The Toyota Prius Plug-In is a modified version of the mainstream Prius that splits the difference between its familiar gasoline-electric hybrid sibling and all-electric models like the Nissan Leaf. Fitted with the same powertrain as the regular Prius but with a more efficient, higher-capacity lithium-ion battery pack that can be externally recharged, the Prius Plug-In Hybrid can travel roughly 15 miles and up to speeds of about 62 mph on battery power alone. Both of those numbers go well beyond the capabilities of the regular Prius and help the Plug-In achieve an estimated 87 energy efficiency equivalent rating (MPGe) in combined driving.
In most other respects, the Prius Plug-In variant is pretty much the same as the regular Toyota Prius, meaning you get the same strengths and weaknesses. Added initial cost could also be a concern, but for hybrid shoppers who are looking for miserly fuel consumption during short commutes or quick errands, the Prius Plug-In should be an excellent choice.
Current Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid
The Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid is a four-door hatchback that's offered in two different trim levels: Base and Advanced. Both feature the same gasoline-electric hybrid powertrain, made up of a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine and a pair of electric motors with a total output of 134 horsepower. Power is sent to the front wheels through a continuously variable transmission. The Prius Plug-In's lithium-ion battery pack, located underneath the rear seats, can be recharged in about 3 hours using the supplied 120-volt power cable or in about half that time when using a 240-volt home charger.
Standard features for the base model include 15-inch alloy wheels, keyless ignition/entry, automatic climate control, heated front seats, a height-adjustable driver seat, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, full power accessories, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, a rearview camera, a voice-controlled navigation system and a six-speaker sound system with satellite radio and an iPod/USB interface. Toyota's new Entune smartphone integration system is also standard. Moving up to the Advanced trim level gets you automatic LED headlights, foglamps, upgraded upholstery, a power driver seat, adaptive cruise control, a head-up display, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, additional Entune features, a hard-drive-based navigation system with a larger display screen and a premium eight-speaker JBL sound system.
Driving the Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid feels remarkably similar to the regular Prius. The suspension's balance of ride comfort and handling ability should suit most buyers just fine. Acceleration is likewise adequate for everyday driving, regardless of which of the three powertrain modes (Eco, normal or Power) you happen to be in. For very short commutes around town, it's possible not to use the gasoline engine at all.
The Prius Plug-In does have some downsides, however. For starters, it carries a significantly higher sticker price than a regular Prius, and that will likely wipe out any potential savings at the gas pump. The Prius Plug-in Hybrid also has significantly less all-electric range than competitors like the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid or all-electric Nissan Leaf. And just like the regular Prius, the Plug-In suffers from excessive road noise, disappointing interior materials and an awkward driving position.
Overall, though, the Toyota Prius Plug-in should be a good choice for green-minded car shoppers who want to drive a very environmentally friendly car without giving up the peace of mind that comes from having a gasoline engine under the hood.
Read the most recent 2013 Toyota Prius Plug-in review.
If you are looking for older years, visit our used Toyota Prius Plug-in page.