We can blame Toyota for always getting into the hybrid market late than other automakers. However, one thing the automaker excels at is beating the competition however late it enters into the fray. In the year 2000, Toyota introduced the Prius into the market after witnessing other brands perform well in the hybrid segment. The automaker priced the model competitively compared to its rivals, a factor that saw the model rise very fast to be the best selling hybrid in the world.
However, after its launch, it seemed as if Toyota had gone to sleep as the model had barely evolved amid rising competition all over the marketplace. Since its launch, other automakers have released hybrid models that are even more affordable than the Prius. Finally, Toyota has responded by putting a new life to the Prius to stabilize sales, which have been on a downward trajectory since 2012. Read along for more information:
2017 Toyota Prius Prime Exterior
The Prius Prime looks different from any Prius on the road today. At the front, the model has been revised to differentiate it from non-plug-in Priuses. The front fascia features deeper creases. It also features more slim and sharp LED headlights. The headlights swoop down into the revised acrylic grille, which has been blacked out. The grille and the headlights form a continuous curved shape, which makes the model different from its siblings.
At the rear, the Prius features a “dual wave” which is more pronounced on the hatch lid and the roof. It also features single continuous LED taillights that enhance the model’s double-bubble look.
The exterior shape is very aerodynamic with a coefficient of drag of 0.25 which helps enhance its fuel efficiency. It also features active grille shutters as well as 15-inch alloy wheels wrapped in aero-efficient, 2-tone tires. Buyers will choose among 6 exterior colors, which are Magnetic Gray Metallic, Classic Silver Metallic, Titanium Glow and Blue Magnetism. Hypersonic Red and Blizzard Pearl are only availed for extra outlay.
2017 Toyota Prius Prime Interior
The interior styling is almost unchanged compared to the outgoing model. The cabin accommodates four passengers and still leaves 20 cubic feet of cargo space in the trunk. The rear seats have a 60/40 split folding capacity, which helps expand cargo space when needed.
The new vehicle provides more headroom courtesy of lower mounting for the electric motor, engine and seats. The front seats feature an electric heating feature as standard. The cabin is very quiet thanks to use of sound insulation materials and the model’s high exterior aero efficiency.
More premium materials are used for the model including SofTex synthetic leather, which is used on surfaces that were previously covered in plastic. The Prime also features a 3-spoke steering wheel, which is also wrapped in SofTex. The steering wheel is integrated with controls for the climate control system, audio system, hands-free calling and multi-informational display. The model also features a push-button starter, Smart key entry, 12-volt power outlets, USB power outlet, wireless phone charging and a backup camera.
Buyers will fall in love with the new 11.6-inch HD display mounted on the dash. It offers tablet-like functionality and it has helped replace many buttons and knobs. This screen is however optional (a 7.0-inch display offered as standard). There is another 4.2-inch screen, which displays information on the hybrid system and eco readings.
For infotainment, the new Prime comes with a 6-speaker Entune sound system. It also features external audio input, voice recognition, Siri Eyes Free, Bluetooth connectivity and AM/FM radio. There are additional options to choose from for extra cash.
Drive-train and performance
This is where it matters most in hybrid cars. The Prius Prime features a 1.8 L, Atkinson-cycle mill similar to the one on the outgoing Prius. The engine has been upgraded to achieve a 40% thermal efficiency. The other half of the drive-train features a new 8.8 kWh lithium-ion battery pack which is paired with a dual-motor drive which uses a one-way clutch to engage the electric motor and the gasoline engine. All the juice is sent to the front wheels via a planetary-type CVT system.
Recharging the battery takes 5.5 hours when using a regular household socket and only 2 hours using a 240-volt source. Regenerative braking also adds some charge during regular driving sessions. The new engine provides around 124 MPGe, which is a 26% improvement compared to the outgoing Prius PHEV and is the leading MPGe for any PHEV in the world today.
For regular hybrid driving, the model is quite impressive with a rating of 55 mpg in city, 53 mpg on highway and 54 mpg on combined drives. The Prime offers a 25 miles range on electric power alone, which is enough for regular city commuters between their home and offices. When the gasoline tank is full and the battery is fully charged, the Prime can go as far as 640 miles. The engine is also paired with predictive software that recommends optimal braking as well as acceleration strategies on regular routes. The whole setup produces 121 hp, which powers the Prime to 60 mph from standstill in 10.5 seconds.
Price and release date
The 2017 Toyota Prius Prime will go on sale starting next month in the US. The model will be available in three trim levels. The base Prius Prime Plus has an MSRP of $27,100; the mid Prime Premium attracts $28,800 while the top-of-the-range Prime Advanced attracts $33,100.
The new 2017 Toyota Prius Prime will face major rivalry from the likes of the new Ford C-Max Energi and Chevrolet Volt.