Real-World Road Test Results For Toyota Prius Prime – It’s Electric-Only, Provided The Battery Is Charged

Toyota Prius Prime


Toyota Prius Prime

Toyota Prius Prime

Green Car Reports (GCR) drove the new 2017 Toyota Prius Prime and seemed impressed. It exceeded their initial expectations made during a previous, brief test drive in California. This time was more of a trek that covered 279 miles of mixed highway and local driving, over multiple days, with three consecutive overnight charge-ups, in cooler weather.

Inside the Toyota Prius Prime

Inside the Toyota Prius Prime

Overall, Green Car calls the Prime a “viable competitor” to the Chevrolet Volt, despite the fact that the Volt boasts more than double the Prime’s 25 miles of electric-only range. Further elaborating on the comparison, the review notes that the Prime is “by far the closest competitor to Chevy’s Volt.”  Prices are somewhat similar, especially when considering that the more expensive Volt gets a larger incentive. The Prime comes out about $3,000 cheaper with all considered.

The folks at GCR are obviously not the only ones enamored with the Prime, as we have witnessed 781 sold in November.

Notable Takeaways:

  • 48.7 real-world miles per gallon (the Prime is EPA rated at 55 combined)
  • Of the 279 miles, over 30% were covered by the battery
  • Engine “never” switches on if the battery is charged
  • Engine kicked in prematurely one time at startup in cold temps (however it didn’t stay on, and despite the cold it never came back on while charged)
  • Toyota has substantially increased heat conservation
  • 72 mph was no problem in electric-only mode
  • 0-20 mph is always electric-only, even in hybrid mode
  • Gas engine is noisy
  • Cabin noise reduction is impressive
  • Strong acceleration for stop-and-go traffic (but nothing like the Volt)

Wrapping up the review, GCR pointed out some other valuable information, although it is not specific to the EV factor of the vehicle.

  • Parking brake will provide noticeable damage to your left leg
  • Seat heaters are hard to find and operate
  • Interior is white and sparkly and glossy (maybe some people like that sort of thing?)
  • Automatic high-beams were slow to respond, but impressive
  • Adaptive cruise control follows very far, despite closest setting
  • “Garbage-truck-like” beeping in reverse (that may have a shut-off … somewhere hidden … or not at all)

With all of this being said, it’s another plug-in with exceedingly positive potential to appeal to many, and to attract consumers toward the segment. Bravo!

Source: Green Car Reports

Categories: Toyota

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41 Comments on "Real-World Road Test Results For Toyota Prius Prime – It’s Electric-Only, Provided The Battery Is Charged"

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I’m glad to see it. I love PHEVs which work as “starter” EVs and it sounds like the Prius Prime is one now.

Honestly though, I’d get a Volt instead. It has far more range. And it’s better looking.

This says the ICE is noisy. That’s also in contrast to the Volt where they tried to make it seem as much like electric-only mode as possible.

I don’t think calling the ICE noisy is an accurate characterization of what the Green Car Reports review said. I thought their review implied that the ICE was not noisy.

The one mention of engine noise in the GCR article was the following short blurb:

“And when maximum acceleration was required with a depleted battery, the engine produced the usual ‘motorboating’ howl.”

“But the newest Prius isolates and insulates noise better than its predecessors, so the engine noise felt remote, ‘somewhere up front,’ rather than inside the cabin as before.”

Just go FULL EV Already These Dual engine cars are DOUBLE TROUBLE ..& Not worth the expense..

Not worth the expense? Show me a pure EV with a decent range that can be bought for a similar price to a Prius Prime.

It’s not double trouble, it’s half the maintenance of a regular ICE.

How about 90% less to maintain an EV vs ICE.

I don’t think that’s a realistic number. For example, you still have to buy tires.

I don’t think we have sufficient data yet to give an average for how much cheaper it will be to maintain a PEV over a gasmobile. I seem to recall that Ford once estimated a 40% reduction in maintenance costs for EVs, but others have put that figure higher.

And obviously you have to compare cars in the same price range to do a meaningful comparison. All too many people try to compare a “premium” EV like the Tesla Model S to a much cheaper car, such as a Ford or a Chevrolet. Yeah, more expensive cars do cost, on average, more to maintain, just as they cost more to buy. Duh!

That certainly is not substantiated fact. The Prius were already dead reliable cars. They already had an advanced ICE, an electric motor, and a battery. Now they enlarged the battery, and electric motor and some how this car is going to have double the trouble now? Care to elaborate? I was shopping for a Prime. The inventory is in extreme short supply with no deals to be had at all (like the Volt discounts). The technology and safety suites available on the Toyota blow away the Volt, as does the available large LCD screen.

I was able to finally acquire our Prius prime but had to drive 300 miles to get it. I test drove a volt and these cars are not even comparable. I love our new prime. We now have 1000 miles on the original tank of gas. My wife luckily works 10 miles away, and with a level 2 charger we are going to get a lot of gas free miles out of this car. I can’t wait to do a road trip. The adaptive cruise control works perfect, besides the following distance being just a little to far away. But I love it so far. I do believe it will sell well when they get them to all the dealerships.

