What is the Prius Prime?
No one could have ever accused the Prius of being anything other than efficient. Capable of achieving over 50 mpg without really trying, it was with some surprise when Toyota introduced the Prius Prime, a plug-in hybrid variant of the standard Prius, back in 2017. Thanks to its somewhat low but not insignificant all-electric range, the Prime allowed buyers to try out the whole EV thing without fully committing to an electric vehicle.
For 2023 the Prius Prime gets a full redesign (as does the standard Prius), with an eye to not only improving the king of efficient cars but to helping the Prius stay relevant as full EVs become more popular. Riding on the second generation of Toyota’s TNGA-C platform, the new Prius is said to have a stiffer structure for better handling and is slightly larger, longer and lower than the outgoing model. It’s also a whole lot more powerful thanks to a larger internal combustion engine as well as a new battery pack, which Toyota says adds nearly 50% to the Prime’s EV-only range.
But the exterior styling will likely get most of the early attention as it replaces the previous Prius’ “who did this to you?” design language with something exponentially more stylish, modern and handsome. It’s the same for the inside as well, which gets a cabin with a much more traditional arrangement. Oh, and did we mention it comes with an available solar roof?
What’s under the Prius Prime’s hood?
It’s not every day you get to announce that a new generation of a vehicle has gained nearly 100 horsepower, but here we are. With combined output between the engine and motor of only 121 horsepower, the last-generation Prius Prime didn’t make a lot to begin with. But the 2023 Prime gets a larger 2.0-liter four-cylinder (up from 1.8 liters), as well as a larger battery pack. Although Toyota has not confirmed the capacity of the battery pack or the details of the electric motor, it’s safe to assume both have received significant upgrades.
Why do we think this? The first clue is the new combined output of 220 horsepower. Certainly the larger internal combustion engine plays a role in that, but we think a larger battery and more powerful electric motor have a bigger say in that power bump. That power also gets you the Toyota quoted 0-60 figure of 6.6 seconds for the 2023 Prime. While that’s not exactly blazing by modern standards, it might as well be light speed for a car that previously couldn’t hit 60 in under 9 seconds unless you pushed it out of a plane.
But the Prime’s main mission is efficiency, and a larger battery pack would also explain Toyota’s estimate of an increase of nearly 50% in electric-only range. The previous model could travel around 25 miles on purely battery power, which means the new Prime should be able to go roughly 40 miles on a full charge. That’s not an insignificant improvement and only adds to the attractiveness of the Prime over the standard Prius.
How’s the Prius Prime’s interior?
While the outside of the Prius Prime has received a radical transformation, the interior, thankfully, hasn’t been left alone either. Drawing elements from Toyota’s fully electric bZ4X, the Prius Prime has lost its questionable use of a central mounted instrument panel in favor of a more traditional display directly behind the steering wheel.
The rest of the dashboard has received a similarly more traditional layout and features a climate control with physical buttons and relocates the gear selector to the center console, although it still features the Prius’ unique shift pattern. Thanks to the Prius Prime’s low hood and expansive windshield and side windows, visibility looks to be excellent to the front and sides.
An 8-inch multimedia touchscreen is standard but a larger 12.3-inch screen is available. For comparison, the previous generation’s screen options were slightly smaller, at 7 inches and 11.6 inches. Imitation leather upholstery (Toyota calls it SofTex) is available, as are heated and ventilated seats, a wireless phone charger, a digital key, a JBL audio system and a fixed-glass sunroof.
How’s the Prius Prime’s tech?
The tech in the Prius Prime also gets a generous boost thanks to a long list of standard and available advanced driver aids. Every Prius Prime comes with Toyota’s Safety Sense 3.0 suite of updated safety systems, which includes automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control, automatic high beams and something Toyota calls Proactive Driving Assist. In a nutshell, the system uses the Prime’s cameras and radar to anticipate driver inputs and will gently brake the Prime into curves and help maintain a safe distance between you and the vehicle in front of you. It will also gently steer the Prime to help avoid obstacles.
Traffic Jam Assist is another standard feature on the Prime and combines adaptive cruise control and lane keeping assistance to provide a low-speed hands-free driving experience in, you guessed it, traffic jams. The system has quite a few specific operating conditions — among them, it only activates under 25 mph andtuses a camera to monitor the eyes of the driver, making sure they’re on the road ahead and not buried in James Joyce’s Ulysses, or whatever people seem to read when they’re mired in rush-hour traffic.
Another trick piece of tech is the available solar roof. It allows for onboard charging of the Prime’s battery when parked and can deliver power to other accessories, like the phone charging and air conditioning, when the Prime is driving around. The only trade-off is the loss of the dual-pane glass roof when you select this option.