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  • 2017 Prius Prime Advanced

    Posted on April 24th, 2017 ninarussin

    Plug-in hybrid gets more range and better handling

    By Nina Russin

    2017 Toyota Prius Prime

    2017 Toyota Prius Prime

    The Prime is the plug-in version of Toyota’s popular gasoline-electric hybrid lift-back. Unlike the first Prius plug-in, the second-generation car gets its own name and some unique styling, most noticeably the same dual wave window as Toyota’s Mirai fuel cell car.

    The Prime boasts some engineering advances over the model it replaces: better EV range at higher speeds, more active safety features, enhanced infotainment and better ride and handling. The newest Prius platform features a double wishbone rear suspension replacing the torsion beam on earlier models. Since the suspension supports the battery pack, the new arrangement eliminates the clunking sound that occurred when the prior model rode over bumps.

    There is also a night-and-day difference in on-center steering response, something the engineers are justifiably proud of. Drivers can make quick lane changes and emergency evasive maneuvers with much more confidence.

    2017 Toyota Prius Prime

    2017 Toyota Prius Prime

    Pricing for the upscale Advanced model starts at $33,100 excluding the $865 destination charge. Among the comfort and convenience features are an 11.6-inch high-definition center stack screen, rain-sensing wipers, LED headlamps, heated power outside mirrors, JBL premium audio system with navigation and Toyota Entune, heads-up display, SofTex heated front seats, split-folding rear seat, push-button start, Qi wireless charging, and a Smart-Flow climate control system with electronic air conditioning compressor. The electronic compressor is important, because it continues to run when the gasoline engine turns off at idle.

    Options on the test car include illuminated door sills, a tabled holder, 15-inch alloy wheels and wheel locks, paint protection film and a glass breakage sensor, bringing the final MSRP to $36,081.

    Toyota Synergy Drive updates

    2017 Toyota Prius Prime

    2017 Toyota Prius Prime

    Toyota developed its Synergy Drive hybrid technology in-house, the idea being that the company could respond more quickly with engineering updates. Most recently, Toyota made the transition from nickel metal-hydride to lithium-ion batteries. The lithium-ion unit its more compact and more powerful than the battery pack in the first-generation plug-in. Recharging takes about five-hours on typical household current or about two hours using a 240-volt source.

    As with previous versions of the system, there are two electric motor drives, but engineers have developed a new one-way clutch that engages both motors to reduce fuel consumption.

    When fully charged, the Prius Prime can travel up to 25 miles at speeds up to 85 miles-per-hour in EV mode. EPA’s average fuel economy rating for the gasoline-electric powertrain is 54 miles-per-gallon.

    Test drive in Southern Arizona

    2017 Toyota Prius Prime

    2017 Toyota Prius Prime

    Over the past week I drove the Prius Prime throughout the Phoenix, Arizona metropolitan area, taking in some rush-hour traffic in the city center, as well as highways and surface streets further out. A trip over to the Bush Highway that runs along the eastern border of the Superstition Mountains was a real-world test of fuel-economy since it includes about 1,000 feet of elevation gain. Driving along rural roads on the Gila River Indian Community south of town gave me opportunity to see how the suspension performed on rougher road surfaces. Average fuel economy for the 150-mile test drive was 48.5 mpg according-to the car’s information display.

    Fans of previous Prius and Prius plug-in models have a lot of reasons to love the new car even more. It’s more fuel-efficient and yet more spacious, with a big enough cargo area to stash a road bike inside with the rear seats folded flat.

    Active safety features on the test car include a rearview camera, blind spot monitoring, autonomous braking with pedestrian detection, lane departure alert and adaptive cruise control. A heads-up display minimizes driver distraction by displaying speedometer readings in the base of the windshield.

    2017 Toyota Prius Prime

    2017 Toyota Prius Prime

    Qi wireless charging is a big deal for Droid owners. Apple has yet to make its IOS system compatible, but rumors are that it may be coming soon. The charging mat is-located-in the center console forward of the shift knob.

    Because electric motors develop peak torque at extremely low engine speeds, the Prius accelerates quite hard off the line and in the 20-to-50 mile-per-hour range drivers use merging into highway traffic. The revised steering system is much more responsive at high speeds, and the suspension more adept at soaking up the bumps on less-than-perfect road surfaces.

    Creating a quiet interior for a car with weight restrictions is a difficult challenge since insulation materials are heavy. But Toyota engineers did an excellent job, enabling occupants to converse with ease on the highway or enjoy the premium sound system.

    Braking is, in the Prius tradition, quite good. And as with previous iterations, regenerative braking recharges the battery pack on the go.

    Visibility to the front and sides of the vehicle is good. The extremely raked dual wave rear window is a bit of a challenge. Fortunately, the standard rearview camera eliminates any blind spots when the driver shifts into reverse. Blind spot monitoring makes it much easier to weave through dense traffic by illumination LED signals in the side mirrors when the vehicles in adjacent lanes pass through the driver’s blind spots.

    High-tech interior

    2017 Toyota Prius Prime

    2017 Toyota Prius Prime

    The white and black color scheme on the test car’s interior is in keeping with the Prius Prime’s high-tech mission. It is contemporary and spacious, with the versatility to meet the needs of buyers with active lifestyles. I was-able-to adjust the power driver’s seat for a clear forward view and plenty of lower lumbar support for longer drives. The huge center stack screen is easy to read in bright sunlight and after dark. Separate climate, audio tuning and volume controls minimize driver distraction. Although the second-row seat can theoretically hold three passengers, two will be more comfortably except on very short drives.

    Standard safety

    The Toyota Prius Prime comes with seven airbags, antilock brakes, traction control, stability control, rearview camera, blind spot monitoring, autonomous braking with pedestrian detection, lane departure alert, automatic high beams, LED headlamps and tire pressure monitoring.

    Toyota builds the Prius Prime at its Aichi, Japan assembly plant.

    Like: An extremely fuel-efficient gasoline-electric hybrid with a versatile interior that meets the needs of buyers with active lifestyles.

    Dislike: Poor rear visibility due to the rear window’s extreme rake.

    Quick facts:

    Make: Toyota
    Model: Prius Prime Advanced
    Year: 2017
    Base price: $33,100
    As tested: $36,081
    Horsepower: 95 HP @ 5200 rpm (gasoline engine only)
    Torque: 105 lbs.-ft. @ 3600 rpm (gasoline engine only)
    Zero-to-sixty: N/A
    Antilock brakes: Standard
    Side curtain airbags: Standard
    First aid kit: N/A
    Bicycle friendly: Yes
    Off-road: No
    Towing: No
    Fuel economy: 55/53 mpg city/highway

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