Meet the 2017 Toyota Prius Prime in its West Coast debut

toyota prius prime sept 2016 front 3qtr3
Melissa Riofrio

Spotted in San Francisco

It's almost here: the 2017 Toyota Prius Prime, the company's flagship Prius and its only plug-in electric vehicle (PHEV), is due to ship sometime in the fall of 2016. At TechCrunch Disrupt in San Francisco, the car made its West Coast debut with a late prototype. Walk around the car with us for an early peek at this eagerly awaited automobile.

toyota prius prime sept 2016 badge
Melissa Riofrio

And we thought it had to do with Transformers

"We call it 'Prime' because it represents the best of Prius," said Nathan Kokes, Toyota's brand manager for advanced technologies, explaining the origin of the car's name. 

It will also be a big Prius: 2.4 inches longer the traditional Prius, and a scant half-inch wider. It has a 3,362-pounds curb weight, which is 168 pounds heavier than the regular Prius. Blame most of that avoirdupois on the larger 8.8kWh litihium-ion battery

toyota prius prime sept 2016 rear 3qtr
Melissa Riofrio

A hint about the price

Toyota hasn't set a price yet for the 2017 Prius Prime, but Kokes said the company was aiming for an MSRP of about $30,000. 

toyota prius prime sept 2016 engine 2
Melissa Riofrio

Under a lightweight hood, a tight squeeze

The gas engine is carefully crammed into the front compartment of the 2017 Toyota Prius Prime. The hood is made of aluminum to save weight. 

toyota prius prime sept 2016 waveform glass rear view
Melissa Riofrio

Catch this wave

Note the dip in the middle of the LED light at the back of the 2017 Prius Prime: That's the continuation of a wave-shaped dimple that starts in the rear glass, which contributes to the car's slender 0.24 coefficient of drag. 

toyota prius prime sept 2016 carbon fiber hatch
Melissa Riofrio

The hatch went on a high-fiber diet

The hatch on the 2017 Toyota Prius Prime is made of carbon fiber, again to lose weight. You can't see the tell-tale visual signs of carbon fiber in this prototype, but Kokes said the final car may lets its contents shine. 

toyota prius prime sept 2016 trunk lip3
Melissa Riofrio

The battery takes some space from the trunk

The 8.8 kWh lithium-ion battery is sealed underneath the trunk area, causing the slightly raised floor (and lost cubic volume) you see here. To be fair, every PHEV on the market has had to sacrifice space to shoehorn more battery into the car. 

toyota prius prime sept 2016 charging cords
Melissa Riofrio

An easy spot to stash the charging cords

The charging cords for the 2017 Toyota Prius Prime stash easily in a long bin that runs along the back of the trunk area. Dropping the cords into this bin seems more intuitive than trying to cram them into a side bin, as is the annoying case with the 2016 Chevy Volt. 

toyota prius prime sept 2016 plug in hybrid badge
Melissa Riofrio

Better but not best

The 2017 Toyota Prius Prime is expected to have 22 miles of pure EV range, a significant increase over its predecessor but still less than half of the Chevy Volt's 52 miles of pure EV range. Toyota says that 22-mile range will cover the round-trip needs of about half of the commuters in the United States.

toyota prius prime sept 2016 charging port detail
Melissa Riofrio

One charging port, one port in waiting

The charging port is located behind a spring-loaded door on the Prius Prime's right side. On the left you can see the SAE J1772 charging port (the standard in North America) ready for use, while there's a covered and unusable right port for CHAdeMO, the standard for Japanese and a few European brands.  

toyota prius prime sept 2016 gas port
Melissa Riofrio

A large gas tank leads to long driving range

On the right side you'll find the gas port for the 2017 Toyota Prius Prime. The tank can hold 11.3 gallons. The Prius Prime is expected to have a category-leading 600 miles of total range, assuming a full tank of gas and a fully charged battery.

toyota prius prime sept 2016 wheel detail
Melissa Riofrio

A little paint does wonders for huge wheel covers

Another way the 2017 Toyota Prius Prime shaves off drag is by covering more of the wheels. Toyota painted parts of the wheel covers black so they wouldn't look as big as they are. 

toyota prius prime sept 2016 front cabin detail
Melissa Riofrio

Swoopy lines and surprisingly nice seats

The front cabin of the 2017 Toyota Prius Prime shows the interior's swoopy door lines and the synthetic leather-like optional seat fabric, which feels surprisingly supple (but is a lot lighter than the real thing). 

toyota prius prime sept 2016 cockpit detail
Melissa Riofrio

A fully digital dashboard

We close with a detail shot of the all-digital dashboard in the 2017 Toyota Prius Prime. The Prius Prime offers the option of an 11.6-inch HD touchscreen to control climate and infotainment. I'm still trying to decide how I feel about the white color accents.