2017 Toyota Prius Prime Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2017 Toyota Prius Prime was new.

Scorecard

Performance: 7.7

The 2017 Toyota Prius Prime trades off between its electric motors and gasoline engine seamlessly, with no noticeable noise to alert you to the change. Its fuel efficiency is far beyond most hatchbacks – even besting the regular Prius – and plugging in the Prime gives you up to 25 miles of all-electric travel. Its focus is definitely economy over performance, but the Prime is still more spirited than many efficiency-minded rivals.

  • "So, if your commute is short and the ability to recharge is convenient, you're good. Or you can just select hybrid (HV) mode, let the Prime blend the output of the 95-hp 1.8-liter gas engine with the electricity supplied by the battery, and 'settle' for an EPA-estimated 55-mpg city/53-mpg highway-which is pretty phenomenal and within spitting distance of the 58-mpg city/53-mpg highway EPA estimates for the standard Prius. According to the Prime's trip computer, I managed 52 mpg over 72 miles of driving in hilly Southern California terrain. And that was after driving nearly all of the 25-mile electric-only range burning zero fossil fuel." -- New York Daily News
  • "On a somewhat energetic run up the foothills, we managed to get the trip fuel economy display down to 30.1 miles per gallon. But, when we turned the controversial nose around and drove back down hill (again, somewhat aggressively, because there are fun twists up there), the display not only crept back up to show over 53 mpg, but it had also managed to shove over four miles of electric range back in the battery. That's just great, getting over 50 mpg in the mountains." -- Autoblog
  • "Although not quite 'quick' in the established sense, the Prime never feels underpowered, and is actually impressively responsive in around-town driving. That's mostly thanks to its two electric motors, which produce power almost instantly when you hit the gas pedal, whereas a gas engine - or more specifically, the associated 'kickdown' of the transmission - often hesitates a beat or two before real power arrives." -- Consumer Guide

Acceleration and Power

The Prius Prime has a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine that works together with two electric motors to drive the wheels. Transitions between all-electric, all-gasoline, and gasoline-electric operations are smooth, with a continuously variable transmission (which functions like an automatic) sending power to the wheels. Test drivers say the Prime feels quicker than the regular Prius, and though it isn't conclusively the faster of the two, it's lively enough that you can merge with highway traffic without worry.

The Prius Prime can drive up to 25 miles using electric power alone, thanks to its 8.8 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack. For comparison, the Chevy Volt gets more than 50 miles of range from its batteries. Charging the Prime's battery pack takes about two hours with a 240-volt charging station or 5.5 hours with a standard 120-volt household outlet. The Prius Prime is highly efficient – Toyota estimates that it gets 55 mpg in the city and 53 mpg on the highway, which transcend ratings for the Volt (43 city/42 highway) and the regular Prius (54 city/50 highway).

  • "Electric thrust from the Prime's motor provides enough smooth torque for on-the-fly maneuvers in traffic, but you'll definitely want the help of the gas engine in hybrid (HV) mode when merging onto the highway. Acceleration is still about as heart-pounding as an episode of Frasier (the Prime needs roughly 11 seconds to accelerate from 0-60 mph), but nonetheless it doesn't feel dreadfully underpowered getting up to speed. As before, the magic of Toyota's Hybrid Synergy Drive is the completely invisible handoff between the electric motor and combustion engine." -- Automobile Magazine
  • "Toyota doesn't quote performance figures, but a seat-of-the-pants rating says that Prime does just fine in EV mode. Ample torque from the electric motors scoots the Prime off the line with authority to merge with traffic, enter a moving freeway and accelerate up an incline … The near-silent operation is offset with road noise from the hard tires, but you still get the thrill of electric driving, and keeping up with California's notoriously fast freeway drivers presents no challenge at legal speeds." -- Autotrader
  • "First, the all-electric range has been more than doubled to 25 miles. That's mostly because the battery is twice as powerful (8.8 kWh vs. 4.4), but increased efficiency also takes some credit. It's part of what gives the Prime a remarkable EPA MPGe rating (given to any plug-in vehicle) of 133, with 'regular' fuel economy rated at 55 city/53 highway/54 combined - actually a couple miles per gallon better than the regular Prius. Maximum range between fill-ups is listed as an equally impressive 640 miles." -- Consumer Guide

Handling and Braking

The 2017 Prius Prime is a front-wheel drive hatchback with handling that's pretty typical for a hybrid of its size, in that it is composed but not athletic. The extra weight of the battery makes it feel more stable, especially through corners, and test drivers repeatedly remark that the Prius Prime offers more driving enjoyment than the regular Prius. In addition to standard brakes, the Prius Prime employs regenerative brakes that capture energy while you're braking to recharge the battery. These can feel a little numb for first-time hybrid drivers, though the Prius Prime's regen brakes are better than those in older Prius models. Overall, the ride is smooth and steering is respectably responsive.

  • "One side benefit of the larger battery pack is that it feels like it balances the Prime better than it does the regular Prius. The weight is low and centered in the vehicle, and cornering on curvy roads can be almost fun. The Prime is certainly stable and predictable, allowing you to push the car through the corners with precision." -- Autotrader
  • "By the way, if you haven't driven a Prius in a couple of years, you'll be surprised just how well the new ones ride and handle. The suspension is well-damped, steering has decent weighting and response and the blending of hydraulic and regenerative electric braking feels more natural than ever." -- New York Daily News
  • On a freshly paved, magnificent set of mountain twisties near Ojai, California, the Prius Prime held its own rather than holding on for dear life. Toyota has not completely excommunicated head-toss and body roll, but the Prime stays relatively planted through route 33's cascade of challenging corners. Ride quality is impressive, and the stiff structure does a great job absorbing impacts over rough patches of road and highway expansion joints. The steering feels a touch artificial, but the old looseness and vagueness are gone, replaced by a somewhat weighted feel. …. Our biggest beef is with the brakes, which are neither progressive nor powerful." -- Automobile Magazine

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