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Revenge of the Nerds: The 2023 Toyota Prius Prime

2023 Toyota Prius Prime front 3/4 view

2023 Toyota Prius Prime rear 3/4 view

Hopefully, 90 days was enough time to recover from that shock, because here's another.

The Prius Prime is even better.

2023 Toyota Prius Prime hood up

2023 Toyota Prius Prime hybrid powerplant

The Prius Prime bumps the total system output from 196 to 220 horsepower. That's not just 24 more than the regular Prius, it's 99 horsepower more than any previous-generation Prius. Zero to 60 in the Prime is 6.5 seconds to the standard Prius' 7.3. Driven just as a regular hybrid, the EPA fuel economy estimate is 48 miles per gallon. Yes, that's four mpg less than in the regular Prius.

But the Prime is a plug-in. It's the car's superpower. There's 40 miles of pure electric power per charge before the gasoline/electric hybrid kicks in. On household current (110v), it takes 11 hours to recharge. If I get home about 6:00 p.m. and leave the house at about 8:15 a.m. the next day, the car's been fully charged for more than three hours when I leave. My daily commute, roundtrip, is 42.2 miles. Only 2.2 miles of it were using gasoline while driving the Prius Prime. I was, for all intents and purposes, driving an EV. Let's assume that all I drove was that commute. It would take 21.8 days---more than an entire work month---to use a single gallon of gasoline. It would take 231.27 days---just over 33 weeks---just over seven and a half months---to drain the 10.6 gallon fuel tank.

And yet, if an emergency happens or a wild hair strikes and I need to drive across the country rightnow-----I can do that, get 40 free electric miles and then have more than 500 miles of hybrid range in a car that refuels at a gas pump.

This is starting to make sense, isn't it?

2023 Toyota Prius Prime rear hatch open

2023 Toyota Prius Prime rear seat

2023 Toyota Prius Prime front seats

2023 Toyota Prius Prime instrument panel

The base price of the Toyota Prius Prime XSE Premium is $40,265 including destination. That brings Toyota's comprehensive active safety suite, 19-inch wheels, bi-LED headlights and LED daytime running lights, rain-sensing wipers, a 12.3-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto running through a JBL eight-speaker audio system wiht amplifier, a power liftback, fixed glass roof, heated and ventilated front seats, eight-way power driver's seat with lumbar and memory settings, a heated steering wheel, six USB ports and wireless charging.

2023 Toyota Prius Prime steering wheel and instrument cluster

2023 Toyota Prius Prime center console

2023 Toyota Prius Prime center stack

As well-equipped as the Prime XSE Premium comes, there were still some extra-cost options on our test vehicle: $200 for a digital rearview mirror, $610 for a solar charging roof (which adds range back into the battery while the car is parked in sunlight), $1,085 for the Advanced Technology Package (advanced parking assist and panoramic view mirrors), $350 for heated rear seats, $179 for all-weather floor linters, $250 for door sill protectors, $69 for a rear bumper applique' and $80 for alloy wheel locks.

Bottom line on the window sticker: $43,088.

2023 Toyota Prius Prime front view

2023 Toyota Prius Prime side view

2023 Toyota Prius Prime rear view

I can't knock the price, but I think I could probably just take the Prius Prime XSE Premium as it comes. The solar roof is interesting, but I'd need a lot more than a week with it to measure how much charge you're actually getting for that $610. Regardless, the Prius Prime is a remarkable car. I've been a PHEV (plug-in hybrid electric vehicle) fan for some time. This is one of the better ones, and given the pace and problems with infrastructure (brace for a whole thing on that from me when I review the Lexus RX 450e in a couple of weeks), this is almost certainly a better choice than an EV for most Americans right now.


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