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Toyota announces the Prius Prime, a fancy Prius that plugs in

Toyota announces the Prius Prime, a fancy Prius that plugs in

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Toyota today announced the Prius Prime, a plug-in hybrid version of the Prius, which I drove last year and quite liked. But the new name, quad-LED headlights, and fancy new taillight design unique to the Prius Prime suggest Toyota sees this car as something a little more than another Prius.

And, to be honest, I'm not quite sure why. Sure, it can go 22 miles in all-electric mode at up to 84 mph — but that's less than half of the new Chevy Volt, which GM says can go more than 50 miles electric. On the other hand, the Volt is supposed to get 106 MPGe on the EPA's combined city/highway (electric) test while Toyota thinks the Prius Prime will 120 or higher.

It has a 8.8kWh battery that Toyota says can charge from a standard household outlet in 5.5 hours, or half that from a 240V clothes-dryer style plug.

Toyota Prius Prime

It shares the same platform as the regular Prius, the new generation of which launched last year, and that's a good thing — it has much-improved ride and handling. It has some other special options too, including a 11.6-inch center media screen and a full suite of active safety tech including automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning and assist, radar cruise, and automatic parallel and perpendicular parking. It's even able to steer out of a parallel parking spot.

Toyota thinks the 11.3-gallon tank will get your Prius Prime — when combined with a fully charged battery — a total driving range of more than 600 miles. That's all great, but we have to wonder why the EV driving range is so much less than the competition — and why, awesome Transformer-esque name aside, is it not just another Prius?