For many owners of today’s increasingly connected and energy-efficient homes, equally connected and energy-efficient automobiles can be the next logical step. And taking that next step often includes snubbing conventionally-powered gasoline and diesel autos in favor of searching among a new generation of hybrid, plug-in hybrid vehicle (PHV), or electric vehicle (EV) alternatives. Positioned squarely in the center of these new car genres is the 2017 Toyota Prius Prime, a fresh-from-the-ground-up PHV design that can travel 25+ miles in pure electric vehicle (EV) mode before its 1.8-liter gasoline engine switches on. The Prius Prime builds upon the fourth-generation Toyota Prius XW50 hybrid platform that debuted in the U.S. for the 2016 model year.
Arrived in our connected garage: 2017 Prius Prime Advanced.
But getting a Prius Prime into your connected home’s garage can be a frustrating experience. Production from the sole manufacturing facility in Aichi, Japan, has not been able to ramp to meet demand since the car was released in December 2016, and while Toyota sells them in all 50 states, the cars can be extremely hard to find outside of the West Coast. We phoned, emailed, or visited about a half-dozen Toyota dealers in the Southwest in May 2017, and none of them had a single Prime in stock, though in all cases we were advised we could order one—with a delivery lead time ranging from 3 to 6 months or more.
We were fortunate enough to locate one in the state of Texas at AutoNation Toyota South Austin, and purchased the top-of-the-line Prime Advanced model at the distributor’s suggested retail price of $34,997. That total cost (before taxes and registration) included the manufacturer’s suggested retail price of $33,100, a delivery fee of $955, and distributor-installed options of $942. As a certified plug-in hybrid, the Prius Prime also qualifies for a $4,502 U.S. Federal income tax credit, effectively bringing our cost down to $30,495. Additional credits or rebates may be available in some states or locales.
Included in the Prius Prime Premium and Advanced trim levels, the 11.6-in HD multimedia display serves as a touchscreen control center for the navigation, climate, and audio systems.
Our Prime Advanced was delivered in Classic Silver Metallic paint, with a Moonstone SofTex faux leather interior finished in tasteful gray, black, and white tones, highlighted with blue stitching and accents. The car was also fitted with Toyota’s 11.6-in HD multimedia display with navigation, a Tesla-like touch screen interface akin to having a vertically-mounted Apple iPad-sized screen in the cabin.
Toyota offers the 2017 Prime in 3 trim levels, including the Prime Plus (starting at $27,100), Prime Premium (starting at $28,800), and the Prime Advanced (starting at $33,100). There are no available factory options on any of these cars, so what you see in the digital brochure is exactly what you will get, though there are a limited number of distributor- or dealer-installable options. In order to get the 11.6-in HD multimedia display, you will need to opt for the Premium or Advanced trim levels; the Plus model includes a 7-in. touchscreen, similar to that in the standard Prius Three or higher models.
At the top of the line-up, the 2017 Prius Prime Advanced has a manufacturer’s suggested retail price of $33,100. Our example of the car included $942 in distributor-installed options.
Differences between the Prius Prime models and the standard Prius are many, and we will cover the relevant details in our continuing long-term ownership series on the car. Among the obvious exterior differences are an entirely different design from the A pillar forward, including front fascia, grille, quad-LED headlamp treatment, and bonnet; An entirely different design from the C pillar to the back of the car, including a lightweight carbon-fiber reinforced hatch door design, unique dual-wave-sculpted rear window, an integrated and equally-sculpted spoiler with a rim of LED lighting, different taillight treatment, and deletion of the rear wiper; And of course, the addition of a charging port on the right panel. One of the upshots of Toyota’s design changes for the rear third of the Prime: the best rear outward visibility of any recent Prius.
The Prius Prime fully charges its 8.8 kWh battery in about 2 hours using a 240V public charger, such as this ChargePoint charger in Austin, Texas. Charge level and estimated EV range can be remotely checked using the Toyota Entune app.
And then there is the ultra-smooth PHV power train, which we found a joy to experience—particularly when the car is running on its twin electric motors in pure EV mode. Fitted with an 8.8 kWH traction battery that fully charges in about 5 hours at home using the included 110V charging cable, or about 2 hours at a 240V public charging station, the car is rated at an EPA-estimated 25 miles in pure EV mode and has an EPA-estimated total driving range of 640 miles. Based on our actual driving experience over the first 1,700 miles, you can expect to get a minimum of 25 miles or more in pure EV mode, and we have driven slightly over 30 miles on several occasions before the engine silently turned on.