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New York show: Toyota Primes Prius

Prime time: Toyota's new plug-in Prius Prime brings new advances in hybrid tech to the US market, but was not the expected sports model.

Prius in its prime with the return of a plug-in Toyota


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24 Mar 2016

AFTER a nine-month hiatus, Toyota has resurrected its plug-in Prius hybrid for North America, with the more efficient and more tech-heavy Prime rolling out at the New York International Auto Show.

While a previously teased tail-light view suggested a venture into sporty territory for the Prius family, the revealed car appears to be sticking to the orthodox layout of its siblings.

The Japanese car-maker is touting its new model as the most efficient plug-in hybrid to date, with a claimed fuel economy figure of 2.0 litres per 100km, but with its new home charging feature, has 35km of pure electric range and an emissions-free top speed of 135km/h.

Were it to come Down Under, the Prius Prime would be Toyota's foray into both plug-in hybrid territory and lithium battery technology, but Toyota Motor Corporation Australia public relations manager Mike Breen told GoAuto the new model was not scheduled for local launch.

“There's no current plan to introduce it here,” he said. “We would need to do some market surveys and get a better understanding of the market before we contemplate it.” With its more efficient powertrain, the Prime uses 26 per cent less fuel than the previous plug-in Prius sold in the United States until June 2015. Combined battery and petrol range is estimated at 965km.

The 8.8kWh battery can be fully recharged in about two hours using a 240-volt socket or 5.5 hours on the American 110-volt system.

Toyota's Synergy Drive system has been given a significant upgrade with its first “dual-motor” that allows the generator to temporarily act as a motor in parallel with the main drive motor for boosted acceleration.

Like the standard Prius, combustion power comes from a 1.8-litre Atkinson cycle petrol four-cylinder with a thermal efficiency figure of 40 per cent.

The Prime's “stand-out styling” may be limited to a five-door canvass but it introduces a sharper look for the Prius range with heavily accented nose design and sharp quad LED headlights. The back end has a new tail-light arrangement not unlike a pair of Dame Edna's glasses.

The new model also introduces new construction techniques to the family with a carbon-fibre hatch, aluminium bonnet and greater use of high-strength steels. Overall the Prime is 15mm wider, 61mm longer and 25mm lower than the previous plug-in.

Interior comfort is said to be improved with reduced wind and air-conditioning noise, which has an electric compressor in place of the mechanical version. With the new pump, owners can remotely turn on the air-conditioning before entering.

Interiors are upholstered in mock leather and the rear seats have a 60/40 split folding arrangement.

The Entune multimedia system is accessed through the 11.6-inch high definition display, offering applications and services such as satellite radio, Doppler weather updates, Gracenote and Pandora.

Smartphone connectivity is available for both Apple and Android devices, along with Bluetooth and USB connection, as is wireless charging.

Safety and driver assistance systems include self-parking for getting into and out of a parking space, eight airbags, reversing camera, autonomous braking, lane departure assistance, adaptive cruise control, self-dipping headlights, blind spot monitoring and rear-cross traffic alert.

Toyota's fourth-generation Prius launched locally earlier this month in standard hybrid form.

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