Last week, one week before the start of the 2016 New York Auto Show, Japanese automaker Toyota teased a single image of what it claimed would be “the next mechanical marvel in the Prius lineup.”
At the time, we postulated that the image — which highlighted a full-width stop light across the rear spoiler of the vehicle — belonged to the Toyota Prius Prime, a name trademarked by Tesla last year and quietly assumed to be the new name for Toyota’s next-generation Prius plug-in hybrid.
Today on the opening day of the New York Auto Show, Toyota confirmed the rumors to be true by unveiling the all-new 2017 Toyota Prius Prime plug-in Hybrid.
A brand-new Toyota Prius capable of travelling 22 miles per charge in all-electric mode at speeds of up to 84 miles per hour, the all-new 2017 Toyota Prius Prime is stylistically similar enough to the fourth-generation Toyota Prius (which debuted last year as a 2016 model-year car) to be familiar on the road but different enough to stand alone as a unique addition to the Prius family.
For a start, the Prius Prime features different front and rear body panels to the Prius hybrid. The front takes its design cues from both the Toyota Mirai hydrogen fuel cell sedan and the 2016 Toyota Prius hybrid. The lights, for example, are narrower and are closer in style to those found on the Mirai, while the lower grille is much narrower than that found on the Prius hybrid, leaving more space for the massive vertical daytime running lights. The grille itself also features automatic shutters designed to lower drag when cooling is not required, improving efficiency and all-electric range as well as warm-up time in the winter.
The rear, meanwhile, features an all-new rear tailgate that’s exclusive to the Prius Prime, with wrap-around tail lights that travel along the spoiler to form a single one-piece stop light that stretches from one side of the car to the other. The tailgate itself, made of carbon fiber, is one of the many places in the Prius Prime where Toyota says it has used newer, lighter materials in order to maximize range and efficiency.
Inside, there are some noticeable difference too. while the general layout of switches and driver instrumentation remains the same, the center console of the 2017 Prius Prime has been given a major reworking when compared to the 2016 Prius. Instead of the 7-inch touchscreen display of the infotainment system found on higher trim levels of the 2016 Toyota Prius, the 2017 Toyota Prius Prime features a much-larger 11.6-inch HD touch-screen display, arranged in portrait mode for maximum ergonomics.
While it’s not quite the 17-inch touch-screen display found in the Tesla Model S and Tesla Model X electric cars, the Prius Prime’s new 11.6-inch display certainly makes an impression, and Toyota says it will grant access to a whole suite of different in-car and add-on apps thanks to its EnTune telematics system.
As with the new fourth-generation Prius, the Prius prime features bluetooth connectivity along with Siri Eyes-Free, as well as a choice of different Internet radio station choices, AM/FM radio and optional SiriusXM satellite radio. The center console also features wireless cell phone charging for QI-compatible devices.
Moving to the rear, we note Toyota has decided to make the 2017 Toyota Prius Prime a four-seat vehicle, replacing the central middle rear-row seat of the standard Prius liftback with a centre console, complete with cupholders for rear passengers. While it’s not clear why Toyota made this move, we think it was one made in poor judgement. That’s because there are plenty of five-seat plug-in hybrids on the market offering similar all-electric range, not to mention the longer-range 2017 Chevrolet Volt range-extended electric car — which replaced the four-seat layout of the first-generation Volt with a four + 1 layout for the second-generation model that debuted last year.
Regardless of its badge, Toyota’s all-new Prius Prime will have to compete with these models in the marketplace.
Which brings us nicely to the powertrain. Thanks to an 8.8 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack, Toyota says the Prius Prime can travel up to 22-miles in electric only mode at speeds of up to 84 mph before the gasoline engine kicks in. Unlike its predecessor, Toyota promises the Prius Prime won’t suddenly turn on its engine if you accelerate too briskly either, meaning it is the first Prius plug-in hybrid that can be truly driven in all-electric mode without needing to watch your right foot.
Recharging of that battery pack is said to take 5.5 hours from a standard 120-volt domestic outlet, or about half that time if paired with a compatible 240-volt charging station. When the battery pack has been depleted, Toyota says the 11.3-gallon (U.S.) fuel tank can supplement the all-electric range to give a total autonomy of 600 miles per combined refuelling.
Official fuel economy, along with final pricing, has yet to be announced, but Toyota says it hopes the Prius prime will gain an official EPA rating of 22 miles per charge at an estimated 120 MPGe, while hinting that its hybrid MPG should “equal or better” the standard Prius liftback it shares a 1.8-litre, four-cylinder gasoline engine with.
Do you think the 2017 Toyota Prius Prime will attract new buyers to the plug-in world? Is 22 miles of range enough? And what about the deletion of that third seat in the rear?
Let us know your initial reactions to the Prius Prime in the Comments below.
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