You’ll be excused for bypassing the new Toyota Prius Prime’s headline fuel economy rating of 120MPGe that’s expected to top all production plug-in hybrids, and focusing on its revamped looks. We sure did.
If you haven’t noticed, Toyota has been trying to shake off its ‘beige’ image lately, bringing more emotion to the brand through livelier designs – you may not fall in love with their newest cars, but they won’t go by unnoticed either, something that applies to the new Prime member of the Prius family.
To distance it from the plain hybrid Prius, Toyota’s designers went all Acura NSX with the Prime’s front that now features pinched quad LED headlights, a new grille and a heavily sculpted bumper - and yes, the end result is more complicated than biochemistry pathway chart. They finished up the exterior makeover at the back by swapping the tear-drop-style tail lamps for a unibrow-style unit.
Some changes were made inside too, with Toyota giving the Prius Prime additional premium touches highlighted by the very-Tesla like 11.6-inch tall, high-definition central infotainment screen and an available full color head-up display, while a number of functions, such as checking the charging schedule and remotely activating the air-condition system, are available through a smartphone app.
It also gets the Toyota Safety Sense suit that packages the Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection and Automatic Braking, Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist, Full-Speed Dynamic Radar Cruise Control and Automatic High Beam.
Strangely, Toyota chose to discard the middle rear seat turning the Prime into a four-seater, separating the two rear passengers with a console.
Of course, the prime reason why you would go for this version of the Prius in the first place is the improved efficiency and the increased battery-only driving range. Toyota estimates that the Prime will get 120 or above MPGe (miles per gallon equivalent) offering a total range in excess of 600 miles (965 kilometers), and a pure electric range of 22 miles, which is double what the previous Prius PHEV offered, but it’s slightly behind Hyundai’s new Ioniq PHEV that is said to return over 25 miles.
To get these numbers, Toyota’s engineers doubled up on the older Prius plug-in hybrid’s battery capacity, with a new 8.8 kWh lithium-ion battery pack that can be charged in approximately 5.5 hours using a standard household outlet or half the time with a 240V source. The Prime is also the first Toyota model to feature dual motor generator drive system that uses both the electric motor and the generator for drive force, to boost acceleration. The electric drive system is paired to the familiar 1.8-liter Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder gasoline engine with a planetary-gear continuously variable transmission (CVT).