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A JOLT OF HIGH TECH: Toyota’s new-for-2017 Prius Prime plug-in ekes out exceptional mileage, loaded with cutting-edge features

Q: How much tech can Toyota cram into a compact sedan?

A: About 3,400 pounds, based on the curb weight of the 2017 Prius Prime Advanced.

From its highly evolved Hybrid Synergy Drive System with plug-in all-electric capacity to its data-laden cockpit displays and safety functions, the Prime is cutting-edge transportation.

Unlike most typical hybrids, Toyota’s top-of-the-line Prius can deliver about 22 miles on electric power alone, thanks to increased battery storage capacity. And the juice supply can be topped off in about 5½ hours plugged into a standard home outlet (approximately two hours with a 240-volt outlet).

When its charge is depleted, the Prime reverts into regular hybrid mode, relying on its 1.8-liter gas engine supplemented by two battery-driven electric motors for propulsion.

Starting out with a complete charge and full 11.3-gallon tank of regular grade gasoline, the Prime can travel about 600 miles before refueling or recharging. That works out to about 54 thrifty miles per gallon.

Aside from the plug-in capability, the Prime has a number of changes from the regular Prius, most noticeably in its revised front- and rear-end styling. Yeah, it’s still pretty wacky-looking, with bizarre bulges intersected by oddly angled creases, but it does seems somewhat more cohesive than its lesser brethren. Let’s just say it’s an acquired taste.

prs_my16_0014_v002The interior, too, is nonconformist, with a giant, full-color touchscreen dominating the top center of the console displaying nav maps, backup camera, climate and audio functions.

Elsewhere on the plastic-rich dash is a somewhat haphazard array of buttons for the numerous safety-nanny functions and selectors for hybrid/EV/EV Auto drive modes.

The Prime only seats four, as the area between the rear seats is eaten up with enlarged batteries.

The Prime drives pretty much like a regular compact sedan, but the added weight of batteries makes itself felt through corners. The poundage does help deliver a smooth highway ride, however.

The plug-in Prius should prove quite satisfying for techies as well as enviros. If you’re the type who enjoys a car that’s even somewhat sporty to drive, best look elsewhere.

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