Park the car. Turn the engine off. Wait for it…wait for it… There it is! My driving score on the dashboard of the 2017 Toyota Prius Prime Advanced. Initially, I questioned it: “What is this? Am I in school?”
The plug-in liftback is no KITT from the 80s Knight Rider TV show, but it has its way of talking to you. It gives you a score, words of encouragement, and what you can do in the future to get what you’ve paid for in terms of efficiency on your next drive. My best score read: 71/100; Excellent Steady Driving; Keep Current Driving Style.”
Prius engineers are in tune with the value of today’s world of survey-laced communications and immediate star-rating requests. But, the Eco scoring system is not new. In previous test drives of the Prius and other brands, colorful bar charts, graphics and animations have documented my driving through multi-information displays, but this time around the subtlety of a few words made me do a double take.
It may have been the timing of the score’s appearance on the 4.2-inch full color multi-information display. Once the car was turned off, everything went dark, and then my score appeared bright as a full moon. Out of curiosity I wanted to read it. Bam! I was hooked.
This scoring system was big to me and my ego, but really only a small hint of the impact the Advanced is making this year, achieving what no hybrid has done before, and garnering more recognition in the Prius’ pioneering storyline. The 2017 Toyota Prius Prime was named the Electric/Hybrid Best Buy of 2017 in Kelley Blue Book’s annual awards honoring best new-vehicle choices available in the U.S. market.
This mid-size car, with a1.8-liter Atkinson-cycle, 4-cylinder engine, delivers 640 miles of total full-charge/full-tank driving range, 25 miles of pure electric range and a 133 MPGe (miles per gallon gasoline equivalent) rating that’s the highest of any electric car currently available.
Compared to the previous Prius plug-in hybrid model, the Prime Advanced is longer, wider and lighter. The steering is extremely easy on the wrist and the ride almost feels like a glide, especially as you lean into the curves.
Thanks, in part, to the placement of the 8.8 kilowatt-hour lithium battery in the rear cargo area, the cabin is also more spacious. More spacious for four people, that is, since the rear-seat, built-in console has dibs on that middle seat. The rear cargo area lacks depth because of the battery.
Drivers can look forward to a faster charge and the use of standard household outlets. Toyota recommends a dedicated GFI 15A outlet with the supplied cable. Charging using a standard household outlet takes less than five-and-a-half hours or about two hours when using a public charger or other 240V source.
The Toyota-first carbon fiber rear hatch, which frames the unique dual-wave rear glass, helps reduce drag. The full-width LED rear combination lamp panel has a shape that follows the contour of the spoiler and the window as well as a full-width aero glass panel below the rear spoiler. Basically, you can see almost as much behind you as you can in front of you in combination with the standard back up camera.
Before I go any further, let’s back up to other elements of the traffic stopping futuristic design that kept me talking way too long to strangers who inquired of the latest features on this hybrid – with an underlying expectation that I would sell it to them on the spot. We chatted about how the colored lug nuts reminiscent of toy marbles matched the Blue Magnetism-colored exterior, and how the front design with quad LED headlight, fog lights and accent lights looked ready to take flight.
Once I opened the door, the vertical 11.6 inch HD multimedia touchscreen display became the belle of the ball for the interior design layout. I enjoyed swiping away on the big screen. But the detail that truly caught my attention was the absence of knobs, specifically when I was preparing to turn the radio down. No need. With the touch of an icon, I had complete silence.
I test drove the Advanced in below-freezing weather, so I should have appreciated Toyota’s smart-flow system, but that took a minute. Under this system the air should flow quietly only to areas where occupants are seated in order to maximize fuel economy. The fact that my passengers and I couldn’t hear the air flowing had us repeatedly checking to see if the heat was working. Ultimately the cabin was warm, but subliminally we thought we were still cold. The front and rear defrost worked, but each in its own time. The rear worked almost immediately. The front took a minute longer than I wanted to wait, so I had to break out the scraper and apply some elbow grease to what felt like a clear sheet of concrete.
From Advanced to Four Touring
After experiencing the novelties of the Advanced, the most expensive Prius this year, I did some quick comparison with the Prius Four Touring, priced at roughly $3,000 less. The Touring made its mark in 2016 also with a more aggressive design, and its 2017 version, offered in colors like Blue Crush Metallic, is basically the same, but with more safety features. I recently test drove it as well.
Both offer the same array of standard features: quiet cabins, heated seats, rain sensing wipers, smartphone capabilities, and parallel/perpendicular self-parking capabilities. The Advanced offers more energy efficient features whereas the Touring offers more cargo space and a fifth seat in the rear.
Both the Prime Advanced and the Touring come standard with the Toyota Safety System and Toyota Safety Sense. Between the two, drivers are getting a range of safety measures from stability control and airbags to pre-collision system with pedestrian detection and automatic braking to lane departure alerts.
And on both, these audible alerts are loud. Whether it be a semi-trailer truck pulling up or your neighbor walking the dog into your Prius space, everyone will know. More immediate feedback for everyone.
MSRP Toyota 2017 Prius Prime Advanced: $33,100; Combined City/highway MPG: 54; MPGe: 133.
MSRP Toyota 2017 Pius Four Touring: $30,015; Combined City/highway MPG: 52.
Four Touring& Advanced – A Quick Look:
Advanced: Hybrid Synergy Drive System TZEV
Four Touring: Hybrid Synergy Drive System AT-PZEV
Both: 1.8-liter Atkinson-cycle, 4-cylinder engine
Advanced: 19.8 cu.ft.
Four Touring: 27.4 cu.ft.
Advanced: 4.8 inches
Four Touring: 5.1
Advanced: EV/EV Auto and HV modes
Four Touring: EV/Eco/Power Modes
Advanced: 11.6 inch
Four Touring: 7 inch
Four Touring: 58.1/69.3/178.7
Advanced: 15-inch alloy wheels with covers, P195/65R15 tires
Four Touring: 17-inch alloy wheels, P215/45R17 tires