The Prius Prime plug-in hybrid, unveiled at the 2016 New York International Auto Show in March (earlier post), features a larger 8.8 kWh battery pack for twice the electric range of its predecessor, as well as some enhancements to its powertrain, including a Toyota-first dual motor generator drive system. This uses both the electric motor and the generator for drive force, helping to boost acceleration performance.
The 2017 Prius Prime offers an EPA-estimated 133 MPGe (miles per gallon equivalent)—a substantial 26% enhancement over its predecessor model, the Prius Plug-in Hybrid, as a result of greater battery capacity and the improved hybrid system. The EPA-estimated all-electric range is up to 25 miles at up to 84 mph. In hybrid mode, the Prius Prime exceeds all competitors’ fuel economy ratings with EPA-estimated 55 city/53 highway/54 combined MPG. Pricing starts at $27,100.
To help make extended EV mode driving range possible using Hybrid Synergy Drive, Toyota modified the system. For the first time in a Toyota hybrid, the system uses a “dual motor drive.” Toyota didn’t add another motor, however. Rather, a new one-way clutch engages both the generator (MG1) and electric drive motor (MG2) for drive force, the first time MG1 has been used for that purpose. Regenerative braking recaptures electrical energy under deceleration and braking and stores it in the battery, which helps to reduce fuel consumption.
The 1.8-liter Atkinson-cycle, 4-cylinder engine, used in all 2017 Prius liftback models, reaches 40%-plus thermal efficiency. The engine features a very high compression ratio of 13.0:1, yet runs on regular-grade gasoline. A number of details throughout the hybrid powertrain contribute to its efficiency, including an exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) system with a cooler; a smaller, lighter, quieter hybrid system water pump, and an exhaust heat recirculation system that speeds engine warm-up.
The combined net output for the Prime’s hybrid system is 121 hp. The effect of the electric motor and the planetary-type continuously variable transmission give the Prius Prime a responsive attitude in urban driving.
The Prius Prime remains a quiet cruiser in all drive modes due to the sound-insulating laminated windshield and front door glass, comprehensive sound insulation measures and the optimized aero shape.
All Prius models are built around Toyota’s New Global Architecture (TNGA) and feature double-wishbone independent rear suspension. Exclusive suspension tuning gives the Prime an enhanced planted stance through curves.
TNGA strength greatly contributes to the level of handling responsiveness, steering feel and ride quality in the Prius Prime. Hot-stamped and high tensile steels, which allow for intricate forms that are both lightweight and strong, are used extensively throughout the body. Aluminum components, including the hood and brake calipers, help keep vehicle weight in check. Innovative fastening methods, including laser screw welding and advanced adhesives, contribute to structural strength.
Additional weight savings come from a Toyota-made lightweight carbon-fiber rear hatch.
The climate control system runs very quietly due to an electric compressor. Toyota calls the system “smart-flow,” because it focuses airflow only to areas where occupants are seated in order to help maximize fuel economy and comfort.
The Prius Prime ensures both a comfortable cabin temperature and optimal EV performance in cold weather. The climate control system can also operate without the engine running, with a heat pump that allows the system to cool or heat the cabin while driving in EV mode.
The heat pump can function without the engine running in weather down to 14 ˚F, where a conventional heat pump system could only function with the temperature above 32 ˚F. On cold days, a battery warmer activates at the end of a charge to keep the battery temperature above 32 ˚F, ensuring that it can deliver optimal EV performance and range when the vehicle is started. On the top-line Prius Prime Advanced model the driver can activate the remote air conditioning system with a key fob or smartphone app to cool the interior before entering the cabin.
Grade strategy. Toyota’s grade strategy for Prius Prime includes grades, Prime Plus, Prime Premium and Prime Advanced, each with successively more amenities and technology.
In addition to numerous other technology amenities, the Prime Advanced offers Blind Spot Monitor (BSM) with Rear Cross-Traffic Alert (RCTA) and Safety Connect, which includes Emergency Assistance, Stolen Vehicle Locator, Roadside Assistance and Automatic Collision Notification. (Includes complimentary three-year trial subscription).
Standard Intelligent Clearance Sonar (ICS) with Intelligent Parking Assist (IPA) uses ultrasonic wave sensors to size up a parallel parking space and then, when activated by the driver, can steer the car into it. The system can also reverse the vehicle into a perpendicular space and automatically steer it out of a parallel space. If you drive into a tight spot, such as a narrow alley or driveway, Intelligent Clearance Sonar provides visible and audible warnings if you get too close to obstacles on the vehicle’s sides.
|2017 Prius Prime MSRP|
|Prius Prime Plus||$27,100|
|Prius Prime Premium||$28,800|
|Prius Prime Advanced||$33,100|
|All prices listed above exclude the Delivery, Processing, and Handling (DPH) fee.|