2018 Toyota Prius Prime: Out of this world

17 Mar 2018 | 1,213 views | No Comment
  By Don Hammonds Want a glance into the automotive future? We got your back. The 2018 Toyota Prius Prime is your ticket. The Prius Prime is a plug-in hybrid, which means that you can recharge at home or at a public charging station, which are becoming a lot more common nowadays. While it is indeed the top of the heap Prius, it doesn't look like the other Prius models that are not plug-0in hybrids.  It has its own look--and given the potential of this car, Toyota has wisely given the Prius Prime its own identity. A Toyota news release says, "Prius drivers have long cherished the unique design of their vehicles, so Toyota took the concept even further with the Prius Prime. This new hybrid shares the same silhouette as the standard Prius liftback models but gets a unique look with exclusive front and rear fascias, bumpers and lighting systems. Ultra-low profile LED headlights and the large acrylic grille that compliments the presence of the air intakes evoke a more advanced EV image. The design also draws a connection to the revolutionary Toyota Mirai hydrogen vehicle." The release also says, "The wind-cheating body and its high-strength/low weight structure are critical factors in the Prius Prime’s remarkably low energy consumption. Its 0.25 coefficient of drag is among the lowest for current production sedans. Automatic grille shutters help reduce drag by closing when airflow to the radiator is not needed. Another unique detail, the 15-inch aluminum alloy wheels feature aerodynamic covers painted in a two-tone scheme. Yet the Prius Prime is no aero jellybean. The chiseled profile and edgy character lines seem to dare the wind to stand in its way." Everything  about this car says "future," from the styling to the powertrain, to the operation  of controls, and the psychological impression it leaves upon you as yu drive it. Our test car had a base price of $33,100, a rather modest price considering what this car has to offer and the level of advanced technology that it contains. After options, the price was $34,189.00. The economy ratings for this car, as you might expect, are astonishing.  Considering that the electricity and gasoline rating is 133 MPGe, and gasoline rating is 54 miles per gallon. It takes only 1.9 gallons of gasoline to drive 100 miles, and the annual fuel cost is $600 annually.  You save about $4,000 in fuel costs over five years, compared to the average new vehicle. So what is it like to drive it? First, it should be noted that there are several ways to drive this car in terms of its operating modes. "The Prius Prime also offers other drive modes to give the driver options depending on their needs: EV Auto Mode and Hybrid Mode: EV Auto Mode will automatically rely more on its electric capability, especially in urban and suburban driving during shorter trips. But in situations where it is more efficient to run the gasoline engine, up steep hills for example, the extremely efficient engine will engage. In Hybrid Mode, the Prius Prime runs primarily on the gasoline engine with support of the electric motor. It efficiently combines the engine drive force and the electric power from the hybrid battery," a news release said. First, this car is almost silent in operation, from starting it, to driving it, to ending the ride. Visibility is excellent, although some people might be bothered a bit by the smoked rear hatch glass and how the futuristic rear end styling affects our ability to see out of the rear window. Speaking of the rear glass, a Toyota spokesman said, "Don’t panic; you are seeing double when you look at the liftback’s glass. Exclusive to the Prius Prime, the “dual wave” rear window catches the eye while letting the wind slip by. Also unique to the Prius Prime, a full-width LED rear combination lamp panel leaves an unforgettable nighttime signature, with a shape that follows the contour of the spoiler and the double-wave window. A full-width aero glass panel below the rear spoiler, plus a standard backup camera, aid rearward visibility." Power comes from Toyota's well-known Hybrid Synergy Drive System. That system includes a DOHC 16-valve Atkinson-cycle 1.8-liter inline-4,  that produces 95 hp,  and also includes 2 permanent-magnet synchronous AC motors. Taken together, the system puts out 121 horsepower.  It also uses a lithium ion battery pack  and an active grille shutter system helps out mightily with aerodynamics and thus, fuel economy. We should point out right now that you should not be fooled by the 121 horsepower figure.  The Prius Prime really moves, and there is never any concern with acceleration on the highway, going up hills or any other challenge that can be thrown before it in the country's u8rban areas.  Nor did we have any problems with handling.  