Toyota realizes that electric drive is powerful

Last Updated: November 30, 2018By Tags:

2017 Toyota Prius Prime Prototype First Drive

Toyota had one main goal in mind when it engineered the Prius Prime, the upcoming second-generation Prius Plug-In. The new car had to be more electric. Compared to the first plug-in Prius, this wasn’t exactly a difficult task, since that one could go just 11 miles on its piddly battery.

Toyota made its e-mission clear right from the get-go. We learned at the Prime’s unveiling at the New York Auto Show in April that the new model would get 22 miles of all-electric range. That’s also when we learned just how much Toyota heard all your complaints. Whether in online forums, at focus groups, or through customer research, Toyota got the message that what people want from a “green” car in 2016 is electric miles. And an “electric” Prius that could only go 62 miles per hour – like the first-gen did – before the gas engine was forced to turn on just wouldn’t cut it. Good news, everyone. The Prime can reach 84 mph without any assist from the on-board fossil fuels. You might not always want the car to run up to that speed using nothing but battery power, but more on that in a bit.

Customers also told Toyota that they liked the incredible gas-powered efficiency that the Prius offers. For many car buyers, miles per gallon remains the one and only way to define a car’s green cred. The Prime is expected to get the same fuel economy as the fourth-gen Prius Liftback, which means 52 combined mpg. Official numbers will be out later this year, but 52 is a lot higher than, say, the second-gen Chevy Volt, which gets 42 mpg (along with, of course, a whopping 53 miles of all-electric range).

Numbers on paper, though, only tell you a little bit of the story. Thankfully, we recently got to try out a pre-production Prime on a test track in Japan. It was a long way to go for a short drive (just three laps of a three-mile loop), but if you pay attention, you can learn a lot from a little.

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