By Larry Lark / Herald Special Sections Writer
Toyota’s Prius is virtually synonymous with hybrid.
That’s not a bad place to be if you work in the marketing department. Kinda like Kleenex, Xerox or Google.
It reigns as the best-selling hybrid in the world. And with the introduction of the 2017 Toyota Prius Prime (which is a hybrid with electric plug-in), that status is not about to change.
Prime means “the best,” making it an appropriate moniker for the most technologically advanced, best-equipped model in Prius history.
My Prius Prime tester was a four-door, lift-back model that seats four adults with a surprising amount of room and comfort. Five can be squeezed in the back seat, but the comfort factor disappears. The lift-back provides easy access to the rear cargo area that — despite the hybrid function — delivers room for golf clubs and gear.
Covered with a Blue Magnetism coat of paint, the Prius Prime exterior looks like the future. It sports a chiseled profile, edgy character lines and road-hugging stance; all designed to not only look good, but be lightweight and aerodynamic.
If you’re a city-dweller, you might be able to squeeze by on the Prime’s all-electric capacity. The car’s range is about 25 miles, and takes six-hours to charge on a standard 120-volt outlet overnight.
The beauty is, if plans change and the electricity wanes, the hybrid kicks in and the combination of engine and batteries will get you to and from your destination without worry. I achieved close to 600 miles without a fill-up, with the onboard computer telling me I was averaging close to 54 miles per gallon in a combination of city/highway driving.
Part of that magic is thanks to a 1.6-liter, four-cylinder engine with hybrid synergy drive system. It delivers 121-horsepower — which may not seem like a lot — but when the pedal hits metal, the Prius Prime will surprise you with its response.
Otherwise, the Prime provides a comfortable, reliable, steady-eddie ride. And its handling is responsive and secure, just like a regular Prius.
The inside is definitely Jetsons-like. There is no dashboard positioned in front of the driver. It’s located in the middle. There is a heads-up display to let you know your speed without having your eyes leave the road. And there is no shifter. It’s a toggle that moves you into reverse or drive. And a button that places you in park.
Amenities are up to par with virtually anything. Navigation, check; rear-vew camera, check; premium sound with 10 speakers and Bluetooth, check; a suite of apps, check; smart-flow climate control, check.
Safety is covered with Toyota’s Safety Sense suite that includes a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, lane-departure alert, radar cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, cross-traffic alert and auto high beams to name a few.
For an investment in the mid $30Ks, you will purchase a commuter car second to none. You’ll have the option to drive all-electric. You’ll be kinder to our environment.
And in the end, you’re really not sacrificing anything.
Base Price: $33,100.
Price As Driven: $36,035.
Vehicles are provided by the manufacturer. List price may vary at local dealerships.