NEW YORK -- Looking to create some distance between its garden variety Prius, Toyota debuted an all-new plug-in model called the Prius Prime today at the New York auto show.
The Prime hopes to sweeten the deal for buyers willing to take the plug-in plunge. Its styling now differs dramatically from the regular Prius that’s already on sale. Pure electric range is up, and new technologies have been added, Toyota said today.
“We gave it the name ‘Prime’ because it represents the best,” Bill Fay, general manager of the Toyota division, said at this morning’s press conference. “The best hybrid mpg, the best driving range, and the best mpge of any volume hybrid.”
The Prime will have over 600 miles of total range and an electric mpg equivalent rating of at least 120 miles, according to Toyota’s estimates. Regular mpg hasn’t been announced, though the automaker is expecting it to match or beat the normal Prius liftback’s 54 mpg city, 50 mpg highway rating.
Total electric and gas range will be over 600 miles. Owners can charge the car in 5.5 hours with a standard plug. A dedicated 240v outlets cuts that time by more than half, according to Toyota.
Pure electric range on the Prime is 22 miles. While that’s double the EV range of its predecessor, it lags behind Hyundai’s new Ioniq PHEV, as well the Chevy Volt and Hyundai Sonata PHEV.
When the Prime goes on sale late this fall -- in all 50 states no less -- it will face an uphill battle. In addition to low gas prices and tepid sales of passenger car, the Prime’s plug-in predecessor never had nearly the success as traditional Prius models.
“The consumer demand for a PHEV -- when you consider the extra price automakers need to charge -- the response to the price and to the product just isn’t that good,” Eric Lyman, vice president of industry insights at TrueCar, told Automotive News.
The previous generation Prius Plug-in sold just 42,136 copies in the four years it was on sale in the U.S. That’s a small fraction of the nearly 1 million total Prius models sold here since Toyota began expanding the Prius lineup with variants in 2011.
Pricing for the Prime hasn’t been announced, though Fay said Toyota will close the roughly $5,000 price gap between the previous generation Prius and Prius Plug-in.
The underpinnings of the Prime are the same as its Prius cousin -- this is the first vehicle in Toyota’s stable to use the TNGA modular platform. The 1.8-liter, four-cylinder engine is also shared with the mainstream Prius, but the battery pack is substantially larger.
Power figures won’t be announced until later this year. The previous Plug-in Prius had 134 total hp.
In order to give Prime customers more for their money, the automaker gave the car LED headlights and taillights that differ significantly from the Prius. Inside, an optional 11.6-inch touch screen works to further set the Prime apart.
Curiously, the Prime is a four-seater. This is because when Toyota engineers test efficiency against their own internal benchmarks, they fill every seat in that particular vehicle. Five people in the car ate into the Prime’s efficiency too much to hit Toyota’s goals.
Despite the challenges the car will face, the Prime is expected to double the sales volume of the earlier Prius PHEV, Fay said.
“It’s Prime time all across the country,” he said at the debut.
For the full text of Bill Fay's speech, click here.
Send us a letter
Have an opinion about this story? Click here to submit a Letter to the Editor, and we may publish it in print.