Oil prices might be at record lows, but vehicles this efficient are still bound to turn some heads. Toyota is doubling down on its plug-in Prius Prime — or at least doubling its mpgs, with a manufacturer-estimated 120 MPGe (miles per gallon equivalent), the highest rating of any plug-in hybrid. That’s one miserly hybrid. When it comes to all-electric, howeve,r the numbers aren’t quite as impressive: The originally-expected 30 miles EV range is in reality 22, according to Toyota — right in line with the EPA estimate — although one can drive at speeds up to 84 mph without leaving EV mode. In all, it represents a substantial 26 percent enhancement over its predecessor.
On one 11.3-gallon tank of regular-grade gasoline and a full electric charge, the 2017 Prius Prime anticipates a class-leading estimated total driving range of over 600 miles. The climate control system can operate without the engine on, with a heat pump that allows the system to cool or heat the cabin while driving in EV mode.
The new-generation Prius Prime is 2.4 inches longer, 0.6 inches wider and about an inch lower than its predecessor. The wind-cheating body and its high-strength/low weight structure (aluminum hood, carbon fiber rear hatch) were critical factors in the Prius Prime’s low energy consumption. Automatic grille shutters help reduce drag by closing when airflow to the radiator is not needed.
Even when not running in EV mode, the Prius Prime will automatically rely more on its electric capability in situations where it is more efficient than running the gasoline engine. The Prius Prime also features a Toyota-first dual motor generator drive system, using both the electric motor and the generator for drive force, helping acceleration performance. The biggest (and most convenient) news, mechanically, is that the Prius Prime can be plugged in at home to recharge its larger 8.8kWh battery pack—no special equipment needed. Charging takes approximately 5.5 hours using a standard household outlet, less than half the time with a 240V source.
Inside, the Prime adds even more premium touches and tech features, including an available 11.6-inch, HD central multimedia screen with standard navigation and available full color head-up display. “Prime” also describes the vehicle’s available advanced safety technology, Toyota Safety Sense, a multi-feature advanced active safety suite. All 2017 Prius hybrid models come standard with eight airbags.
The 2017 Prius Prime will begin arriving in showrooms in late fall.