Toyota Prius Plug-in Performance
Overall, test drivers agree that the Prius Plug-in’s fuel-efficient powertrain is great for saving gas, but they say the car is a total bore to drive. Reviewers like its quiet, relaxed ride, but dislike its sloppy handling, spongy brakes and numb steering.
- "With varying degrees of pure-electric range plus the gas engine and regenerative braking charging a battery pack, the overall result is exceptional energy efficiency." -- Kelley Blue Book
- "And so the parallel-hybrid powertrain design, the squishy suspension setup, and the puny 15-inch wheels remain, giving the PHV the same lackluster driving characteristics as its non-plug-in sibling. That includes the way-overboosted electric power steering and a brake pedal that has yet to deliver anything close to accuracy." -- Car and Driver (2012)
- "But no one buys a Prius expecting it to turn fast corners. What the Prius does best, aside from delivering exceptional fuel economy, is provide a hyper-quiet cabin and comfortable ride. Acceleration is on par for a hybrid: far from quick, but plenty for most drivers." -- Edmunds (2012)
Acceleration and Power
A 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine and electric motor that produce a combined 134 horsepower power the Prius Plug-in. It also has an electronically-controlled CVT (continuously variable transmission). The EPA says the 2013 Prius Plug-in will achieve a combined fuel economy rating of 95 mpg equivalent on a fully-charged battery, and 51/49 mpg city/highway after the battery is depleted, which are very good ratings for the class.
Test drivers agree that the Prius Plug-in is not meant to be powerful, but meant to conserve fuel. Reviewers say acceleration is lacking, especially when passing on the highway, and the gas engine is noisy. Most say the transition between electric and gas power can be jarring, though some think the transition is smooth.
- "Due to the seamless transition between electric motor and gasoline engine, driving the 2013 Toyota Prius hybrid is a surprisingly drama-free event." -- Kelley Blue Book
- "The gas/electric transition is not the smoothest we've experienced, but it's not a deal breaker." -- Consumer Guide
- "Almost any sudden throttle inputs will force the combustion of some of your precious petroleum. … It's a shame that one of the most fun things about driving an electric vehicle - instant torque - is missing here, but we doubt this will be a deal breaker for most of the people who consider buying a Prius Plug-in Hybrid." -- Autoblog (2012)
- "The PHV's threshold is slightly higher than the regular car's, but anything more than genteel pressure on the go pedal-say, as might be required to enter the freeway or accelerate up a slight hill-and the 98-hp, 1.8-liter four-cylinder stirs with a decidedly unsexy moan. … But then, the Prius never has been and never will be about driving delight, but rather is about maximum fuel economy." -- Car and Driver (2012)
The battery pack in the 2013 Prius Plug-in can be charged either with the car’s regenerative brakes or by plugging the car into a standard electric outlet. Toyota says the Prius Plug-in can travel up to 11 miles on pure electric power with a full battery. A fully-depleted battery takes about three hours to charge using a 120-volt outlet or about one and a half hours with a 240-volt outlet. Toyota provides owners with a charging cable, which connects the car to a household outlet. Reviewers like that the Prius Plug-in charges quickly and they’re happy with the car’s quiet performance in all-electric mode.
- "You'll only get about 10-15 miles before the electrons run out, but the Plug-in charges quickly -- about three hours on a standard 120-volt home outlet, or half that time on a larger 240-volt outlet." -- Edmunds
- "In fact, the plug-in Prius will only reach 62 mph in electric mode. Up to that speed it will cruise in impressive electric silence. But ask for more, and the gas engine cuts smoothly in." -- Motor Trend (2012)
Handling and Braking
Critics are somewhat split on the 2013 Toyota Prius Plug-in’s handling. Some say the steering is light and numb, which they note can be good or bad, depending on your preference. Most others say the numb steering, dull handling, excessive body lean in turns and noticeable nosedive make the Prius Plug-in a disappointment in the handling department. One reviewer says the Prius Plug-in’s regenerative brakes are as strong as the brakes in other cars in the class, but notes that they aren’t as good at stopping the car as they are in the regular Prius, which could be a result of the Prius Plug-in being heavier.
- "… generous sidewalls help absorb most impacts, but at the same time, there's a tendency to wallow over moguls and other uneven pavement surfaces. … Fluffy suspension tuning and skinny tires result in lots of body lean in even moderate-speed turns. The car's regenerative brakes, which are designed to help charge the battery a bit, take some getting used to in terms of pedal feel." -- Consumer Guide
- "Whether operating on battery or gasoline, the plug-in Prius drives and handles almost exactly like a standard third-gen Prius, love it or loathe it. That means you get the same front-drive traction, the same constant velocity transmission, the same easy-breezy, feel-free electric power steering, and the same combined 134 horsepower from the engine and the pair of high-output electric motors." -- Autoblog (2012)
- "In Edmunds brake testing, a prototype Prius Plug-in stopped from 60 mph in 130 feet, an average result for the class, but 12 feet longer than the conventional (and lighter) Prius hybrid." -- Edmunds