Toyota is nothing if not persistent, occasionally missing the mark, only to come back with a new model that’s closer to target – and that’s what the Japanese giant is aiming to do with the Prius Prime making its debut at the 2016 New York International Auto Show.
The Prime takes the place of Toyota’s original, largely ignored plug-in hybrid, roughly doubling its range and, the maker hopes, doubling the earlier model’s sales. It should help that the 2017 model will come in at a lower price point, even while offering more content including an array of advanced safety features.
“Our goal is to have it be a great value,” brand boss Bill Fay told TheDetroitBureau.com following the public unveiling of the 2017 Toyota Prius Prime at New York’s Jacob Javits Center.
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The new plug-in builds on a solid foundation, the more conventional, fourth-generation Prius hybrid Toyota introduced last year. In PHEV form, it not only gets a new name but a larger, 8.8 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery that nearly doubles electric-only range to 22 miles.
Using the EPA’s complex math, the Prius Prime is now rated at 120 MPGe, or miles-per-gallon-equivalent. And, combining gas and electric modes, it will be able to travel up to 600 miles on a tank of gas and a full charge.
Operating solely in electric mode, Fay suggested that more than half of all American commuters would be able to get to work and back without burning a drop of gas, however — a figure jumping to 80%, he added, for those able to charge up at work.
That said, shoppers may be tempted to compare the Prime to the other major plug-in hybrid on the market, the second-generation Chevrolet Volt. That model increased its own range by more than 60% when it debuted for 2016, and now gets 53 miles per charge.
The Toyota Prius Prime can recharge on a standard, 120-volt U.S. outlet or using a faster, 240-volt charger. Toyota noted it is partnering with ChargePoint, one of the largest operators of public charging stations, giving owners access to about 20,000 public outlets – 60% of them permitting a driver to charge for free.
The Prime shares the same, 1.8-liter I-4 gas engine as the standard Prius hybrid, as well as the underlying Toyota Hybrid Drive system. There have been some tweaks made specifically for the plug-in, however. For one thing, both of the electric motors can here power the wheels of the Prime directly, improving performance slightly, according to Toyota.
Prius Prime can operate at speeds of up to 84 mph on battery power alone, and in pure EV mode it will use only its electric motors, even under full acceleration.
(Click Here for a review of the Toyota Prius Four Touring.)
There is a modest loss of trunk space due to the large battery pack, but the overall interior package is largely the same as the stock Prius – with one critical addition, a new, laptop computer-sized screen that controls most key vehicle functions. The 11.6-inch touchscreen is oriented in vertical position, much like the screen in the Tesla Model S and Model X battery-electric vehicles.
Among the many features that will be offered on the new Toyota Prius Prime, buyers will be able to opt for the Toyota Safety Sense package that includes an array of active systems, such as forward collision warning, blind-spot detection and cross-traffic alert.
Toyota last week announced it would make automatic emergency braking standard on all but three of its Toyota and Lexus models by no later than December 2017. That includes the new Prius Prime.
(Most Toyota, Lexus models to get standard auto-braking by late 2017. Click Here for the rest of the story.)
The original Prius plug-in carried a price premium of about $5,000 over a comparable hybrid version. “Our goal is to have a smaller premium,” Fay said during a later conversation.
That should help it drive more demand, he added, with Toyota hoping to double sales of the earlier model which averaged about 1,000 a month.
The new Toyota Prius Prime should reach showrooms in the U.S. this coming autumn.