2017 Toyota Prius Prime has short shift, not short shrift

James Raia

2017 Toyota Prius Prime: Smoth, steady freeway ride.

The transfer today for stage 4 of the Amgen Tour of California took me from Morro Bay to Santa Clarita, California, and I’ve now driven a 2017 Toyota Prius Prime plug-in hybrid for a week. I’ve covered 775 miles and averaged 55.9 mpg, nearly two miles per gallon more than plug-in hybrid’s rating.

The route from Morro Bay was a coastal trek on Highway 1 and then a diversion to Highway 101 south for about two hours. The route then turned inland on 154 through small hamlets before rejoining 101. The final short stretch into Santa Clarita was a switch to smaller inland roads on state route 126. The drive covered 184 miles. With two brief stops to stretch and for coffee it took 3 hours and 9 minutes. Road construction also stopped traffic for about 10 minutes before I led a procession of maybe 30 vehicles following work truck escort.

2017 Toyota Prius Prime has short shift, not short shrift 1
2017 Toyota Prius Prius plug-in hybrid: 55.9 mpg average in 775 miles in the first week of the Amgen Tour of California. All images © James Raia/2017.

For long stretches on 101, I averaged at least the posted speed limit of 65 mph. But the flow of traffic often approached 75 mph.

Despite its new technology, including the new 11.6-inch vertical navigation system and infotainment center, the Prius Prime also has two signatures features — a tiny shift knob and an obscured rear view. The short shifter requires a learning curve. There’s nothing else like it in the industry, and it doesn’t have a parking mode. There’s a parking button on the dash. While in reverse, the Prius Prim always beeps.

The shifter seems more like a control knob or a joystick in a video game. But it shifts smoothly and leaves a larger area for storage and another nifty recent Toyota addition, a wireless phone charger.

During the past several years, I’ve driven several Prius models, including the “C,” “V” and this week’s Prime. The Prius V is the only model I’ve driven that doesn’t have its rear view horizontally split in half by the hatchback trunk. The Prius V is a wagon. It’s not a deal breaker, but the rear window on Prius models is smaller enough. Like using the small shifter, the split rear window view requires an adjustment.

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

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

Article Last Updated: May 17, 2017.

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