The Toyota Prius Prime is for those consumers tempted to buy a fully electric vehicle, but who aren't willing to contend with the range anxiety that typically goes hand-in-hand with owning an electric car. For anyone who can charge frequently and thus maximize the electric drive, it's a compelling car. Otherwise, using it as a hybrid compromises fuel economy. You also get a $4,500 federal tax incentive, at least for now.
Toyota rolled out a Prius plug-in back in 2012, promising some electric-only driving range. But in reality, this was a reluctant EV that resorted to turning on the gas engine at every opportunity. In our owner satisfaction survey, the Prius Plug-in ranked well below the regular Prius hybrid. But the current plug-in -- called Prius Prime -- has the ability to go all electric more often and for longer distances.
Thanks to an 8.8-kWh lithium-ion battery, the car averaged 22.5 miles of range on electric power according to our testing. Unlike its predecessor, the Prime remains in electric mode even under hard acceleration or when climbing hills. It's still not an unconditional EV, however, as it will start the engine in sub-freezing weather and when driving needs demand high power. Once past those electric miles, the Prime reverts to regular hybrid operation. As such, we got 50 mpg overall -- two less than the regular Prius. This difference can be attributed to the Prime's 300-pound weight increase over the Prius. With its combined electric and hybrid power, the Prius Prime has a 590-mile range.