New York auto show 2016: Toyota Prius Prime amps up plug-in capabilities

  • 24-Mar-2016 12:52 EDT
2017 Toyota Prius prime front.jpg

2017 Toyota Prius Prime doubles the electric-only driving range of previous Prius plug-in hybrid (for more images, click arrow at upper right).

In a slight reboot of its hybrid marketing approach, Toyota used the 2016 New York auto show unveil the 2017 Prius Prime, the plug-in hybrid version of the new-generation 2016 Prius launched last year. Toyota chose to call the plug-in variant Prius Prime to further differentiate it from the “standard” Prius and to try to help customers better understand plug-in technology.

But the differentiation goes beyond marketing: Prius Prime doubles the former Prius plug-in’s electric driving range to an estimated 22 miles (35 km) and can travel on electric power up to 84 mph (135 km/h), while the Prime wears substantially revised sheetmetal compared with the Prius. The Prime also has significant interior changes, including a certain homage to efficient-car rock star Tesla with the availability of a massive 11.6-in (295-cm) center-dash high-definition touchscreen display.

Toyota also would like to differentiate the Prius Prime for another reason: sales of the Prius plug-in have not been strong, at least partly because the plug-in model costs some $5,000 more than the conventional Prius. Toyota executives said the company hopes to reduce that price delta for the new Prius Prime.

At the 2017 Prius Prime unveiling in New York, Toyota said specific fuel-economy figures are not yet available, but it expects the Prime to at least achieve the conventional Prius ratings of 54 mpg (4.4 L/100 km) city and 50 mpg (4.7 L/100 km) highway, despite the added weight of the Prius Prime’s larger 8.8 kW/h battery. Toyota estimates that the new Prius Prime will have a full-charge driving range of 600 miles (966 km) and an estimated mpg-e rating of 120 miles (95 mpg-e for the previous Prius plug-in).

The Prius Prime employs the same new Toyota global modular vehicle platform, TNGA (Toyota New Global Architecture), as the standard 2016 Prius, the first Toyota model to use the platform. The TNGA platform boasts an independent rear suspension and a lower center of gravity.

Although additional battery specifics weren’t provided, Toyota said the Prius Prime’s 8.8 kW/h lithium-ion battery pack can be fully recharged via a household 120-volt outlet in 5.5 hours; that time can halved with a 240-volt Level 2 charger. The battery’s doubled capacity combines with upgrades to the hybrid system hardware that enable both the traction motor and the generator to drive the front wheels; the company said the 2017 Prius Prime is the first Toyota hybrid to use the new dual-motor generator drive.

Also available for the new Prius Prime—which the company said will be in U.S. showrooms in late fall of 2016—will be a suite of advanced driver-assistance features that include full-range adaptive cruise control, pre-collision braking and pedestrian detection. An automatic parking function will park the Prius Prime in a parallel parking spot or back the car into a perpendicular spot. The system also will steer the car out of a tight parallel parking spot.

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