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2017 Toyota Prius Prime: Into the mountains with ease

Eleven days into coverage of the Amgen Tour of California, I’ve surpassed 1,000 miles while driving the 2017 Toyota Prius Prime plug-in hybrid. My trip began May 10 in Sacramento, and the race just ended in Pasadena.

The women raced for four days, including two days in South Lake Tahoe and two days ending in Sacramento. The men raced for seven days from Sacramento to today’s concluding high-speed finale from Mountain High to downtown Pasadena.

2017 Tour Prius Prime: Stopping to look at the wildflowers on the downhill drive from Big Bear Lake to Ontario, California.
2017 Tour Prius Prime: Stopping to look at the wildflowers on the downhill drive from Big Bear Lake to Ontario, California. All images © James Raia/2017


As the newest and most technologically advanced Prius since the hybrid debuted in the United States in 2000, the Prius Prime is among the few affordable green vehicles that can change the automotive industry. It joins the all-electric 2017 Chevy Bolt and the luxury Lincoln MKZ hybrid (it’s the first hybrid with the same price as the gas-only version) that can improve the still small percentage of overall hybrid sales.

While other Prius models I’ve driven in recent years showcase the brand’s innovation, the Prius Prime is the first model in which a compromise of space, performance and craftsmanship to achieve strong gas mileage isn’t part of the equation.

The drive from Valencia to Big Bear Lake, the location of the stage 6 individual time trial, showcased the Prius Prime’s strengths. The resort city has an elevation of 6,732 feet, but long winding mountain climb to the city’s village exceeded 7,000 feet.

While the Prius Prime isn’t a performance car, driving on a mountain road didn’t mean a sluggish, uncomfortable journey. Even on the steepest switchbacks, the Prius Prime accelerated well enough and it also cornered well on the reverse trip down from the high mountain hamlet the next day with ease.

Transfers during the past few days of the race have also included long stretches of high-speed driving in the maze of the Los Angeles-area freeway system. Aggressive and often poorly skilled drivers are commonplace.

The Prius Prime’s 11.6-inch vertically positioned JBL navigation system has been an astute companion. Directions are given several miles before a change of freeways or exits and then repeatedly as the changed approached. The side mirror detection warning system works well, particularly considering the testosterone-loaded driving habits of Southern California motorists.

The more than 400-mile return trip from Ontario to Sacramento awaits Sunday. The route is primarily freeway driving. The Prius Prime is rated at 54 mpg. I’m still averaging more than 57 mpg for the trip.

Here are my previous blog posts during the Amgen Tour of California:

2017 Toyota Prius Prime has short shift, not short shrift

2017 Toyota Prius Prime fares well on the long, winding road

2017 Toyota Prius Prime: Cool technology for modern hybrid

2017 Toyota Prius Prime: Fuel efficient, safety galore


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