The Prius Prime plug-in hybrid saves you money and you’ll never worry about finding a charging station.
The 2017 Toyota Prius Prime plug-in hybrid is a game-changer when it comes to saving money on fuel. The Prime is a hybrid plug-in vehicle, meaning that you can plug it in to charge the battery and run it on electric, but you can also run it on regular gasoline. There’s never any need to worry about finding a charging station or running out of charge because the car will simply switch to gasoline power automatically. And everything about this car is designed to maximize fuel economy – even when you are running on gasoline. You’ll get far better gas mileage than with any regular vehicle.
I drove the Prius Prime for a week with my average “commute” (aka running errands and transporting kids) being about 40 miles per day. And during an entire week, I used less than an eighth of a tank of gas!
But the Prius Prime requires a bit of a learning curve to take advantage of all it has to offer. I’m here to give you a simple explanation of how to make the most of this amazing car – and how it can save you tons of money.
Who this car is for
- Singles, couples, small/young families
- People who want to save money on fuel and care about the environment
- Drivers who are willing to take the time to learn about their car
- Those who are willing to plug in their car every night
- People who have a short commute (less than 25 miles round trip) can literally never spend money on gas.
What it costs
I drove the 2017 Prius Prime Premium, which is the mid-grade trim level and lists at a reasonable $30,060. The Prius Prime Plus starts at $27,100 and the Prius Prime Advanced starts at $33,100. The main differences in trim levels are in the 11.6″ touchscreen display, heated steering wheel, seat adjustability, rain-sensing wipers, cargo cover, and fog/accent lights that come with the Prius Prime Advanced.
Learning how to use the Prius Prime’s awesome fuel-saving features
Let’s get a bit technical for a moment. I really wanted to understand HOW this car works. The Prius Prime can power the wheels and car systems using the electric motors, the gas engine, or a combination of both. When the battery is fully charged, it runs on the electric motors only. When the battery runs out, it operates like a traditional Prius, using both the gas engine and electric motors to drive the car as they are needed and available. The energy generated by running the car on gasoline continually charges the battery, allowing the car to use the electric motors for some systems at certain times. It’s really quite an amazing feat of technology.
You as the driver have a lot of control over where the vehicle gets its power. You can choose from three modes:
- Electric EV mode: The Prius Prime defaults to this mode when it starts up if the battery’s charge is sufficient to allow electric driving.
- Hybrid HV mode: Defaults to this mode when the battery drops below a certain threshold.
- EV Auto mode: Use this mode to allow the car to juggle power sources to maximize efficiency.
You also have the choice of Eco, Normal, and Power modes – which work like any other car to either save fuel or give you a little extra punch in power/acceleration when you need it.
Learning to use these systems to get the best fuel economy is important – and the Prius Prime makes it pretty fun, too. The giant 11.6″ touchscreen is full of all kinds of useful info – showing you when the electric vs. gas motors are being used, and for what systems. Even my kids were interested in watching exactly where the car was pulling energy from at any given time.
Braking – without braking!
Another tech feature the Prius Prime employs to save on fuel is regenerative braking. If you’re going down a steep hill, normally your car would accelerate on its own and you’d have to brake repeatedly to slow down. But just tap the “B” on the gear shift and the Prius Prime will regulate your speed. This allows the motor to use the vehicle’s momentum to act as a “generator” and produce electrical current to charge the battery.
When you lift your foot off the accelerator, you can feel the car “grab” and slow itself down without using the brake. It’s similar to how a truck would down-shift when going down a hill. This not only saves wear and tear on your brakes, but by running the car at a regulated speed, it helps capture that momentum and maximize your fuel economy. Once again, I had a good amount of fun with this feature – look kids, I’m not braking!
Speaking of having no gears, this makes the car an incredibly smooth ride. You never feel any shifting or revving of the engine. To me, it felt like riding a roller coaster when you are gliding around a not-so-steep curve. There was a smooth, light-as-air feeling as I drove.
All this tech adds up to saving you dollars
The Prius Prime provides an electric-only range of 25 miles. And it’s overall efficiency gives you an estimated 54 mpg when running on gas, making it one of the most fuel-efficient cars on the road today. In addition, plug-in vehicles are eligible for federal tax credit and potential state subsidies that regular hybrids are not eligible for.
