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2017 Toyota Prius Prime Quick Spin | Homeliness and half-measures

John Beltz Snyder

I'm not in love with the Toyota Prius Prime. But, for at least part of my time with it, I loved driving it.

The Prius Prime offers about 25 miles of all-electric driving if you pop it into EV mode and leave it there. Those are, by far, the best 25 miles you'll drive in the Prime all day (unless, of course, you're able to charge it up before going out again). Those 25 miles are quiet and smooth. In those 25 miles, good things happen when you press the accelerator. The task of modulating the pedal with the selector in "B" mode is satisfying. Even in Eco mode, the electric get-up when accelerating from a stop is the sort of feel that a classical soundtrack in allegro accompanies nicely.

When I ran out of juice, though, I was ready to be done. The buzzing of the engine is a stark contrast to the serenity of electric driving. It isn't slower, but the Prius Prime definitely feels slower as its struggling to gain speed becomes audible.

When you're not in the zone, so to speak, of electric driving, the car's other faults come into sharper focus. I began to notice all the plastic surrounding me -- most annoyingly that thin-feeling piece covering the bottom of the steering wheel. I, personally, am not one of the many who are turned off by the large portrait-oriented touchscreen in the middle of the dash, but the overall design feels a little haphazard. The non-traditional use of positive and negative space in the front of the cabin somehow feels brilliant in the BMW i3, but awkward here in the Prius Prime. I won't even start in on the Prime's exterior.

There are definitely things I like about the Prius Prime, and I've considered switching to a plug-in hybrid for my next vehicle. Using the Prime in Hybrid mode, though, has me thinking I'd be happier to go fully electric. Either way, there is a sizable list of cars with and without gasoline engines that I'd rather live with than this one.

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