Hybrid cars are the darlings of the environmentally conscious set. Going green is the thing to do and the fact that buying a hybrid saves money at the pump is an added bonus. The Toyota Prius is the first car most people think of when they think hybrid and now Toyota is adding the plug-in Prius Prime.
Unlike Optimus Prime, it does not transform, but it’s still a fantastic hybrid. The Prius Prime is the most fuel-efficient Prius ever with pricing that makes it affordable. Let’s start with the fuel economy. It gets an EPA-estimated 124 mpge giving it the highest rating of any hybrid plug-in available.
That incredible number is partly due to the Prime’s ability to travel up to 25 miles at speeds as high as 84 mph exclusively in EV mode. That might not seem like much, but it’s enough to cover the daily commute of more than half of US drivers. Switch from EV mode to Hybrid mode and you’ll get an EPA-estimated 55 mpg in the city and 53 mpg on the highway. And then there’s the Prius Prime’s range. You can drive 640 miles without filling up so you’ll spend less time and money at the pump.
Charging the Prius Prime requires no special equipment. Toyota doesn’t expect you to pay to purchase and install an in-home charging station. Instead, the Prius Prime comes with a power cable that lets you plug into an ordinary household outlet. It has a charge time of only five and a half hours this way so it will be fully charged by bedtime if you plug-in when you get home from work. For faster charging, plug the Prius Prime into a 240-volt source and you’re good to go in about two hours. It all sounds great, but what’s it like to get behind the wheel?
Turns out, the Prius Prime is a surprisingly peppy car. Once upon a time, hybrids were miserable, boring things to drive, but not anymore. This isn’t a sports car, not even close, but it handles well and has plenty of acceleration for merging into highway traffic. You won’t feel like you’re going to be run over and you won’t feel like the engine is straining to do the job. It’s also quiet during acceleration so passengers won’t have the noise of an overtaxed engine interfering with their conversations.
Open the tailgate and there are 19.8 cubic feet of cargo space with the 60/40 split-fold rear seats up. The opening is nice and wide and the tailgate lifts high, which makes loading up easier. The drawback is that those who are on the shorter side, especially kids, will find it a challenge to reach up and pull that tailgate back down. It’s also tough to manage one-handed even if you are tall enough to reach the grab handles.
Outside, the Prius Prime looks a lot like the regular Prius with a couple of tweaks. It has the same silhouette, but unique front and rear fascias, bumpers, and lighting systems. There’s also a little dip in the rear spoiler that, at first glance, almost looks like a dent. Nope, that’s style and it’s unique only to the Prius Prime. There are also standard quad LED projector headlights, LED daytime running lights, and LED brake lights.
The cabin is roomy with seating for four passengers. Push the front seat back and even taller drivers will have room while rear passengers won’t find their knees pressing the backs of the front seats. Choose from Prime Plus, Prime Premium, or Prime Advanced trims depending on the level of comfort you seek.
The midrange Prime Premium adds amenities like heated front seats and an 8-way power adjustable driver’s seat with power lumbar. The top trim Prime Advanced adds remote air conditioning, heated steering wheel, color head-up display, blind spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert, and intelligent parking assist to help manage tight spots.
Toyota Safety Sense P is standard on every Prius Prime. It includes pre-collision with pedestrian detection and automatic braking, lane departure alert with steering assist, full-speed dynamic radar cruise control with full stop technology, and automatic high beams. It gives the Prius Prime more standard active safety features than any other hybrid in its class.
The standout feature inside is the infotainment screen. The base Prime features a 7-inch touchscreen, but both the Prime Premium and Prime Advanced have an 11.6-inch vertical touchscreen. It looks very Tesla-ish, but Toyota says they started working on this way before Tesla brought it to market. You can use the screen the same way as a tablet or smartphone, pinching and zooming for the perfect view.
Capacitive touch controls on either side of the screen give quick access to things you use often like temperature controls. The screen itself is fantastic with large icons taking full advantage of the screen’s size. It makes glancing down less distracting and when you’re using navigation, that larger map area makes it easier to see your next turn so you stay on track.
Pricing is $27,100 for the Prime Plus, $28,800 for the Prime Premium, and $33,100 for the Prime Advanced. Once you take into account federal and state tax credits, those prices drop by thousands of dollars. Add in great range, fantastic fuel economy, and a comfortable interior and the plug-in Prius Prime is worth the attention of the fuel-savvy buyer.