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2017 Toyota Prius Prime


With 2017 Toyota Prius Prime, Toyota continues to surprise me. While other automakers are busy trying to improve their EVs and hybrid technologies, the Japanese automaker is proceeding with caution.  When we all expected a plug-in Prius with a huge electric range, Toyota has just improved the model slightly.

The automaker has only improved its range slightly and made the cabin more stylish. However, these changes seem to be forced by a recent development where rival automakers have produced more luxurious and affordable EVs and hybrids.

The outgoing Prius with only 12 miles of pure electric range seemed like a conventional vehicle compared to some rival models. Though the automaker has almost doubled its range to 22 miles, the new range remains below par compared to models like the Chevrolet Volt.

With more affordable hybrids in the market, it remains to be seen whether many people will be as excited as they were with the first Prius plug-in hybrid. Read along to find out the changes Toyota has hooked up the new Prius Prime with:

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2017 Toyota Prius Prime Exterior

The Prime carries the same Prius look we are all familiar with.  It continues the Prius principals of ‘minimal air resistance’. At the front, it features a new grille with automatic grille shutters. The grille is flanked by a pair of new horizontal quad LED headlamps and vertical LED DRLs.

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The rear is a bit bulging and features wing-shaped taillights which are also hooked up with LED lighting. Overall, the model features strong character lines and angular curves.

Dimension-wise, the Prime is slightly larger than its predecessor by around 2.4 inches and wider by 0.6 inches. It sits an inch lower than the outgoing Prius. Its body structure is made of high-strength steel, aluminum and carbon fiber which translate to improved efficiency and performance.

The overall design is aerodynamic meaning the Prime will have one of the lowest coefficients of drag in the sedan segment. Its automatic grille shutters helps improve its aerodynamics even further.

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2017 Toyota Prius Prime Interior

Sliding inside, you will find a cabin equipped with many features as standard. The cabin accommodates four passengers comfortably. The front seats are heated while the rear seats have a 60/40 split folding capability. The seats are upholstered in a quality fabric.

Tech-wise, the Prime comes with an 11.6-inch Entune infotainment screen as standard. The up-to-date Entune infotainment system integrates various apps that allow the driver to manage the vehicle’s charging schedule, locate charging stations as well as manage the automatic climate control system using a Smartphone. A driver can even compare his driving score with other drivers on social media.

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For audiophiles, the vehicle comes with a 10-speaker JBL GreenEdge sound system. This system is offered in a package which also packs an Entune App suite which gives access to Pandora iHeartRadio, Slacker Radio, Yelp, Facebook and Destination Search among others.

Other features include Qi wireless charging and two additional 4.2-inch display screens. Its automatic climate control is uniquely designed such that it focuses air flow specifically to where passengers are seated.

The vehicle is also equipped with the new Toyota Safety Sense P suite which offers an array of driving aids including lane departure warning with steering assist, automatic high-beams, pre-collision warning with automatic brake assist and pedestrian detection as well as dynamic radar cruise control with a stop function. In addition, rear cross traffic alert, Toyota’s intelligent parking assist and blind-spot monitoring can be had as options.

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Engine Specs and Performance

The new Prius Prime features Toyota’s upgraded Hybrid Synergy Drive system that combines a petrol engine and an electric motor. The pair is mated to a planetary-type CVT system which channels power to the front wheels. The new Prime can be charged from a standard household socket.

The petrol engine is carried over from the 2016 Prius. It is a 1.8 L Atkinson-cycle 4-cylinder engine.  The engine is rated to return 120 MPGe which is a huge improvement (26%) from the previous model. The electric motor also provides an improved electric range of 22 miles as said earlier. The automaker has also raised the speed while on the EV mode to 84 mph.

The Prime’s engine is a little different from the standard Prius hybrid drive-train in that it uses a dual-mode generator system. This means the system can use both the generator and electric motor to boost its acceleration.

Its 8.8 kWh lithium-ion battery pack is recharged via regenerative braking which helps improve its fuel economy. The engine is also recharged via a household current for 5.5 hours while a 240-volt system can recharge the battery in half that time. Toyota also adds that when fully recharged and with a full tank, the vehicle can attain a range of 600 miles.

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Price and release date

The 2017 Toyota Prius Prime will be available in Toyota dealerships this fall. The automaker, however, did not give any details about its price. Considering the improved engine and interior, a slight price hike is likely. Expect the plug-in hybrid to start at around MSRP $ 30,000.

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Competition

As I said in the introduction part, it remains to be seen if the Prius Prime 2017 will be accepted with the same gusto as the standard Prius hybrid. This is because there are better equipped and affordably priced EVs and hybrids in the market.

Leading this pack is the Chevrolet Volt with 53 miles of all electric range. Ford will also rival the Prius with their Fusion Hybrid though it comes with a smaller range than the Prius (20 miles).

Toyota needs to do more with this plug-in hybrid.

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