2017 Prius Prime plug-in hybrid unveiled by Toyota at New York Auto Show

Article by Christian Andrei, on March 28, 2016

One of the most remarkable vehicles seen at the 2016 New York International Auto Show was at the Toyota exhibit -- the 2017 Prius Prime. Long known as the world leader when it comes to hybrid vehicles, Toyota unveiled its latest ultra-efficient model equipped with a plug-in hybrid powertrain, the Prius Prime.

Many people know that the word “Prime” refers to the best and this is apt for this model considering that it is not only the most technologically advanced but also the best-equipped Prius by far. The fuel economy rating of the Prius Prime is manufacturer-estimated to be at least 120 miles per gallon equivalent (MPGe).

This is 26% better compared to the previous model and is predicted to be the highest MPGe rating for a Plug-in Hybrid. All of these are due to an enhanced hybrid system and a battery that offers greater capacity. When the hybrid mode is activated, the Prius Prime hopes to have an MPG rating that is better, or at the very least equal, to that of the Prius liftback.

Unlike the previous iteration of the Prius Plug-in Hybrid, the 2017 Prius Prime has an electric powertrain that is more capable. It has also been combined with an exciting design.

Running purely on electric power, the 2017 Prius Prime is estimated to have a range of 22 miles, twice that of the prior model and enough to meet the daily commuter needs of more than half of drivers in the U.S. Similarly under EV mode, maximum speed is at 84 mph.

Even if the 2017 Prius Prime has excellent fuel economy, it still shows the same dynamics as that of the standard Prius hybrid. This is the result of having an independent double-wishbone rear suspension and a new high-strength platform.

Though the new Prius hybrid already has exclusive technological features and premium styling, the Prius Prime has even more of these. For instance there is the HD central multimedia 11.6-inch screen equipped with the full color head-up display and comes with the standard navigation system.

As the name implies, the Prius Prime also hosts a wide range of the latest in safety technologies like the Toyota Safety Sense P. There is also the advanced active safety suite with a number of features like the Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist, Automatic High Beams, Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection and Automatic Braking, and the Full-Speed Dynamic Radar Cruise Control that comes with full stop technology.

Improving safety even further are the Rear Cross Traffic Alert and Blind Spot Monitor. As part of the lineup of 2017 Prius hybrid models, the Prius Prime has the standard eight supplemental restraint system airbags.

These include the airbags for the driver and front passenger side, a seat cushion airbag for the front passenger, multi-stage driver and front passenger front airbags, driver knee airbag, and full-length curtain airbags.

Exterior Design

Design-wise, the 2017 Prius Prime has the appearance of being from the future. Compared to the previous models, the Prius Prime is wider by 0.6 inches, longer by 2.4 inches, and lower by 1 inch. These extra measurements also give it a larger cargo room compared to the prior versions and it takes on an enhanced road-hugging stance.

The way the body manages to reduce the amount of wind and its low-weight and high-strength structure are important factors that give the Prius Prime its low energy use. The shutters on its automatic grille even help lower the drag by shutting down the airflow that goes to its radiator when it is not needed.

As a result, the coefficient of drag for the Prius Prime is projected to be the lowest among the production sedans. In terms of aerodynamics, the Prius Prime is not far behind. Its edgy character lines and even the chiseled profile give the appearance of challenging the wind.

The quad LED headlights, though it helps conserve energy, continue to glow enough to pierce the night. The LED rear combination lamps meanwhile display that remarkable nighttime signature.

Driver visibility for the Prius Prime continues to be outstanding especially with the standard backup camera and the addition of the full-width aero glass panel above its rear spoiler.

In addition to being an eye-catcher, the already unique aero rear window augments its slipstream character. Despite having more features, Toyota made sure to keep the weight of the Prius models light. This was done by making use of carbon fiber for the rear hatch and aluminum for its hood.

The other parts meanwhile are made up of high-tensile strength steel. In addition, as a result of using carbon fiber, opening and closing the rear hatch takes little or no effort.

Interior Design

While fuel economy is indeed excellent, the interior of the Prius Prime does not have an economical feel to it. The cabin has a four-seat layout with the center console that goes from the front up to the back. This gives the interior the same feel as that of a high-end luxury coupe.

Still, Toyota made sure that the interior remain practical with the 60/40 folding rear seatbacks. Outside noise is minimized resulting from the optimized aerodynamic shape and the front door glass and laminated windshield that have been sound-insulated.

Both drivers and passengers are pampered with the automatic climate control system and the standard heated front seats. It even offers the leather trimmed SofTex synthetic seats. By making use of an electric compressor, the climate control system is now quieter.

It is even smarter as it concentrates the airflow to the areas where the passengers are currently seated. As such, it maximizes both the comfort of the passengers and fuel economy of the vehicle. Even if the gas engine is not turned on, the electric motor can activate the climate control system by using a heat pump that enables the system to heat or cool down the interior.

