Toyota Prius Prime: The New Standard in Plug-in Economy

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 23: The new model of the Toyota Prius, named the Prius Prime, is introduced at the New York International Car Show at the Javits Center on March 23, 2016 in New York, NY. The Prius Prime was one of three new models, including the Toyota 86 and the Highlander Hybrid, that was introduced by Toyota at the annual car show. (Photo by Bryan Thomas/Getty Images)
Toyota Prius Prime now has the best fuel economy of any car on sale in America | Bryan Thomas/Getty Images

Fresh off setting a record for hybrid fuel economy with the 2016 Prius, Toyota plans to do the same with the new plug-in model named Prime, which debuted last March at the New York Auto Show. While quadrupling the previous model’s electric range, Toyota said Prius Prime will beat every other plug-in hybrid on the market in miles per gallon equivalent. In fact, its updated economy rating make beats the efficiency of every electric vehicle on the market, too.

Toyota’s press conference kicked off NYIAS 2016 and, following reveals of Toyota 86 and the Highlander Hybrid, Prius Prime emerged from beneath a platform in the back of the Javits Center auditorium. First impressions revealed a softer, less angular image, especially in the front fascia. Absent is the exaggerated butterfly effect found on the standard model. The winning quad LED headlights are a feature found previously in the Mirai fuel cell vehicle.

2016 Toyota Prius Prime
The Prius Prime  | Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

But the most important details relate to the powertrain: With 25 miles of pure electric range, Prime takes the previous generation’s range from six (6) usable miles to 25. Meanwhile, its estimated 133 mile per gallon equivalent (MPGe) is better than any available PHEV and even beyond the standard set by the most efficient EVs in 2016.

Hearing about such exceptional economy is enough to make you expect performance compromises, but Toyota maintains that Prime will drive with as much spirit as the redesigned Prius. Range is also best-in-class in the new plug-in, reaching over 600 miles on a full (11.3 gallon) tank of gas and a full charge — some 180 miles better than the 2017 Chevy Volt.

Toyota Prius Prime can achieve 133 miles per gallon equivalent | Toyota

On the subject of charging, Toyota took an interesting tack in giving the estimate for standard household outlets (110v), saying Prime would have a full battery after 5.5 hours of charging (or half the time on a 240v connection). This ease of use gives customers who commute the option to charge at work without needing to find an EV station. Likewise, the outlet in any family garage will get the battery full in time for the next day’s trips.

Customers living in all 50 states U.S. will have access to this model, something that could not be said of its predecessor. While we do not have production estimates, it’s easy to imagine Prime once again muscling into the top five in electric car sales when it debuts later in 2016. (In 2013 and 2014, the Prius plug-in placed fourth behind Tesla Model S.) Toyota executives said it should sell about 30,000 units per year.

There is no question this type of economy and range will appeal to EV customers when it makes its way to dealerships. Questions about how it drives and what it costs ($27,100) have also been answered. In short, Toyota has delivered on everything hybrid drivers want. With Hyundai readying its Ioniq lineup to compete with Prius, Prime could not have arrived at a better moment.

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