We were frankly astonished by how well the Prius Prime takes corners and handles quickly and sharply. Clearly not what people expect when driving a hybrid. Another important point.  Don't worry about the car using up its electric capacities an leave you stranding. The range in electric driving mode only is rather small--25 miles, but if you do mainly city driving and you are able to recharge at home, you might well be able to always run it on electric only capacity and not even bother with gasoline very often. Also, when the Prius Prime's battery reaches a certain point, be aware that it always hold some electrons in reserve and the car will simply revert to conventional hybrid mode until you get to a charging station--or home. That $34,189 price tag gets you quite a bit of standard equipment. Here's how Toyota described the differences between the models: "Toyota’s grade strategy for Prius Prime includes grades, Prime Plus, Prime Premium and Prime Advanced, each with successively more amenities and technology. Prius Prime Plus starts with a long roster of standard features, including fabric-trimmed heated front seats with armrests and seatback pockets; power windows with auto up/down; smart-flow climate control system with pollen filtration; integrated navigation and backup camera; dual sun visors with illuminated vanity mirrors and heated power outside mirrors. The standard SofTex-trimmed tilt/telescopic steering wheel integrates controls for audio, climate, the Multi-Information Display and Bluetooth® hands-free phone. Additional user tech includes the Smart Key System (on driver side) with Push Button Start. To power devices, there’s a 12V auxiliary power outlet up front, and another in the rear, plus one front USB power outlet. Stepping up to the Prius Prime Premium nets more technology, comfort and convenience. Entune™ technology goes big-screen with the 11.6-inch vertical HD multimedia display. The Smart Key System with Push Button Start is expanded to three doors and includes remote illuminated entry. Comfort moves up a few notches with SofTex-trimmed heated front seats with armrests and seatback pockets. The driver gets an 8-way power adjustable seat with power lumbar support. Want to cut the cord, or at least leave it home? The Prius Prime Premium comes with wireless cell phone charging for Qi-compatible devices; just place a compatible phone on the console charging pad. Prime Advanced
More luxury and tech enters the picture in the Prius Prime Advanced, which adds a heated steering wheel, remote climate control system, rain-sensing variable intermittent windshield wipers and auto-dimming rearview mirror with HomeLink® universal transceiver.LED fog lights help bolster visibility, while a color head-up display (HUD) helps the driver keep focused on the road by projecting vital information onto the lower portion of the windshield. HUD displays include speedometer, hybrid battery charge Hybrid System Indicator navigation and the various systems within TSS-P. The safety tech roster grows with Blind Spot Monitor (BSM) with Rear Cross-Traffic Alert (RCTA) and Safety Connect®, which includes Emergency Assistance, Stolen Vehicle Locator, Roadside Assistance and Automatic Collision Notification. (Includes complimentary three-year trial subscription)." And the Prime Advanced model has another cool feature:  It can park itself!
     Its standard Intelligent Clearance Sonar (ICS) with Intelligent Parking Assist (IPA) uses ultrasonic wave sensors to size up a parallel parking space and then, when activated by the driver, can steer the car into it. The system can also reverse the vehicle into a perpendicular space and automatically steer it out of a parallel space. If you drive into a tight spot, such as a narrow alley or driveway, Intelligent Clearance Sonar provides visible and audible warnings if you get  too close to obstacles on the vehicle’s sides.
So....How about the interior?
Prepare to be blown away!
This is about the most out of this world car intrior I've ever seen. the angular, horizontal  dash looks like nothing you 've ever seen unless you have driven a Prius.  There aren't any round gauges with needles, for example, and it's all dominated by an 11.6 inch touch screen which includes a huge map for navigation operations, along with controls for audio and climate control. And therein lies the problem.  You really have to search to find where those two items are located, and they are at the bottom of the screen.  The trouble is that the system is so complex that you need to sit down for some time with your owners manual, and even then, it will take you some time to get used to it.  None of is intuitive either.
But the Prius Prime is way, way ahead of its time, and its level of technology is nothing short of dazzling.
In the market for a hybrid or hybrid plug in?
Don't miss this one. You do so at your own risk.

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