Words & Photos: Isabel N. Delos Reyes
The 2nd generation plug-in happens to also be the best Prius ever
Another Prius?! How different could it be? C! Founding Editor Kevin C. Limjoco calls them “enduring appliances”. And he insisted that I review the very newest 2nd generation Plug-In variant, now called Prius Prime. My eldest son, Andreas, teased me that it wasn’t a transformer character. First of all, I have tested the last three generations of the game-changing Toyota Prius, which includes the entry-level Prius C and the first Plug-In, which was not that impressive because it did not offer enough realistic benefits over the standard hatch at the time.
I’ve been told that the new Prius Prime name is meant to distinguish the model away from the already impressive new 4th generation car not just with how it looks but how far Toyota has developed the mass-market alternative fuel car in terms of efficiency, environmental sensitivity, and performance.
Our top-range Advanced trim test unit came in Blue Magnetism with tasteful Moonstone SofTex interior, the color looks nicer than it sounds. The slightly longer and lower Prime looks a lot better than the standard Prius resembling the considerably more expensive and larger Hydrogen Fuel Cell Toyota Mirai (though it does come with 3 years of complimentary fuel or $15,000.00 maximum, whichever comes first, so it kind of evens out) with the awesome Quad-LED headlights and LED foglamps. The Mirai has a maximum EPA-rated range of 500 kilometers, and after those three free years are up, who knows where and how much it would be to source the Hydrogen fuel again. The Prime doubles the battery capacity of the previous model Plug-In with a quicker-charging 95-cell, 8.8-kWh battery pack with a new one-way clutch for better power transfer at a penalty of 265 pounds of weight and about 7.6 cubic feet less trunk space. Fully charged, the Prime can be driven electric-only for 40 kilometers up to 135 km/h and has a combined Hybrid range that can exceed 1,024 kilometers. Will the motorhead guys out there feel better too if I told you that the neat-looking rear hatch is made of carbon-fiber and saves 8 pounds?
Until the Toyota Prime, I preferred the Chevrolet Volt because it performed more like a regular car and it had really cool gadgets. The current Volt is still quicker and more energetic to drive aggressively but these are less important for me now. I have grown up and have become more practical. I want better efficiency, more comfort, and better looks combined with all the new technology. What the Prime gives up in pep and one less seat more than makes up for it in the overall driving experience. Its dynamic performance seems even better than the Prius Four Touring! The suspension has been tweaked from the standard Prius hatch so the Prime feels much better on the road, the ride is buttery smooth, very compliant, with the most high-quality steering feel in a Hybrid short of the Germans.
When it comes to tech and gadgetry, now Toyota bests Chevrolet with a great sounding 10-speaker JBL audio system, active front grill shutters, a massive 11.6-inch vertically oriented high-resolution control touchscreen to address Tesla-envy, a long list of standard equipment, and it has a much nicer and more refined interior. The small 15-inch 10-spoke wheels with P195/65R15 89S Toyo/NanoEnergy A29 tires looked alright and helped make the driving experience effortless with its small but sticky footprint. I would love to own one!
Specification – 2017 Toyota Prius Prime Advanced
Engine: Inline-4, 1797 cc, dohc 16V, Atkinson-cycle, VVT-I, Hybrid Synergy System, eCVT
Max power: 95 bhp (gas) @ 5200 rpm / 71 hp (EV) = 121 hp blended
Max torque: 105 lb ft (gas) @ 3600 rpm / 120 lb ft (EV)
0-100 km/h (0-62mph): 9.7 sec.
Top Speed: 190 km/h (118 mph)
Fuel Mileage: 55 mpg City & 53 mpg Highway (133 MPGe)
Price as tested: US$ 36,305.00
C! RATING 10/10
+Despite the additional weight and reduced trunk capacity, it’s the very best Prius ever in all respects. Has double the EV range of the previous generation Plug-In Hybrid. Potential combined range exceeding 1,000 kilometers.
-Offered in limited markets, could have been a bit more spirited.