Test drive the 2024 Toyota Prius Prime Plug-In Hybrid for EV range

Even the earliest images released in late 2022, showing a major redesign of the next-generation Prius, revealed the significant progress Toyota has made since introducing a hybrid sibling to the Echo in 1997. Although that first generation Prius concept into motion, the second generation arrived. as a more serious standalone model, becoming without a doubt the most influential hybrid in history.

For 2023, the previously ugly fuel sipper got a big glow, combined with a serious power bump, plus more range for the Prime plug-in hybrid variant. In an era of EV stagnation, Prime reaffirms Toyota’s commitment to plug-ins as a better solution for most buyers than a fully electric car – unlike the long-standing partnership with Subaru that ended with the quirky bZ4X and Solterra twins.

A Prius for the next generation

Buyers who want a plug-in Prius can expect to add at least $5,025 to a base non-Prime starting sticker of $27,950. Prices can quickly climb to $50,000 out the door for fully loaded specs, but every Prime uses the same 2.0-liter gasoline engine paired with two electric motors, one of which modulates the combustion engine’s power delivery to the planetary gearbox. In all-electric mode, the Prime can travel up to 70 kilometers, while using the full powertrain delivers a combined maximum of 220 hp.

That’s a 99bhp jump over the previous generation Prius, all wrapped up in a sleek exterior that, while undeniably better looking, also improves on the previously upright hatchback’s peculiar aerodynamic tendency to travel at high speed through long to navigate bends. The new Prius rides lower and has a noticeably firmer suspension, while sacrificing only about nine cubic feet of interior space overall for passengers or cargo compared to the previous generation.

This base SE trim level came with 17-inch wheels to maximize electric and combined range, with a simple interior accented by an 8-inch infotainment touchscreen and manually adjustable cloth seats. The overall aesthetic leans toward a spartan simplicity, but perhaps that’s the point, since wireless Apple CarPlay or Android Auto is all most buyers really want anyway.

A simple and functional interior that is typical of the Prius

The small digital gauge cluster display, on the other hand, certainly seems a bit more complicated when packed with full EV and ICE readouts. Switching between two screen options removes the “EcoScore” and “EcoZone” cues – which fluctuate so wildly as to be almost irrelevant anyway – to prioritize more general, useful driver data.

And really, it’s almost hard not to push the Prime hard through the commute, resulting in terrible EcoScores anyway. When driving around town, the new suspension and improved power off the line can even produce hints of torque steer, a new sensation compared to the absolutely sluggish performance of previous generations.

Maximizing the Prime’s range, on the other hand, requires some attention. In this respect, the plug-in hybrid comes closer to a full electric car – largely due to Toyota’s peculiar decision to default the car to full electric mode after each power cycle, rather than sticking to a previously selected ‘HV’ mode. to maximize battery range and internal combustion at the same time. Like living with an EV, keeping up simply requires a change in mindset when starting and driving the Prime.

Real-world performance of the 2024 Prius Prime

This ’17 SE quickly consumed 68% of its battery in 21 miles of blissful ignorance, without once selecting HV mode during a quick afternoon errand in Los Angeles traffic. Then, when charging from a 120-volt garage outlet using the included cable, the 13.6 kilowatt-hour battery was charged 33 percent in three hours. That pace is right within the range of a nine-hour full charge, estimated from the Prime’s readout, and perfect for anyone who charges overnight from a standard home socket – especially impressive, in fact, considering that the same socket never even registered while testing the charging potential of a Lucid Air or Ford F-150 Lightning.

Driving in full hybrid HV mode, on the other hand, requires hardly any energy and recharges quickly via regenerative braking (which can sometimes cause strange pedal modulation as you crawl along at lower speeds). A realistic expectation of more than 300 miles per 10.6-gallon fill certainly seems eminently feasible.

Finally the repositioning that the Prius always deserved

Meanwhile, despite the lower and firmer suspension, the Prime rides quite comfortably at highway speeds on smoother roads. The rougher parts of the 405 Freeway, however, resulted in a bit of rafting and wild driving, while some tire buzz did creep into the cabin, presumably because Toyota has forgone sound deadening and insulation in the name of price (or a possible impending restart of the probably more refined Lexus CT). And as usual, deeper throttle can yield hints of a hybrid drone, with the 2.0-liter ICE engine happily staying in its ideal powerband while essentially operating more along the lines of a generator than a gasoline engine.

Still, Toyota’s repositioning of the Prius as a much more attractive hybrid with just enough power to border on sportier sensations absolutely transforms the staid spirit of any previous generation. This is finally the Prius that can – and should – help bring the practical plug-in Prime to the masses.

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