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2023 Wards 10 Best Engines & Propulsion Systems Toyota Prius Prime

Toyota Prius Prime: BEV-Like Dynamics in a Practical Package

Like the instant torque you get from a BEV when you mash the accelerator? You’ll get that with the Prius Prime plug-in hybrid.

If it turns out full electrification isn’t for the masses, cars like the ʼ23 Toyota Prius Prime may prove the answer.

For many, the Prius Prime could be the near-perfect bridge between the internal-combustion engine and the full battery-electric vehicle.

Like the instant torque you get from a BEV when you mash the accelerator? You’ll get that with the Prime. It is one of the few hybrids we’ve driven in the way it mimics the launch characteristics of a full BEV. And that’s a good thing.

The $37,000 midgrade Prius Prime XSE we tested comes standard with an all-aluminum, 150-hp, 2.0L DOHC 4-cyl., complemented by a 161-hp electric motor powered by a 13.6-kWh battery pack. Combined, the propulsion system is capable of delivering 220 hp – easily topping the 100-hp-per-liter output that’s become the ante for ICEs today.

Three hybrid driving modes are available: normal, eco and sport, the last of which Toyota says is good for 0-60 mph (97 km/h) acceleration in 6.6 seconds – making it 35% faster out of the blocks than the previous-gen model.

“This thing is downright zippy,” one judge notes. “I mean, it’s quick. It just jumps off the line. And when you stomp on it at 30 mph (48 km/h), it gives you immediate response.”

Concludes another tester: “It puts some surprising gravitational force on you.”

Toyota engineers also have managed to iron out the bumps in the interplay between the electric motors and the ICE.  There’s no annoying hunting around as the electric motor tries to figure out when to chime in. Also gone is the feeling of dragging around unnecessary extra weight; this car is well balanced front to rear.

“Smooth power delivery with very little of that hybrid feel,” says one judge. “The in and out of the electrics is nearly imperceptible.”

And of course, there’s the spectacular fuel economy this car delivers. In our testing, we easily bettered the 48 mpg (4.9 L/100 km) combined EPA rating.

In pure EV-driving mode, the Prime can travel 39 miles (63 km) solely on electric power, up from 25 miles (40 km) in the prior generation. That’s enough for many people’s daily commute. But maybe more importantly, you can go from zero to full power overnight by plugging into your garage’s conventional 120V line.

Although our test car didn’t have it, the Prius Prime also is available with a solar roof that enables the battery to charge while the car is parked on a sunny day and deliver auxiliary power to operate things like the air-conditioning system while in motion.

The bottom line? Thanks to its vehicle-defining propulsion system, the ’23 Prius Prime is practical, affordable, highly efficient and loads of fun to drive. And that makes it a 2023 Wards 10 Best Engines & Propulsion Systems winner, too.

The 2023 winners will be honored during the Wards 10 Best Engines & Propulsion Systems award ceremony Oct. 18 on day two of AutoTech: Electrification at the Fort Pontchartrain Hotel in Detroit, MI. Learn more about the event and book your ticket by visiting All credentialed media are welcome and qualify for free admittance to both the awards ceremony and AutoTech: Electrification Oct. 17-18.

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Prius Prime ‘downright zippy.’

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