Prius Prime: 70 mpg at 70 mph

The oos Base presents another Car Family Review, which is featured every month or so on the oos blog. 

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Forgot the old Prius, the new Prius Prime is better in every way except for the interior room. It handles well, has frisky acceleration, and is loaded with features. The larger battery is good for 25 miles of electric-powered go and you can fill up the 11.3-gallon tank on regular and go over 600 miles. Indeed, it was easy for us to get 70 miles per gallon at freeway speeds and even better results when the traffic got stickier. Some may decry its busy exterior, but the beauty here is on the inside where it counts.

Yes, there are a few other suitors for the environmentally conscious from Hyundai and Chevrolet, but they do not offer the proven reliability of this Toyota. As for interior space, the new Prime battery pack takes up passenger space limiting the cargo capacity and back seat room. It is well worth the sacrifice.

We have been enthusiastic about Prius since it came out in the 1990s, and we are just as excited about this new model. It is quieter and easier to maneuver. However, the larger battery pack takes longer to charge using a 110 outlet requiring about six hours of plug-in time to get the full benefits of the electric battery range whereas the previous model could be topped off in three. A 240 line is noticeably faster, but may require residential rewiring.

Be aware that before you buy a Prius Prime your state may have incentives to encourage their use, including high-occupancy lane usage. The federal government also gives you a tax advantage such as a $2500 tax credit for the Toyota. In addition, every vehicle rating service names the Prius as one of the most dependable cars you can own. For example, in 25,000 miles of travel, our car had 80 percent of its brake pads remaining as the Prius used the regenerative braking to help with stopping.

Our test vehicle was the advanced model that lists for about $34,000. You can order the Premium model ($28,800) and still get the 11.6-inch central touch screen, and a power driver seat, keyless entry/start, and wireless smartphone charging. There is also the entry-level Plus ($ 27,000) with considerably fewer features.

Mom’s View  

Make sure to order the Star Safety System that includes ABS, traction control, brake assist for emergency stopping power, stability control, and electronic brake force distribution that equalizes stopping force to each wheel.

I especially like the Smart Stop Technology that automatically halts the vehicle when both the accelerator and the brake pedal are pressed at the same time. Parking is a breeze with a 33.4 radius.

Safety wise you get LED headlights and taillights, heated door mirrors, programmed grille shutters, navigation, automatic climate control, heated front seats, a proximity key and push-button start airbags everywhere. It is a joy to park, but the rear hatch lift over is a little high.

The Prius Prime Advanced featured a heated steering wheel, color head-up display, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, parking sensors, self-parking system, and blind-spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control, forward-collision warning, automated emergency braking, more powerful headlights, automatic high-beams, and lane-departure warning with a lane-keeping assist.

Dad’s View 

The ride on the new Prius has dramatically improved with independent MacPherson strut front suspension and double-wishbone style multi-link rear suspension with front and rear stabilizer bars. The electric steering is excellent, and the electric motors and four-cylinder gas engine work to provide a nimble and satisfying ride. If you need more power, such as for passing, clicking the Power button will bring plenty of acceleration.

The Prius Prime is a joy to drive on longer trips as the seats have been improved. One of the biggest problems we had was forgetting to check the gas gauge and were shocked one day to notice the fuel warning light illuminated. Fifteen dollars later, we had a full tank and another 600 miles of trouble-free driving.

The Prime has a plug-in port to charge the 8.8-kWh lithium-ion battery pack that enables an EPA-rated 25 miles of electric-only driving range. The combination of electric and gas propulsion and the continuously variable automatic transmission are nearly undetectable.

Even when the Prius automatically turns off when stopped in traffic, there is no jerky movement as is common in the competition. The lithium-ion battery pack resides under the rear seats and weighs 265 pounds.

Except for the noise from the tires chosen for gas mileage maximization vs quiet ride, the Prius Prime Advanced is easily the best and most reliable plug-in hybrid you can buy. In the past, the resale has been excellent as well. If you are worried about the battery pack, it has a ten-year or eight-year warranty, depending on your state’s standards.

Young Working Woman’s View

This is a four-passenger sedan and the seats are comfortable. One can choose among a couple of settings depending on your needs while driving. The EV Auto mode is your best choice. Among your other choices are select Eco (very slow) or Power (very fast).

The interior is well done and there are a variety of storage bins and plugs. I like the Prius Prime, but living in a condo I do not have access to an electric outlet, and thus the regular Prius would be my choice. Overall, easy to park, maneuver, and does not attract undue attention from ne’er-do-wells.

Young Working Male’s View

Toyota continues with its dash centered display, but the images are nearly invisible if you are wearing polarized glasses.

The Advanced model has semi-autonomous parking and an excellent 11.6-inch LCD touch screen that works well. Thankfully, there is a volume control knob. The JBL sound system is adequate. There is an inductive phone-charging pad in the center console, but the white color of the charging surfaces is a bit much.

The large monitor looks good, but that just means another layer of learning before you get accustomed to it. For example, the lower half of the display is buried at the bottom of the screen when you are using the GPS map. There is an abundance of audio alarms that need to be addressed before leaving the dealership. You are notified when a window is down when parked or a lane is being crossed without a turn signal on and a variety of other warnings.

Finally, according to our local Toyota dealer, the Prius Prime plug-in chord costs over $1000 so take good care of it.

Family Conference

We highly recommend the Prius Prime to those who drive in heavy commuter traffic and still want to take a long vacation knowing that the Prius has excellent mileage, features, quality, and resale. Don’t let its futuristic exterior deter you from considering this gas sipper. It has a heart of gold and lithium-ion.

For more reviews go to Car Family Car Reviews

Photo courtesy of Caricos

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