22 MILES OF EV RANGE , PILES OF TECH
While most auto manufacturers offer hybrid vehicles, the Toyota Prius serves as the poster child of the genre. It?s a symbol both of greenie superiority as well as an easy target for detractors. The competition never sleeps, however, and the new plug-in variant, now named Prime, has arrived packed with the latest in efficiency, safety, and convenience goodies to ensure the new 2017 Prius maintains its high profile.
Measuring 2.4 inches longer and 0.6 inch wider than its predecessor, the 2017 Prius Prime receives a frontal makeover to differentiate it from its non-plug-in sibling, with the fascia gaining deeper creases. Additionally, thin LED-headlamp enclosures bracket a blacked-out center section, which also eliminates the protruding lower ?fish lip? of the regular Prius. Out back, a new wraparound LED tail lamp design is integrated into a spoiler, adding a degree of contemporary style and some identity for the plug-in. To keep weight down and efficiency up, the Prius Prime uses plenty of high-strength steel, an aluminum hood, and a carbon-fiber lift gate. The Prime sits roughly one inch lower in overall height and, like the redesigned 2016 Prius, employs automatic grille shutters to aid aerodynamic efficiency. Toyota claims an 0.24 drag coefficient for the Prius family, making it one of the slipperiest cars on the market. One of the design goals was lowering the center of gravity to improve handling. Front occupants sit lower, and the battery pack has been moved from the trunk to beneath the rear seats. Toyota claims the cg is 0.8-inch lower than the previous Prius.
Brass Tacks -
Motivating the Prius Prime is Toyota?s Hybrid Synergy Drive system, which teams the familiar 1.8-liter Atkinson-cycle, four-cylinder engine with a planetary-gear continuously variable transmission (CVT) and Toyota?s first electric-drive system capable of using both motor/generators, known as MG1 and MG2, to drive the wheels in EV mode. This arrangement, achieved by adding a simple one-way clutch between the engine and the transmission, improves acceleration performance, according to Toyota. Arguably the most significant improvement to the system is the 8.8-kWh lithium-ion battery pack, which has twice the energy capacity of the 4.4-kWh battery in the old Prius plug-in hybrid.
So what do all the improvements mean for real-world drivers? Toyota is projecting a combined rating of 120 MPGe in EV mode (hybrid fuel economy hasn?t been released, but Toyota is targeting a figure equal to the current non-plug-in Prius), a doubling of maximum electric range to 22 miles, and a top speed of 84 mph. Toyota says the 2017 Prius Prime can be fully charged in approximately 5.5 hours from a standard household outlet; hooking to a 240-volt source cuts that time in half. Finally, the 2017 Prius plug-in hybrid is said to have a combined range of more than 600 miles with a full battery and the maximum 11.3 gallons of fuel onboard.
The Prius Prime can be propelled by the gasoline engine, both electric motors, or a mix of gas and electric sources in normal driving. But Toyota says the Prime is designed to ?rely more on its electric capability in situations where it is more efficient than running the gasoline engine, especially in urban and suburban driving and during shorter trips.?
Prime-Time Features -
Fulfilling the content portion of the ?Prime? promise is a host of safety and infotainment gear, including Toyota?s Safety Sense P suite, which bundles pre-collision detection with pedestrian recognition and automatic braking, lane-keeping, dynamic cruise control (which operates to a full stop), and automatic high-beams. Curiously, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert didn?t make the cut of standard equipment but are available as options. Extra money also will be required to snag a head-up display and the center-stack-dominating, 11.6-inch high-definition central infotainment screen.
Several Prius Prime functions are available via a smartphone app. These allow users to remotely check on charging schedule and status, locate public chargers, taunt other greenies with their eco-driving score via social media, operate the vehicle?s climate-control system, and more. Qi-compatible smartphones also can be inductively charged, although not as standard. The expected connectivity options are present, including a USB port, voice recognition, and Bluetooth-audio and -phone connectivity. iPhone users get the benefit of Siri Eyes Free to call upon the iOS-based digital personal assistant.
The gauge pod is centrally mounted here, in typical Prius fashion, and provides readouts for hybrid energy information and more via dual 4.2-inch TFT displays. The windshield and front windows are made from acoustically treated glass, and the climate-control system gets a new electric compressor to help mitigate HVAC noise. Wise to the fact that enlightened hybrid buyers never tire of gadgetry, Toyota will offer its Intelligent Parking Assistant, which uses radar to size up potential parking spaces and then automatically guides the Prime into them.