The plug-in version of the Toyota Prius hybrid is back after a one-year absence. Sporting a new Prius Prime name, the second-generation model is more powerful and better equipped than the previous version. Most significantly, the 2017 Prius Prime is priced $3,000 less than the 2015 Prius Plug-in.
Three Prius Prime Grades
Toyota presented the 2017 Prius Prime at a national press corps meet up in Southern California in late September. Company officials stated that the Prius Prime name was chosen to signify that it represents the ultimate vehicle in the four-model Prius family. Besides the original Prius and the Prius Prime, the Prius c compact and the Prius v wagon round out the Prius line.
The 2017 Prius Prime is available in three grades: Plus ($27,100), Premium ($28,800) and Advanced ($33,100). Add $865 for your destination charge. All three models are mono-spec, meaning that there are no factory options available.
Buyers may also qualify for a federal tax credit of up to $4,500 and local credits of up to $2,000, further extending this vehicle’s improved value proposition.
Dual Motor Drive and Improved Efficiency
The front-wheel drive Prius Prime is powered by a 1.8-liter, four-cylinder engine and features dual motor drive. As before, one electric motor is present, but the updated hybrid system now utilizes a one-way clutch to engage both the generator and electric motor to drive force to the wheels for improved performance.
The engine and the electric motor work in tandem with a continuously variable transmission (CVT). The gasoline engine alone delivers 95 horsepower. When the engine and electric motor are operating concurrently, 121 horsepower is offered and 105 pound-feet of torque is at the ready.
Toyota expects an EPA-estimated 55 mpg in the city and 53 mpg on the highway for a combined 54 mpg. That’s a 4 mpg improvement over the previous model. Significantly, Toyota says the Prius Prime can operate in electric-only mode at speeds up to 84 mph and with a range of up to 25 miles. Both numbers represent a marked improvement over the 2015 model with its 62 mph top EV speed and 11-mile range.
Credit a larger lithium-ion battery pack for these advances. Despite its increased footprint and location behind the rear seat and underneath the cargo area, you can still fold that seat to expand the already generous 19.8 cubic feet of standard cargo volume.
Charging Made Simple
No special equipment is needed to charge the Prius Prime. A simple hookup to a 120-volt household outlet fully replenishes stored electricity in 5 1/2 hours. For buyers preferring faster charge times, connecting to a 240-volt outlet will reduce that time to about 2 hours.
As an added incentive Toyota has partnered with the world’s largest charging network, ChargePoint, to provide ease of access to users. Although most charging stations are free, some charge a fee. Thus, Toyota is supplying Prius Prime buyers with a ChargePoint card and a $100 credit to get them started.
Exterior and Interior Highlights
The most telling difference between Prius standard and Prius Prime models is evident in its front and rear fascias and bumpers. Most notably, the Prius Prime features a dual wave rear window with a unique combination light design.
Standard exterior equipment includes quad LED projector headlights, LED daytime running lights, and LED taillights. An active grille shutter, heated power side mirrors and 15-inch wheels are included.
The Premium grade adds a smart charging cable lock. The Advanced grade brings in LED fog lights and accent lights as well as rain-sensing wipers.
Inside, the Prius Prime offers seating for four. Instead of offering a fifth seating position, Toyota has a pair of cup holders and a storage compartment situated between the rear seating positions.
All models come with power accessories, a tilt-and-telescopic steering column and illuminated visors. Cloth seats are standard and imitation leather (Softex) is introduced at the Premium level.
The Premium edition also brings in heated front seats, an eight-way power driver’s seat with lumbar support, smart key access and a smartphone wireless charging pad. The Advanced model offers remote air-conditioning control, an automatic dimming rearview mirror, and a cargo area tonneau cover.
Technology and Safety Features
The Toyota Prius has always been a strong leader in all things technology and the 2017 Prius Prime advances that leadership.
All models come with an Entune Premium audio system with navigation and an app suite. A backup camera, HD radio, satellite radio, Bluetooth connectivity and voice recognition are included. The Plus edition features six speakers and a 7-inch touch screen. You’ll also find a USB port, an auxiliary audio port and a pair of 12-volt outlets.
Upgrade to Premium and this model brings in an 11.6-inch high-resolution touch screen, which is the largest display offered in a Toyota product. Siri Eyes Free, Gracenote album cover art, and a charging station map are included. Choose the Advanced grade and a 10-speaker JBL GreenEdge audio system is presented.
All models now come with Toyota Safety Sense P (TSS-P), a package comprised of an in-vehicle camera and front-grille-mounted radar for improved functionality. TSS-P includes adaptive cruise control, a pre-collision system (with vehicle and pedestrian detection), lane departure alert and automatic high beams. Notably, none of these features were available with the first-generation model.
Choose the Advanced edition and Toyota adds its Safety Connect telematics system, which comes with a stolen vehicle locator, roadside assistance and automatic collision notification. This grade also brings in a head-up display, blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert and parking assist.
On the Road: 2017 Prius Prime
Shoppers familiar with the standard Prius will find a similar driving experience in the Prius Prime. On one of our three driving circuits, we took our test vehicle on a challenging 73-mile loop on California Highway 33, passing through the Los Padres National Forest. This gradually rising and twisting road offers breathtaking views, eventually reaching 5,160 feet before easing slightly.
Along the way the Prius Prime demonstrated it is clearly designed to handle rigorous driving, never flagging once as the narrow road rose, twisted, and breached each summit. The hybrid synergy system is suited for this car, delivering acceptable off-the-mark acceleration while steadily maintaining its speed when full-power was warranted.
The Prius Prime may not have the taut handling characteristics of a Toyota 86, but neither does it wander when navigating the tightest turns. The low rolling resistance tires may be its greatest weakness, but not enough for us to want to replace them and lose overall efficiency.
Primed for a Prius?
Fuel prices are at the lowest levels we have seen in years, but that isn’t stopping Toyota from offering an increased number of alternative vehicles.
Beyond the Prius family, you’ll find four other Toyota hybrids as well as the hydrogen-powered Toyota Mirai. Together, they form the core of Toyota’s strategy to have the right mix of vehicles in place now and for when gas prices rise. Fortunately for today’s shoppers, the Toyota Prius Prime is an all-around better car than the one it replaces. An attractive price point also makes it worthy of your consideration.