2018 Toyota Prius TRD
Haters gonna hateby Jonathan Lopez, on
We here at TopSpeed don’t shy away from exploring the weirder and wilder side of performance vehicles. In fact, we relish in it. Any chance we come across to break away from convention and blow your mind is worth it, especially if it gets the unruly mobs up in arms. And that’s exactly the sort of reaction we’re expecting with this – a performance-oriented Toyota Prius TRD. Here’s the formula – ditch the eco tires, slap on some real rubber, boost the engine, stiffen the suspension, add the proper cabin gear, and voila – the perfect solution to a dearth of jimmy rustlin’.
But here’s the thing – we’re actually totally serious. This isn’t some April Fool’s joke. We legitimately think there’s a real case to made for a performance Prius. Don’t believe us? Then read on. We dare you.
Continue reading to learn more about the Toyota Prius TRD.
2018 Toyota Prius TRD
History And Background
Toyota first launched production of the Prius in late 1997, with U.S. sales commencing around the turn of the millennium. Along with its claim to fame as the world’s first mass-produced hybrid passenger car, the Prius carries with it… shall we say, certain connotations. You know what I’m talking about – owners are stereotypically portrayed as stodgy eco warriors more concerned about eking out one more mpg than having any fun behind the wheel.
Prius owners are stereotypically portrayed as stodgy eco warriors more concerned about eking out one more mpg than having any fun behind the wheel. Toyota wants to change that.
Toyota wants to change that. But expanding the appeal of the Prius isn’t easy, especially when it comes to American consumers. Nevertheless, Toyota has been tinkering with the idea of adding some adrenaline to the Prius lineup for a while now. For starters, Toyota has been busy massaging the Prius’ image. For example, there’s a billboard advertising campaign that puts the hybrid on a winding road and touts its new independent rear suspension as a means to hug trees and the road. Then there are more overt attempts, like this – the Toyota Prius G, a stripped-out performance concept revealed last year at SEMA.
Toyota Prius G SEMA concept pictured here.
If you think that’s weird, you’re not alone. But, as is tradition, things get even weirder in Japan. You see, over there they’ve got this amazing professional racing series called Super GT, and competing in the GT300 class is a full-blown Prius race car.
Granted, the GT300 Prius isn’t exactly your run-of-the-mill commuter. Beyond the widebody stance, extreme aero, and totally reworked suspension, this thing is powered by a naturally aspirated V-8 engine. Sure, it’s also got a full performance hybrid system added on top, but comparing this thing to its street counterpart is like comparing a NASCAR Camry to the FWD eco box of the same name you see littering the highway every morning during your commute.
Regardless, my point is this: the Prius can be more, much more in fact, than the stereotypes let on, and Toyota has the impetus to unleash all that potential on an unsuspecting public.
The Prius can be more, much more in fact, than the stereotypes let on.
So then – what would a performance-tuned Prius from Toyota Racing Development look like, especially when viewed through the lens of an American enthusiast?
Toyota just updated the Prius to its fourth generation for the 2016 model year, and with the generational changeover came a brand new look. The styling is polarizing, that’s for sure, with a variety of cuts, creases, angles, and indentations, all of which leave little doubt that this thing is indeed a Prius. The profile offers the same bubbled roofline as before, which falls into a high, hatchback rear end. Vertical accent lighting both fore and aft offsets the horizontal headlights and taillights, while a focus on reducing aero drag dictates where the lines go.
It’s a unique look, that’s for sure, and our rendering of a possible TRD iteration does nothing to make it any less polarizing. Rather, in typical Toyota fashion, the Prius TRD underlines what’s already there, enhancing the look, rather than toning it down.
The Prius TRD underlines what’s already there, enhancing the look, rather than toning it down.
The X-shaped front end remains, including slim headlights with quad square projector housings and an offset black center section. TRD adds extra performance cues with a red underlining stripe that dips down into the fascia, an element repeated with a thin red line that cuts through the middle of the sideview mirrors.
Complementing this is enhanced aerodynamics, including a longer splitter that juts out from the lower bumper crease. While not necessarily the most aero efficient design of all time, the new splitter should help to provide a little extra front end grip at speed. Further aero tweaks include newly extended side skirts and a rear apron. The difference these components make is subtle, but effective in bringing the Prius a little extra performance cred.
The difference these components make is subtle, but effective in bringing the Prius a little extra performance cred.
In the corners are lightweight aluminum-alloy wheels, offered in a multi-spoke design and dark black finish. Sizing will be wider than the standard Prius wheels, and the rollers should come wrapped in significantly stickier rubber as well, while large multi-piston brake calipers get a red finish and pinch equally big slotted rotors (more on all the handling stuff in an upcoming section).
