Against expectations, Toyota has made a decent business out of the Prius, a car whose picture should appear in the dictionary next to the word “frump.” Assuming the market doesn’t collapse by the end of the year, Toyota will sell well over 100,000 vehicles wearing the nameplate in 2016, a figure that is split among three models: the entry-level Prius C; the wagonoid Prius V; and the wavy-whacky new Prius, redesigned just last year by people obviously on psychotropic drugs. Henceforth, beginning with the 2017 model, Toyota is calling last year’s new Prius the Prius liftback. Why the name change? To make room for yet another Prius family member, the Prius Prime, essentially the plug-in version of the Prius liftback that, ahem, also has a hatchback.
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So that you’ll keep reading this story, we’ll tell you up front that the Prius Prime has a carbon-fiber hatchback made at Toyota’s Motomachi plant in Japan where the carbon-fiber Lexus LFA supercar came together. Exciting, yes?
The Prime is called the Prime because Toyota figures it’s the furthest the company has taken its hybrid technology in terms of efficiency and performance. Compared with the old plug-in Prius, it’s an incremental but significant step forward for electric-driving range and fuel economy (now 55/53 mpg city/highway, for a total electric-gasoline range of 640 miles), as well as honest-to-goodness driving verve. More on that in a minute.
Compared with the previous plug-in Prius, the Prime gets double the battery capacity. The new 95-cell, 8.8-kWh battery pack accounts for 265 pounds of the claimed 285-to-365-pound weight gain over the regular Prius as well as a reduction in cargo capacity of roughly 5 or 8 cubic feet, depending on the liftback in question. But it allows up to 25 miles of electric-only driving, 10 more than the previous plug-in and 25 more than the liftback that essentially runs only as a gas-electric hybrid. A smaller, yet higher-powered, onboard charger replenishes the battery more quickly than in the old PHEV, or in 5.5 hours on household 120-volt power or two hours and 10 minutes when fed 240 volts. Complete review on www.caranddriver.com, by Manufacturer