Who says a green machine also has to be a stone pony?
A number of makers are out to prove that clean, high-mileage battery technology can also deliver surprising performance with products like the Audi etron concept and the Mercedes-Benz SLS e-Cell. But now Toyota is weighing in, offering up the new Prius Plus Performance Package, an alliterative way of saying a more sporty version of the world’s best-selling hybrid-electric vehicle.
The limited-edition Prius was developed with the helping hand of Toyota’s performance and racing arm, TRD, which is an immediate sign that this is more than just an all-show-no-go offering.
“PLUS is an evolution of hybrid design, where fuel-efficiency co-exists with aggressive styling and performance handling,” the maker explains.
In practical terms, the Prius Plus Performance Package – P4, if you’ll allow us to use shorthand – starts out where the already aerodynamic hybrid leaves off. That means a seven-piece aero package including front and rear lower spoilers, side skirts and a rear diffuser that not only add a bit of aggressiveness to the base car’s insufferably smug appearance but also improve its drag coefficient.
The P4 sits a full 1.1 inches lower up front and 1.3 inches in the rear, and rides on 17-inch forged alloy wheels. The tires are still low rolling resistance, so it remains to be seen just how much more grip they’ll get than those on the base Prius, which are designed to emphasize fuel efficiency.
The lowered suspension, explains a Toyota release, “enhances the vehicle’s on-road performance through quicker turn-in, enhanced steering response and improved cornering ability.”
(For the uninitiated, only about half the added mileage a standard-issue Prius gets over a conventional sedan comes from its Hybrid Synergy Drive, according to Toyota engineers. The rest comes from lowered wind drag and reduced rolling resistance.)
No, Toyota is not offering any changes in horsepower – for that you have to look for an aftermarket chip kit to tweak the performance of the gas-electric driveline – but the Prius Plus Performance Package does include suspension changes that should make the hybrid a little more fun to shoot through the corners than the wallowy standard edition in the form of a rear sway bar.
The package is rounded out with unique badges, logo-enhanced carpeting and a choice of four P4 colors, including Blizzard Pearl, Classic Silver Silver Metallic, Winter Grey Metallic and Black.
Expect to pay anywhere from $2,999 to $3,699 over the base price depending on which Prius package you opt for. Toyota will start taking orders for the Prius Plus Performance Package tomorrow.
The P4 appears to be yet another step in the evolution of the Prius nameplate from a badge associated with a basic, fuel-efficient hybrid into a broad brand-within-a-brand of gas-electric offerings that will soon include new models like the Prius v, Prius C and the Prius Plug-in.
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