seat deletion, the 2 remaining seats are far more livable, and now have dedicated cup holders and a padded armrest in lieu of the pedestrian finish for the 3 standard rear seats

And A Good Look At That Rear 4 Seat Configuration (L2 charging equipment tucked nicely away)

And A Good Look At That Rear 4 Seat Configuration (L2 charging equipment tucked nicely away)

Toyota Prius Prime 11.6 optional center infotainment center - some concerns are raised whether Toyota can meet the user interface expectations of today's EV buyer familiar with the likes of the Tesla Model S and BMW i3

Toyota Prius Prime 11.6 optional center infotainment center - some concerns are raised whether Toyota can meet the user interface expectations of today's EV buyer familiar with the likes of the Tesla Model S and BMW i3

2017 Prius Prime LED Headlamps

2017 Prius Prime LED Headlamps

Performance

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  • the Prius Prime isn't a Tesla, so there is no drag race showdown, but PriusChat finds the Prime "superior in every measurable way to the PiP", which to be honest was...not so good
  • 8.8 kWh vs 4.4 kWh translates to 22 .2 miles AER vs 11 in the outgoing model
  • 11.3 gallon gas tank capacity (identical to the standard) vs 10.6 gallon in 1st gen PiP
  • 120 MPGe vs 95 MPGe
  • more importantly however is the maximum all-electric speed is now 84 mph/135 km/h, the old version which (if you were lucky) could stay in electric mode up to 62 mph/100 km/h
  • new heat pump system, which is 30% more efficient than the first model (at 14 F) and "more importantly, keeps you from having to engage the ICE to get heat in the winter"

2017 Toyota Prius Prime $3,000 solar option - not available anywhere but in Japan

2017 Toyota Prius Prime $3,000 solar option - not available anywhere but in Japan

A note on the frequency of the combustion engine turning on during "in demand" situations.  The original Prius PHV would turn the petrol engine on if you looked directly at it the accelerator was pressed too hard at launch, or ever past the halfway point to the floor.  Once on, the car did an extended warm-up dance, ensuring you would continue to burn gas for the foreseeable future.

Not so this time apparently, "While the first Prius Plug-in wanted to be a hybrid first, and begrudgingly an EV second, the Prius Prime WANTS to be an EV."

Toyota Prius Prime

Toyota Prius Prime

Danny describes his limited interaction with the Prius Prime on the track in all its modes:

"My driving opportunity consisted of 4 laps around a test track, the first lap in EV, the second in hybrid mode, third in EV, and final lap in hybrid.

In hybrid mode, the Prime performs exactly as you'd expect the standard Prius to perform. In EV mode, it performs better. The 0-40 acceleration is quicker in EV mode than in the standard Prius' HV mode. The Chief didn't offer any exact numbers yet, but he did show us an acceleration curve illustrating the difference. Now we're not talking Tesla Model S or BMW i3 0-40 acceleration, but there's an appreciable amount of torque available and better yet, 100% throttle is available in EV mode."

The important takeaway in our opinion?  In EV mode, 100% throttle is on tap...no more ICE circling over your head like Spiderman waiting for criminals to step out of line and rustle them up.

PriusChat says the drive reminded them of other plug-in vehicles on the market today (which is a good thing), and the car had confident acceleration, and a redesigned regenerative braking system, which is slightly more aggressive - but not to the extent of Model S "single-pedal" driving.

2017 Toyota Prius Prime From Above

2017 Toyota Prius Prime From Above

Conclusion

Even PriusChat will say that they didn't have enough time to draw out a full conclusion on the Toyota Prius Prime, but having owned and being so closely associated with the 1st generation Prius plug-in, the improvements are very significant and a move forward.

"For all of the many people in the forums who have been holding off on buying a new Prius until the Prime launch, I think you've made the right choice and you'll be happy you waited.

Given the other choices available out in the market today, Toyota's eco crown has seemingly lost some of its luster. Not only does the Prime put the shine back on that crown, it's the best Prius they've ever built."

Full review at PriusChat, Hat tip to offib!