2017 Toyota Prius Two Eco - Fourth Generation Godfather of Green - Quick Review

* * * * * * * * * * * *

(Contributing Editor: Tomasz Paluch)

Until the day comes when all roads are smart roads intermittently lined with magnetic inductive charging network or a network of liquefied hydrogen fueling stations...

 

RIGHT NOW, gas-electric hybrid powered vehicles are the name of mainstream green motoring game.

 

And ever since 2005, the "Don Corleone" of gas-electric hybrids has been the Toyota Prius.

 

Nearly every brand from Kia to McLaren, has recently adopted the technology, and Prius' one-time domination of the mainstream green segment has dipped to about 50% these days.

 

Responding to competitors' recent ground-up designs, and improvements to the internal combustion engine itself, Toyota has introduced a new generation of Godfather of Green, which "Drive...He Said" recently got some seat time in.

 

* * * * * * * * * * * *

WHAT: Fourth generation 2017 Toyota Prius Two Eco gasoline electric hybrid compact family sedan. Code name: XW50. Toyota ditched the shared-with-Corolla 3rd generation (XW30) platform for a new modular one (Toyota New Global Architecture) set to underpin, among others, the upcoming 2018 Camry (XV60) and Lexus LS sedan (XF50).

Standard Power: 1797 cc Atkinson cycle, dual VVT-i DOHC 16V I-4 cylinder gasoline engine: 95hp/ 105 lb-ft; 90 kW (121 hp) net hybrid

parallel to: 1 x 600V synchronous AC generator/starter/ charging motor + 1 x 600 V synchronous DC traction/ generator/ regenerative charging motor: 53 kW

electric supply battery: (Prius Two) 168 Nickel Metal Hydride cells, 6.5 amp hr; (Prius Two Eco & +): 56 Li-Ion cells, 207.2 V, 3.6 amp hr.

WHAT (A) STYLING DIFFERENCE: The new Prius adopts provocative rear cathedral buttresses from other side of Toyota's "Green Aisle," the Mirai hydrogen fuel cell electric; Hoodline dips lower; Overwrought nose and tail carvings = reduced drag;  More raked liftgate lends notchback appearance; Still recognizably polarizing? Yep.

WHY: More than a few new ground-up designed out of the box as gas-electric hybrids are launching this year (Hyundai Ioniq and Kia Niro), and traditional ICE models fitted with hybrid propulsion have chipped away at Prius' once 90% dominance of the segment.

WHEN: On-Sale (in the U.S.) since Fall 2016

WHERE: Toyota new vehicle dealers

WHERE MADE: Tsutsumi, Toyota-Aichi, Japan

WHERE TO: Master of fuss-free urban stop & go, with infrequent fuel stops; No wonder taxi fleets love 'em.

HOW ROADWORTHY: Cooler-running permanent magnet DC traction motor is fed battery/ generator current on lower voltage, making 7 kW less than old. A slightly more thermally efficient, Atkinson cycle DOHC 16V 1.8L gas I-4 gets a 3 hp cut; Torque remains = 105 lb-ft; Net hybrid power = -10% to 121 hp;

More compact Hybrid Synergy Drive unit = 1 starter/ generator (MG1) + 1 traction/ generator electric motors (MG2) (both fixed magnet DC);  Motors and engine couple via e-CVT planetary gearsets; On demand the engine spins the MG1 to supplement MG2 or to charge the battery;

4 Drive-Modes: "Eco" stand-by for sub-21 mph pure BEV operation, "Normal", get-out-of-Tesla-Model-S way "Sport" and "B" (on the transaxle position lever) for near brake pedal-less driving.

New double-wishbone independent rear suspension + lighter Li-Ion battery pack + lower center of gravity pitches less on undulations; Stiffer chassis remains timid side to any urgent commands. Steering, though barely palpably quicker, has been sedated against road feel. Linearity of 4-disc brake set-up is improved, but again waning friction at the end of pedal travel betrays a prioritization of regenerative charging.

HOW FAR: 56 combined miles per gallon = 12% > 2012 Toyota Prius Two

HOW BIG/ LITTLE: New Prius = longer (2.2"-inches), wider (0.5"), taller (o.5") than Old Prius. Wheelbase remains unchanged, so front legroom gained 0.5" while rear footwells were cut by 1.5".  However, taller roof, lower floorpan and higher rear seat cushion compensate with slightly greater rear seat pitch.

More raked liftgate created more cargo space and the switch to the more compact Li-Ion battery pack & dumping the doughnut minis-spare upped cargo space by 26%.

HOW USEFUL: Low load floor w/ 60/40% split 2nd Row seatbacks; +1 Front seat hip & torso bolstering; +1 Wide 2nd Row center armrest; -1 Deep dashboard top reduces outward visibility; -1 Lower seat cushion comfort on longer trips; -1 Front pax seat lacks height adjustment; -1 Tall liftgate reach; -1 Minimal door pocket storage

HOW SAFE: 7 airbags; IIHS Safety Pick +; rear camera grid Park Assist; SafetySense P suite: Lane departure warning, keep assist; Adaptive cruise control - full; Pre-collision & Pedestrian detection; Automatic high beam headlamps; -1 Blind spot and rear cross traffic warning only available on Four variant.

HOW PEOPLE FRIENDLY: twin 4.2 color LCD center mount gauge/ MFI displays; Front windows full express; ; Contrast stitching.

Cool Gizmo(s): City-scape welcome display;

Almost Bespoke: contrasting colored multi-tiered curved panels spanning the dash and doors, impart a sportier twin cowl theme; HVAC vent bezels are piano black finished  Appliance white accents in new 3-spoke steering wheel spoke containing audio/ handsfree/ adaptive cruise control 3-spoke helm and in the center stack are clear homages to the first generation Chevrolet Volt.

Nearly Non-Descript: : -1 Prius Purists might be put off by replacement of former futuristic floating center stack for Corolla-esque unit; -1 cobalt blue transaxle position joystick seems more Citroen 2-CV relocated vertically in center stack; -1 Cyclopean center dash top twin LCD gauge / MFD cluster.

HOW "APP" -LICABLE: 6.1" matte capacitive touch LCD infotainment screen with bezel containing primary function switch buttons; +1 Large icons; Voice command hands-free communications; Toyota Entune apps: Pandora, I-Heart, Slacker radio, Open Table, Yelp, Facebook Places, real time traffic, weather, sports, fuel prices, stocks; Siri Eyes Free ; 3 mos. complimentary SXM; USB x 1, 12V x 2.

HOW MUCH: $26,554 = monospec 2017 Toyota Prius Two Eco .

WHAT'S MISSING: More driving enthusiasm, Heads-Up display (available on variant Three & up); Android Auto/ Apple Car Play; Liftgate strap.

ANY COMPETITION: Kia Niro: +1 fresh crossover packaging, Hyundai Ioniq: +1 new sportback  & DCT transmission, Ford C-Max: +1 Larger euro-crossover feel;

BOTTOM LINE: As a known quantity, Toyota played it safe with evolutionary re-design of world's best selling gas-electric hybrid vehicle.

Leave a comment