With the use of a smartphone app or a key fob, the driver can remotely turn on its air conditioning system in order to make sure that the cabin is already cool even before entering it. As expected from a Prius model, the gauge panel on the Prius Prime is centrally mounted, giving it the appearance of floating on top of the dashboard.

This has been the trademark of Prius models since its inception. The panel has a full-color 4.2-inch thin film transistor (TFT) with multi-information displays. It is easy to change the content as all the driver needs to do is use the controls on the steering wheel. Going back to the display, it provides a number of readouts on data related to the hybrid energy, and even more.

In fact, the driver has the option to determine what information to see. The Prius Prime also offers wireless phone charging especially for any Qi-compatible devices. All that needs to be done is to put the device on the console pad to start charging. The vision and the sound inside the Prius Prime is also befitting of its name.

It is equipped with the top-of-the-line Entune multimedia system with the exclusive 11.6-inch HD tablet display. Its navigation graphics are spectacular and with its sensitive touch controls, makes operation easy. Toyota is also offering a select suit of Prius Prime Apps.

These applications help the driver locate charging stations remotely and even do the same in managing the charging status and schedule. The apps also allow one to track and even compare his or her eco driving score with other Prius Prime drivers on social media.

The apps can even control the climate system, among others, remotely through a smartphone. The amazing sound is due to the Entune Premium JBL Audio system with the Integrated Navigation and App Suite and positions 10 JBL GreenEdge speakers around six areas around the cabin.

This particular Entune Multimedia Bundle even offers the AM/FM cache radio which allows songs to be paused and then played later. The multimedia system also has the HD Radio and the SiriusXM Satellite Radio that comes with the 3-month complimentary SiriusXM All Access trial and even the Gracenote album cover art.

There is also the HD Radio predictive traffic and the Doppler weather overlay. Another feature is the USB 2.0 port that offers iPod connectivity and control. It even has the hands-free phone capability and voice recognition through Bluetooth. These allow access to the phonebook and even permit the streaming of music.

For those with iPhones, the Siri Eyes Free mode can also act as an additional in-car assistant. The 2017 Prius Prime’s Entune App Suite allows additional music sources like Pandora, iHeartRadio, and Slacker Radio. It is not limited to music as it also permits access to other features like Facebook Places, MovieTickets.com, Destination Search, OpenTable, and Yelp.

Users can also access apps that provide real-time traffic, sports results, fuel prices, current weather conditions, and stock prices. The fact that Entune services do not require a subscription fee is certainly great news too.


For those who get the chance to drive the Prius Prime, they will soon realize that it does not only lower the number of trips to the pump but makes it even better as a road trip car. This is because the car enables drivers to remain in EV setting in a number of situations and can increase the range, running on even one tank of fuel.

One can use gas, plug it, or do both. When the electric charge and the 11.3-gallon regular-grade gas tank are full, the 2017 Prius Prime can reach a combined driving range of more than 600 miles, placing it at the top of its class. The company however recommends making regular stops not to recharge or refuel the car, but for the convenience of the driver and the passengers.

Powering the Prius Prime and the standard Prius hybrid is the company’s very own Hybrid Synergy Drive powertrain. This powertrain makes use of a continuously planetary-type variable transmission that manages to effortlessly combine the output of the electric motor and the gas engine.

One of the major differences the Prius Prime has over other Prius models is that its 8.8-kWh battery pack is larger and can simply be recharged by plugging it at home. Under the Hybrid mode, the Prius Prime can be driven on using the electric motor, the gasoline engine, or even both in combination.

Despite the Prius Prime not running under the EV setting, it automatically depends on the electric capability especially in conditions where using the electric motor is more efficient compared to using the gasoline engine. This is an ideal choice particularly when driving in urban areas or when using it for shorter trips.

For the first time ever, the Prius Prime will be equipped with Toyota’s dual motor generator drive system. What this system does is to utilize the generator and electric motor for the drive force in order to help increase its acceleration performance.

It also offers regenerative braking which helps obtain electric energy when the vehicle is braking or undergoing deceleration, and then stores it in its battery. The overall result is that it lowers the fuel consumption of the Prius Prime.

Another factor that makes the Prius Prime better is that there is no need for any special equipment when the battery needs to be charged. It comes with a cord and by simply using the typical household outlet, it takes around 5.5 hours to fully charge the battery.

When a 240-volt is used, charging takes only, at most, about half of the time. While the Prius Prime is all about its electric motor, it does not mean that the gas engine has no role to play. In fact, it has a significant role in ensuring the efficiency of the 2017 Prius Prime.

Similar to the 2016 Prius hybrid models, powering the Prius Prime is the 4-cylinder 1.8-liter Atkinson-cycle engine. This same engine also offers an additional thermal efficiency of at least 40%. For many standard engines in most vehicles, the thermal efficiency is just limited to from 25% to 30%.

There are other factors that help with the efficiency of the hybrid powertrain and one of these is the exhaust gas recirculation system that has a hybrid system water pump which is smaller, lighter, cooler, and ultimately quieter. There is also the exhaust heat recirculation system that helps speed the engine warm-up.

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