Okay. I was just going by the insideevs summary. But I see what you mean.

Now reading the source article I do find that engine “coming on at cold temps” means 45F! Sure it was “cold soaked” to the thirties, but that’s not cold either. It’d be better if it went lower. A Volt default is 32F I think and you can set it to 14F I think (-10C).

21F when I took the dealer’s fleet model for a test-drive. The engine never started. With the heater running, we jumped onto the 70 mph highway. No big deal. It was all electric the entire drive.

I prefer the different looks of the Prime and it’s slightly larger passenger and cargo space (based on measurements I’ve seen and what people have said). I do a lot of highway diving on regular long trips to visit family, so the better hybrid MPG is for me.

When it’s on you can certainly hear the ICE, but it’s a lot quieter than my previous car (a Nissan Altima). I’ve never driven the Volt so I can’t compare.

Different people will like the Volt or the Prime for different reasons. There’s no stigma around the Volt’s name, unlike the Prius, so a that can play in to someone’s decision too.

I guess it depends on who you walk to. A few years ago the Volt was constantly under attack by the Republicans calling it an “Obamacar” and that it catches on fire, blah blah blah. None of it was true, but was repeated often enough that a lot of people started to believe it.


Front leg: 42.10
Rear leg: 34.7

4 1/2 seats


Front leg: 43.2
Rear leg: 33.4

4 seats

Prime has more headroom in the back and larger cargo though but the difference between the 2 in passenger dimensions is not so different.

I’m coming around to the new Toyota/Lexus styling cues as I see them on the road more. Very distinctive. Not attractive in a traditional way, but edgy and does stand out in a sea of similar looking cars on the road.

I think Chevy missed the mark on the Volt redesign. I love the looks of my Gen 1 Volt, but the new ones look to much like a Cruze. Way to generic.

One of the comments in the Green Car Reports article gave a possible explanation for the Prime starting the ICE engine at startup in cold temps while in EV mode.

“According to the Prime owners manual, pressing the windshield defogger switch ‘MAY’ cause the engine to start in EV mode. There are other situations listed in the owner’s manual that may start the engine in EV mode. The PriusChat thread below lists them in the first comment.”

Following up on your point, regulations require that a vehicle WITH AN ENGINE be capable of defrosting the windshield in a given amount of time. The Prime might not be able to achieve this using only the battery when it’s cold, and hence the engine might need to start to provide more power.

Well, not just power. The ICE produces a lot of waste heat which can be employed to clear the windshield.

Sure would be nice if the Volt did something more intelligent for engine use, than just the ambient temperature.

On the flip side, it is nice the Volt can be set to turn on when only colder than 15F (“Deferred” in Gen 2, “Very Cold” in Gen 1) rather than temps around 45F for the Prime.

The backup continuous beep is a pain. I thought it to be a safety hazard to me as it was so distracting. Stupid dealer wanted $70 to turn it off (one beep only once mode). So I bought a scan gauge and turned it off myself. I used that scan gauge to turn off the continuous beep in 5 other priuses.

How do you disable the backup alarm? My old 2nd gen Prius was super easy. I can’t find anything online on how to disable it. It doesn’t bother my wife but it bothers me. Also the seat belt reminder. The old tricks don’t work on the prime.

Why in God’s name does anyone buy a Prius anymore? Especially when even a 1st gen Volt destroys this car?? Shows how little the conservation crowd really knows about the EV industry.

I don’t know about your area John, but in my Locale Prius’s are all over the place. I’m sure in my area the Prius Prime will be the most popular Electric Car – especially if it turns out the car is more reliable than the new VOLT (I’d be interested in knowing precisely what happened, or what Chevy was thinking, after Lutz retired – of whom I credit for the Old VOlt’s Stellar reliability).
Besides the EV portion being quite efficient, the gasoline engine has an UNHEARD OF 40% efficiency (for a mobile installation). Some very large Ice’s are 50% but they’re for central station operation or else huge cruise ships.

As I’ve previously mentioned, this car just has to be the most popular EV, at least in my area.

John asked:

“Why in God’s name does anyone buy a Prius anymore? Especially when even a 1st gen Volt destroys this car??”

1. Brand loyalty can be pretty strong, and that’s not necessarily unreasonable. Someone who has had a good experience with a certain brand or even model of car may decide to stick to that. That would include Prius drivers.

2. Internationally, GM doesn’t have such a great reputation, especially in Europe. That’s why GM has sold both the Volt and, now, the Bolt under the “Ampera” badge rather than Chevrolet badges.

3. It seems to be a proven fact, based on surveys, that most people don’t understand that the Volt is a “switch-hitter” which can perform equally well as an EV or as a gasmobile, either using stored battery power or gasoline. Perhaps if there was better understanding of how the drivetrains work, then more would buy it. Altho no amount of education will fix the problem with the cramped rear seat.

The Prime has cutting edge efficiency on both electric and gasoline power. Far better than the Volt. Pair that with Toyota reliability, more interior space, and a more affordable price, there are lots of reasons some people might buy a Prime over a Volt.

