By Keith Buglewicz
KBB Expert Rating: 9.5
Prius Prime is the name of the 2017 plug-in version of Toyota's iconic hybrid, and it offers a lot more than just extended EV-only range and distinctive styling over its non-plug-in cousin. That extra EV range works out to an easily achievable 25 miles, there are multiple driving modes including a Recharge mode that uses the engine to replenish the battery, a distinctive and user-friendly interior that includes a huge 11.6-inch touch-screen display in some models, and a price that actually undercuts the standard Prius after tax incentives. It's a nice-driving, comfortable and quiet alternative to cars like the Chevrolet Volt and Ford C-Max Energi and beats both on price, with a name that's still the gold standard in hybrid circles.
The 2017 Prius Prime offers 25 miles of electric-only range, gets excellent fuel economy the rest of the time, and looks much better than the standard Prius. After tax incentives, it's even less expensive.
The biggest downside to the Prius Prime is that it has room for only four passengers. Its EV-only range is half that of the Chevy Volt. And while the styling is definitely better than the standard Prius, it's still quirky, to say the least.
KBB Expert Ratings
Toyota’s Prius Prime is an all-new model for 2017, but not an all-new idea. This plug-in version of the Toyota Prius has an all-new drivetrain, longer EV range, quicker recharge time, better fuel economy, better looks, and a more high-tech interior than its predecessor and the standard Prius.
The 2017 Toyota Prius Prime is an excellent around-town and highway commuter. Like the rest of the current-generation Prius lineup, it's much quieter than its...
... predecessor, and the Prime's suspension smartly trades handling prowess for an excellent freeway and around-town ride. Acceleration, even in Power mode, isn't exactly brisk, with Toyota saying it reaches 60 mph in about 11 seconds. But nobody buys a Prius of any sort looking for an electrified hot rod. Yet it's what's under the hood that is key to the Prime's prowess. The 8.8 kWh battery pack can drive the Prius Prime for up to 25 miles in pure-EV mode, and it stays in that mode until the battery is depleted or you exceed 84 mph. Other modes include Hybrid, Eco, Power and, if you're stuck in traffic with nothing to do, a Recharge mode that runs the engine to charge the battery.
The 2017 Prius Prime Advanced comes with a suite of apps to help make living with the plug-in hybrid even easier. There's remote-charge management, which lets you set when your car will recharge, remote climate control to make it cool off while still plugged in, charging station maps, and more.
INTELLIGENT DRIVE COACH
The Prius Prime's driving coach takes things a step further than the usual "keep the light green" method. For example, it shows you the right way to use your brakes for maximum regeneration. It also learns your route, providing suggestions for maximizing your efficiency on your way to work or the store.
Capacitive touch buttons set into either piano-black or shiny white plastic (piano white?) inside the 2017 Prius Prime are evocative of the first-generation Chevy Volt, as is the 4-passenger interior that splits the rear bench with a center console. Beyond those surface similarities, it's notably different. The traditional top-of-dash mounted gauges are there so Prius fans won't get confused by traditional gauge placement. But the centerpiece, obviously, is the 11.6-inch touch-screen infotainment display that's standard on Premium and Advanced trim levels. Cribbing from Tesla, the big screen provides two levels of information, such as maps and audio controls, with a tablet-like interface.
The 2017 Prius Prime exterior styling is a classic example of two wrongs making a right. By combining the current Prius body with the headlights of the Mirai hydrogen-powered car, Toyota took two controversially styled vehicles and somehow combined them into a nifty-looking hatchback. The multi-lens headlights are all LED, the look sleek and modern alongside the unique grille treatment. In back, LED taillights wrap horizontally around the trailing edge of the carbon-fiber hatch. The hatch itself is unique. Sporting "dual-wave" glass, it's actually made on the same carbon-fiber loom as the high-tech Lexus LF-A exotic sports car.
There's the plug-in hybrid drivetrain plus all the various trimmings, of course. The base Prius Prime Plus skips the cool touch screen, though, in favor of a 7.0-inch color infotainment display with an integrated rearview camera and navigation, USB port, and phone and music connectivity through Bluetooth. Also standard is Toyota Safety Sense P, which bundles full-speed adaptive cruise control, pre-collision with pedestrian detection, lane-departure warning with steering assist, and automatic high beams. Cloth covers the heated seats, push-button start is standard, and fog lights dress up the exterior. With no spare tire, three years of roadside service also come standard.
If you want more features, you buy more Prius Prime. The mid-level Prius Prime Premium gets SofTex faux-leather seats, including an 8-way-power adjustable driver's seat, keyless entry, and Qi compatible wireless smartphone charging (sorry, iPhone users). It also gets the big 11.6-inch infotainment screen. Opt for the top-line Prius Prime Advanced and you'll get a similar screen but backed by a premium JBL sound system. The Advanced also gets a remotely controlled climate-control system, heated multi-function steering wheel, color head-up display, blind-spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert, and backup sensors with parking assist.
The 1.8-liter 4-cylinder engine provides 95 horsepower on its own, then combines with two electric motors that put out a total of 76 kW; do the math and you get a peak of 121 horsepower. The 8.8 kWh battery pack provides enough juice to drive the Prius Prime just on electricity for up to 25 miles, at speeds up to 84 mph. That works out to a 133 mpge, which Toyota notes is the best rating of any vehicle. In hybrid mode, it beats the regular Prius by a few mpg. Recharge times are about two hours using a 240V charger, or a little more than five hours on a standard 120V outlet. Oddly, the Prius Prime does not support fast "Stage 3" recharging.
4-cylinder hybrid (1.8-liter engine with 53- and 23-kilowatt electric motors)
95 horsepower @ 5,200 rpm (1.8-liter engine)
105 lb-ft torque @ 3,600 rpm (1.8-liter engine)
121 net horsepower (1.8-liter engine plus combined electric output)
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 55/53 mpg, 133 mpge (EV mode)
Note: Due to changes in EPA testing to more effectively reflect real-world conditions, some 2017 models show slightly lower fuel-economy scores than their 2016 versions.
The Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) for a 2017 Prius Prime Plus is a pretty reasonable $27,965, including the $865 destination charge. A Prime Premium starts at $29,665, and the top-level Advanced runs $33,965. Factor in roughly $4,000 in federal tax credits, and the plug-in Prius, with all its fancy hardware, actually undercuts the standard Prius by about $2,400. That's a pretty solid deal however you look at it. It's also important to note that the Prime is less expensive than the Chevrolet Volt by several thousand dollars, although it doesn't have the Volt's 50-mile EV range or the Volt's 5-passenger capacity. It's also less expensive than the Ford C-Max Energi and Ford Fusion Energi. Check the KBB.com Fair Purchase Price to see what others in your area paid for their 2017 Prius Prime, and note that it's a wise investment, as Prius models tend to hold their value.