The huge infotainment screen was a plus… and a minus.
The Prius Prime Premium and Advanced come with a huge, 11.6-inch, full-color, vertically-oriented touchscreen. It’s like having an iPad on your dashboard – it even has pinch-zoom and swipe functionality. And it’s loaded with efficiency apps (as mentioned above) and tools such as a charging-station finder and remote management of charging functions. You can even program your climate control to warm up/cool down the car for you in the morning.
The Prius Prime comes with Entune (TM) Premium Audio with integrated navigation and an app suite that includes access to MovieTickets.com, Open Table, Pandora, Facebook, Yelp, iHeartRadio, sports, fuel guide and more. And of course a backup camera. It’s quite impressive. I’m not fully converted to being a lover of touchscreen displays just yet, but I think I could get used to it. And the size was nice – during the day.
At night was a different story. Try as I might, I could not find a way to dim the display during nighttime hours. Most navigation systems switch to a dark background at night, but the Prius Prime’s did not. I did find a setting to dim the display, but it wasn’t enough. The huge, brightly-lit screen was fairly distracting while driving at night.
The dashboard of the Prius Prime is a unique design. Most cars have a large-ish display directly in front of the driver with speed, fuel, and other info. This car moves that display to the center of the dash. It took a little bit to get used to, but by the end of the week I loved it. It’s minimalist and cuts down on distractions.
The vehicle offers Qi-compatible wireless charging (not compatible with my iPhone), one USB port in the front seat, and 12V outlets in the front and rear.
Safety is never compromised
Toyota’s “Safety Sense P” (TSS-P) comes standard on all Prius trim levels. You’ll get pedestrian detection, lane departure alert with steering assist, auto high beams, dynamic cruise control, and a vehicle sway warning system that alerts the driver with an audible and visual alert if repeated lane departure is detected.
There are also 8 standard airbags, tire pressure monitoring system, and Low Anchors and Tethers for Children (LATCH) on both rear passenger seats.
Even the sharp, new exterior design is fuel-efficient!
The Prius Prime has a completely unique front and rear design. Sharper angles, quad-LED projector headlights, LED taillights, and an aerodynamically-designed rear window and hatch gives the Prius Prime a much sportier look than its geeky predecessor.
Even the rear hatch is designed for fuel efficiency! Its carbon fiber reinforced polymer construction results in a lightweight, easy-to-lift hatch. Inside, the cargo space was average for a sedan.
One feature I really loved was the keyless access: just swipe your finger over a spot on the door handle to lock; hold the handle to unlock the front doors; or hold the door handle for 3 seconds to unlock all doors. Easy to remember and even easier to use.
The Prius Prime interior: a galaxy far, far away.
You can’t talk about this car without noting that the interior looks like a Stormtrooper from Star Wars. As someone who loves the Star Wars franchise, this was just icing on the cake for me. It honestly made me giggle every time I got in the car.
The car feels roomy and wide inside. Back seat legroom is adequate, though not amazing. And it’s important to note that the Prius Prime is a solid 4-person vehicle – the back seat cup holder/console is built in with no option to fold up. And there’s only one 12V outlet in the back, so once your kids are old enough to need USB ports, the Prius might not be the car for you. At least not for a longer road trip.
What We Liked
- Fuel economy! This car will simply save you a ton of money
- Easy finger-swipe keyless access
- Stormtrooper interior
- Unique dashboard and infotainment design
- Smooth ride
What You Need to Know
- Runs on regular gas and electric battery that recharges by plugging in to a household outlet or charging station
- Huge infotainment screen is a bit bright for night driving
- Prius Prime’s main focus is fuel efficiency, it’s not a performance car
- Will run approximately 25 miles on a 5 1/2 hour charge (standard 120V household plug; 240V charger available for faster charging times)
- Gets an estimated 54 mpg using the hybrid gas/electric system
What we listened to in the Prius Prime
Driving the Toyota Prius Prime helped me more fully understand hybrid plug-in vehicles and how incredible they can be for saving money. And the smooth ride inspired me to listen to the following during my drive:
Disclosure: The Toyota Prius Prime was provided to facilitate my review. All opinions are my own.