Yes the Volt has better all-electric range and acceleration, which are big, but it’s not entirely one-sided.

Because the volt is Too small for my 6 foot 2 inch frame? Prius is way larger inside. By the time I get comfortable in the volt my 6 year old cannot sit behind me. Non starter.

“Because the volt is Too small for my 6 foot 2 inch frame? Prius is way larger inside. By the time I get comfortable in the volt my 6 year old cannot sit behind me. Non starter.”

Funny that you mentioned that.

My friend just picked up a new Volt this past weekend.

He is 6’3″ and his wife is 5’11″… They have a 5 year old and a 3 years old…

Toyota is targeting ordinary showroom shoppers, those who will discover Prime while at the dealer.

GM has struggled to attract buyers outside of the early-adopter market, which is proving to really be a problem at this point. All plug-in offering much achieve significant growth, to the point of being able to compete with traditional vehicle… before the tax-credits run out.

If the Prius Prime can really accelerate at max without engaging the gas engine, then I think that’s more of an indication of how weak its acceleration is, than any superior engineering.

With a 0-60 time of 11.3 seconds, at least according to AutoWeek (source 1 below), that’s a far cry from the Volt’s time of 7.1 seconds, according to Motor Trend (source 2 below).

source 1:

source 2:

Yep, 11.3 sec 0-60 is lame. About like a Corolla. I really wish they had at minimum gotten it under 10 sec.

Still, there are millions of cars sold with comparable acceleration, so maybe it won’t be a big impediment.

I think you’re missing the point. Engineering to efficiency IS NOT about accelleration, it’s about efficiency. If you want acceleration, buy a Tesla.

The 10.5-11 sec times are in HV mode. In EV mode, initial reports have it closer to 15 secs. Video is cued to timing info (9:31 mark):

Initial acceleration however is better in EV mode:

Which just illustrates that 0-60 time isn’t the best & only criteria for practical car performance. Especially in city driving 0-60 is meaningless if you just need instant response to change lanes in traffic, and automatic transmission starts shifting gears and revving gas engine instead.

CONS: Not much fun to drive, looks like a shoe

IMO we still do not have a really good PHEV. Maybe Nissan will build one half Leaf one half Rogue?

People who buy PEHV aren’t too concerned with 0-60 times. If I want a FAST car, I’ll buy a VET. Seriously, I own 2 Pri’i, a Gen 3 plug-in and a Prius C. I bought them because of their reliability, efficency, sustainability and the free Toyota Maintenance for 24 months. I have experiances ZERO problems with either car. I travel ALOT, and my Plug-in averages 50mpg and it only has an 8 gal tank, so even when gas prices climnb, it’s cheap for me to fill it up. I don’t care about the damn 0-60 time ratings, it will get out of it’s own way when needed and that’s what matters!

Im hopefull toy will sell a lot of these cars….more than hopefull i bet toy really tries to sell it and does.

And just do to the sheer numbers of them and the very low fuel burn this car will take tons of carbon off the street.

My wife still has our 08 and it has 104000 miles on it with close to zero issues. Very reliable.

Actually i should say its my car because my wife stole the model s and now i get stuck with little sipper:)

Real world results: my 08 Gen 2 prius has over 235k miles, no maintenance issues or repairs, the same gas mileage and power as ever. I can carry my three grandkids in the rear with a large carseat. It has an unused compact spare and reardeck storage for lithium jump starter, gas can, tire compressor, hammer and tools for rescuing my daughter’s F150.

Interior and exterior wear and tear has been minimal. I have enough acceleration and use it in traffic and to get on the freeway faster than 90% of other drivers actually accelerate. If I ever need it, I know where to replace the engine and transmission for $1400 same day because I had it done in another Gen 2 prius with over 280k miles and 6 abusive owners. My wife and I are fans because it just runs with no headaches.

Sound’s like Toyota is at least 1 iteration behind the Gen1 Volt. They tried to make the PiP sportier, but still came up short. Same with the EV range. Another mistake they made was 4 seats from the PiPs 5. These are all things GM learned going from Gen1 to Gen2 on the Volt. GM also INCREASED the engine size to reduce NVH. Sounds like Toyota will have to go back to the drawing board if there is to be a Gen 2 Prime.

Good luck to Toyota with the Prime. I don’t know anything about the Prime other than what the brochure says, but I sure hope they engineered it properly. That is, with a proper liquid cooled BMS system, a Li-on battery that has buffer zones on the top and bottom ends.

Last thing the EV/PHEV market needs is another Leaf battery fiasco.

Any question of reliabilty of the Prius?
2002 60K and totaled
2004 360K and sold it
2013 165K and counting

2 problems in all those miles, both on 2004:
L front wheel bearing;
Hybrid water pump, which was recalled 3 months after I had it replaced.
Toyota replaced it again and refunded what I paid for the initial repair.

These are by far the most reliable cars I have ever owned. I drive a lot and have owned a few cars,
including an ’88 Corolla FX that blew a head gasket at 340K (my fault, as I did not take care of the coolant)
I likely will never drive anything but a Prius.
Yes, I am brand and model loyal and have a great dealership 1.5 miles from my home.