CARLSBAD, CA – In the 2010 film, “The Other Guys,” the police officer played by Will Ferrell, fussy and prudish, drives a Prius. His alpha-male partner, played by Mark Wahlberg, relentlessly criticizes the ride as feminine.
The 2023 redesign of the Prius and Prius Prime may finally have progressed to the point where Wahlberg’s character would want to take the wheel with a Red Bull and a cigar.
One can almost imagine the conversation at Toyota’s design center among product planners and designers saying the company needed to up its game and inject a wee bit of Tesla into the Toyota – that techie thing that has attracted young professional men to the Teslarati.
The Prius Prime (plug-in electric hybrid), like the redo of the core gas-electric hybrid Prius, is lower, sleeker and sportier. It may be the first Prius to truly look like 21st-century design instead of a 20th-century appliance to go with the high fuel economy that has attracted buyers to the Prius brand from day one for the past quarter-century.
Toyota was smart to improve the performance of the Prius and Prius Prime along with the exterior. The powertrain produces 220 hp, nearly 100 more than its Prius it replaces. And the battery will take a driver up to 44 miles (71 km) on a charge before the engine kicks in, compared with 25 miles (40 km) for the old Prius Prime.
Steering is better than the former Prius, but still feels a tad numb. But engage the legitimate Sport mode, and handling and acceleration improves to where I would leave it most of the time when not on the highway.
Looking at the some of the big changes, it’s interesting to note the new Prius and Prius Prime are built on the same platform as the outgoing Prius. That’s a testament to Toyota’s engineering team to change the personality and proportions to such a large degree without tearing up the architecture. The roofline is 2 ins. (51 mm) lower, and the floor is 1 in. (25 mm) lower. That’s probably going to cost Toyota some of its older Prius buyer base as older drivers tend to prefer higher seating positions.
On the interior, some obvious and deliberate changes are at hand. The instrument screen has been moved from the center of the dash to in front of the driver. But this is not necessarily a good thing as we found that the chunky steering wheel annoyingly cuts our view of the screen in half in most of the seating positions we tried. The quirky shifter of the old Prius, weirdly placed on the vertical surface of the dash, has been moved back to the console area where it belongs.
Some Prius Particulars
- 8-in. (20-cm) infotainment screen for the Prius Prime base model, and a horizontal 12.3-in. (31-cm) screen for the higher trims.
- The wheels are 17 ins. for the base model and 19 ins. for the uplevel trims, compared with a max of 17 ins. on the old model.
- Roof-mounted solar panels recharge the battery pack when the car is parked. When driving, the energy from the solar panels powers accessories such as the AC.
- The Prius Prime nearly meets the former model’s combined fuel-economy figure of 54 mpg (4.35 L/100 km), with a rating of up to 53 mpg (4.43 L/100 km) as well as its overall rating of 121 MPGe.
- Limited warranty covers three years or 36,000 miles (57,960 km); powertrain warranty covers five years or 60,000 miles (96,600 km); hybrid components are covered for 10 years or 150,000 miles (241,500 km).
- Complimentary maintenance is covered for two years or 25,000 miles (40,250 km).
- 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 6.6 seconds.
- Battery recharges in 11 hours on a 120V power source, and four hours on a 240V power source.
- Comes standard with Toyota’s new Traffic Jam Assist function, which allows for hands-free driving when on a highway under 25 mpg.
Once the all-electric capacity is drained from the Prius Prime, it behaves like the conventional Prius Hybrid.
The SE starts at $33,445, including destination, and is equipped between the regular Prius’s LE ($28,545) and XLE ($31,990) trim levels. The Prime XSE ($36,695) and XSE Premium ($40,265) are priced higher, with the regular Prius Limited topping out at $35,560.