Toyota has unveiled its second generation Prius Plug-in Hybrid, at the New York motor show. Described as its latest technology flagship, the new car can reach 84mph in battery-only mode or travel up to 31 miles without help from the petrol engine.
The car, which reaches British showrooms at the end of the year, returns 202mpg combined and emits just 32g/km of CO2 - the best figures yet achieved by any plug-in hybrid.
The new Prius Plug-in Hybrid looks little different to the regular Prius launched recently, but it gets new LED lights front and rear. The car is 165mm longer than the outgoing model, 15mm wider and 20mm lower with an impressive aerodynamic drag factor of 0.24, delivered by such sophisticated measures as a double-bubble rear window and an automatic radiator shutter which closes when cooling air isn't needed by the engine.
Solar roof charging panels
Solar panels on the roof charge the battery when the sun shines and a gas injection heat pump system keeps the air conditioning working when the car is being driven in battery-only mode
There is also a larger, 8.8kWh lithium ion battery that, despite its extra capacity, takes just two hours and 20 minutes to charge. Toyota avoids quoting a kerb weight for its new model, but insists this has been “kept to a minimum”.
The Prius Plug-in Hybrid's petrol engine is an improved version of Toyota’s 1.8-litre four, with new big-capacity exhaust gas recirculation system and improvements to its combustion that lift its overall efficiency to 40%, making it, according to Toyota’s claims, the world's most efficient mass-produced petrol engine.
‘More engaging’ driving position
Toyota is at pains to portray the Plug-in Hybrid as a true driver’s car. It gets what designers call a “more engaging” driving position, a high centre console and the cabin layout of a luxury coupé, with a “dominant” centre cluster featuring 4.2-inch TFT screens and a wireless phone charging tray.
The driver-orientated theme continues with “more precise and responsive handling” thanks to a new double wishbone rear suspension, revisions to the familiar Prius’s MacPherson strut front end and a lower centre of gravity, which also reduces body roll, improves stability and sharpens the steering. The car is exceptionally quiet, Toyota says, helped by a new sound insulating laminated screen and special front window glazing.
The plug-in Prius has never sold as well in the UK against the regular Prius, and the recent announcement of a reduction in the government subsidy for PHEVs won’t help this new model. But Toyota bosses believe demand could change “in a heartbeat” if CO2 outputs for cars in cities were dramatically cut, which they see as a realistic prospect.