With the 2016 New York Auto Show just one week away, Japanese automaker Toyota has confirmed it will unveil what it claims will be the “next mechanical marvel in the Prius lineup” at the show on March 23. In readiness for that reveal, it has released a teaser image and three-sentence press release to keep us all guessing until that date.
In traditional teaser-photo style, Toyota’s attached image shows frustratingly little of the car: taken against a dark background, the end-on photograph shows the car’s full-width illuminated tail light and the rear window sweeping away from the camera into the black, empty background. The tail light is mildly reminiscent of the full-width racetrack tail lights offered as an option to certain model-year Dodge Dart sedans and is certainly nothing like we’ve seen before in the Toyota Prius’ 19-year existence.
Other than that, there’s nothing. No mention of what role this car will have in the Toyota Prius family, or indeed what we can expect in terms of performance or fuel economy. We’ll have to wait until the car’s official production model debut on March 23 to find out more.
Our friends over at GreenCarReports speculate — and we’d have to agree with them — that the this particular addition to the Toyota Prius family is most likely the next-generation version of the Toyota Prius plug-in hybrid, a car which Toyota has promised will look and feel different to the all-new 2016 Toyota Prius liftback.
When the non plug-in version of the 2016 Prius debuted last year, it echoed many of the design elements found in Toyota’s flagship 2016 Mirai hydrogen fuel cell sedan, from its vertical daytime running lights through to its sleek, narrow headlights and thin, wraparound rear taillights.
The teaser image above looks far less like either the Mirai or the 2016 Prius liftback. Instead, it suggests a sleeker, more svelte rear than either the Mirai or Prius, perhaps belonging to a smaller, more compact vehicle. As GreenCarReports reminds us, that visibly different Prius could be the Prius Prime, a name that was trademarked by Toyota last summer for use in the U.S. market.
Does this mean the Prius Prime will be the same vehicle as the yet-to-be revealed Prius plug-in hybrid? It’s possible, since Toyota is reportedly considering a downsizing of its Prius family, dropping less popular models like the Prius C and Prius V in favor of focusing on core liftback sales. While the first-generation Prius plug-in hybrid didn’t sell in particularly large numbers due to its 6-miles of EPA-approved electric only range (11-miles of EPA-approved ‘blended’ range) it’s worth remembering that a plug-in hybrid variant of the popular hybrid helps Toyota satisfy the Zero Emission Vehicle mandate of California (as well as the other states which follow California’s lead) and as such, is an essential vehicle for the automaker at the current moment in time.
Tie that in with rumors that the next-generation Prius plug-in hybrid comes with 30 to 35 miles of all-electric range courtesy of a larger lithium-ion battery pack, and it does seem to suggest that this mysterious new Prius model could be a sleeker, more fuel-efficient plug-in hybrid model designed from the ground up to accommodate a larger battery pack and operate in electric only mode at higher speeds.
Using a brand-new platform as the basis for this new car would certainly result in a more pleasant driving experience too, since it would enable Toyota to place the battery pack under the cabin floor or perhaps low down along the vehicle’s central spine (as is the case with the 2016 Chevrolet Volt). Previous versions of the Prius plug-in hybrid meanwhile, utilized the same chassis as the standard liftback model, sacrificing the usual under-floor storage area of the liftback for extra lithium-ion battery storage. To ensure a 30+ mile range however, there simply isn’t the space to do the same in a 2016 Prius-derived plug-in variant.
Do you think our predictions are correct? Is this Toyota’s next-generation plug-in Prius variant? Or is there another Prius hybrid model coming to market we’ve yet to think about?
Leave your thoughts in the Comments below.
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