Gear

Toyota's 2023 Prius Prime is its best hybrid — but also potentially its last

The 2023 Prius Prime is a fine vehicle, but in a world where EV charging infrastructure is adequate, hybrid cars could lose their appeal.

Toyota’s iconic Prius is back with a new look that helps carry the hybrid into a sleek new age of EV design.

While the new Prius Prime — unveiled this week in Japan — still retains the hybrid’s iconic “wedge shape,” it also goes all in on curves, sporting rounded “modern lines” and doing away with some of the characteristic hard angles of Prius’ past.

The visual revamp doesn’t just give the hybrid a new, more contemporary look, it also makes the 2023 Prius more aerodynamic, helping bolster fuel efficiency and deliver a substantial upgrade for buyers in the market for a gas/electric hybrid.

Toyota
Toyota
Toyota

What’s new? — Though the 2023 Prius Prime is still a hybrid, Toyota says it hopes that drivers will be able to do most of their daily commuting using the car’s battery instead of the internal combustion engine.

To help the 2023 Prius stay competitive with dedicated EVs, the automaker says its battery mode has 50 percent more range than the previous generation. That would equate to about 37 miles of charge, as opposed to the previous Prius Prime’s 25 miles. At the core of that range is a 13.6 kWh lithium-ion battery that Toyota installed under the car’s rear seat for a lower center of gravity.

That range is obviously nowhere near what a standard, full-on EV would get on a single charge (the median is about 230 miles on a full charge), but for most, probably enough to skate by running errands and potentially even commuting to work one way.

On the interior, the driver console is built around a seven-inch TFT LCD screen. No major design flourishes here (especially when compared to a world where Mercedes-Benz’s Hyperscreen exists). Toyota says it did attempt to design its in-car screens to be lower-profile and less distracting though; a welcome endeavor for those who find large auto displays to be dangerously distracting.

The Prius made history as being the first mass-produced hybrid gas/electric car.Toyota

The future? — It’s nice to see one of the biggest segues to full-on EVs still thriving, though maybe a little underwhelming from an eco-friendliness standpoint. It’s hard to get excited about internal combustion engines with a bevy of versatile electric cars already out there, or in the process of being released.

It doesn’t help that Toyota has both tried and failed (somewhat disastrously) to roll out full EVs of its own.

Given the still-inadequate state of EV charging infrastructure, however, there is still a place for hybrid vehicles.; Toyota likely knows and that could be why it’s still plowing forward with the Prius as a hybrid car.

With federal investments in charging infrastructure in the pipeline, subsidies of EVs, and a general sea change amongst legacy automakers formerly specializing in gas-powered cars, it wouldn’t be surprising if the 2023 Prius Prime is Toyota’s best, and also its last.

Price and release date — There’s no official pricing on the 2023 Prius Prime but projections hover around the $27,000 mark. The hybrid is expected to be released “later this year.”

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