Up top, the roof is finished in a flat satin black, complemented by C-pillars in the same hue. Final details include a smattering of TRD logos, such as on the nose, and on the front fender as a replacement for the “Hybrid” badge found on the standard Prius.
Toyota Prius Prime interior pictured here.
Odds are, if TRD gets its hands on the Prius, it won’t be changing a whole lot inside the cabin, much like the exterior treatment. That means it’ll get the same spaceship-style layout as in the past, with a large, center console-mounted touchscreen acting as the primary interface for the various infotainment system inputs. Sizing will start at 7 inches in diameter, but will be offered with larger options as well.
Above the main touchscreen will be a long, horizontal display providing basic info like road speed, current selected gear, battery charge, and local time. This screen will measure in at 4.2 inches, just like the current Prius model. Tunes will be provided by a six-speaker audio system as standard, with the option for more speakers and even a subwoofer, if desired.
Not everything will be a carryover from the standard model.
But of course, not everything will be a carryover from the standard model. The Prius TRD will also get a selection of unique additions to up it’s sporting cred, and to determine what those additions might be, we have to look to Toyota’s only performance model – the 86 coupe – for a little direction.
Toyota 86 interior pictured here.
Kicking it off will be a three-spoke steering wheel with multifunction controls and a small diameter. The wheel will come covered in leather, and get a prominent TRD logo placed in the middle. The standard seats will got tossed in favor of more sporty, side-holding units with big bolsters and Toyota’s patented leatherette upholstery as an available option. Sport aluminum pedals with rubber studs for added grip will be found in the food wells.
In the pursuit of extra performance, the Prius TRD is likely to cut out weight by deleting sound insulation and other unnecessary luxuries.
Carbon fiber (the fake plastic kind) will be added as trim, while the upholstery will include an assortment of greys and blacks, plus a little silver added here and there for items like contrast stitching on the seats and in the door panels. Brushed metal-look trim will also be used. Finally, in the pursuit of extra performance, the Prius TRD is likely to cut out weight by deleting sound insulation and other unnecessary luxuries.
Further packages should offer greater infotainment gear and upgraded materials for a little extra outlay.
Engine And Drivetrain
Toyota Prius Prime engine pictured here.
Without a doubt, the biggest question mark in this speculative review is what Toyota will mount under the hood. As is, the Prius is equipped with a 1.8-liter internal combustion four-cylinder engine and 8.8-kWh plug-in lithium-ion battery pack. The whole thing routes a net 121 horsepower to the front axle, which is enough to propel the Prius to 60 mph in around 10.5 seconds. And while that’s just fine for a boring commuter, it ain’t gonna cut it for something with a TRD badge.
Let’s cut out some of that efficiency (124 MPGe is just overkill, anyway), and lets see how many ponies we can make.
So let’s cut out some of that efficiency (124 MPGe is just overkill, anyway), and lets see how many ponies we can make. The best solution would be to add some boost to the equation by shoehorning a turbocharger under the hood. While certainly not a simple endeavor, a paltry 5 psi might be enough to coax some respectable power from the ICE. Pair that with a retuned hybrid system, possibly with an “Overboost” mode that dumps an excess of electric power as soon as you dip into the throttle, and perhaps as much as 180 horsepower might be possible.
Of course, we’d all prefer numbers closer to 200 horses, or even 250 horses, but all things considered, that seems like a bit of an overreach. Still, with the right gearing and sticky enough tires, not to mention a battery topped off with electricity, 180 horses might be sufficient for a run to 60 mph in the high 6-second range. Maybe.
180 horses might be sufficient for a run to 60 mph in the high 6-second range. Maybe.
Speaking of gearing – the standard Prius is equipped with a planetary-type CVT, and while it isn’t the worst transmission in the world, it simply won’t due for an application like this. And yes, we’d all prefer to crack our own gears with a proper three-pedal manual, but again, such a thing seems like a bit of an ask coming from the Prius. Rather, a sporty automatic transmission with paddle shifters might fit the bill, offering a little more control and feel without completely overturning the original Prius formula and platform.
Suspension, Chassis And Handling
While a Prius TRD won’t be blisteringly quick when it comes to acceleration, the car does offer a ton of potential when the road gets twisty. Under the skin of the latest model is the Toyota New Global Architecture chassis, a stiff, lightweight platform also used on the Toyota CH-R and Camry. The recent generational changeover also brought with it a brand-new independent rear suspension for the Prius, with double wishbones in the rear to complement MacPherson struts up front.
All told, the fourth-gen Prius is surprisingly lively as is, and it’s a platform that can be developed even further with the proper suspension tuning and some stiffer components. Ditch the low rolling resistance rubber and add something sticky, and who knows – it might be quite the machine when it comes to handling.
Ditch the low rolling resistance rubber and add something sticky, and who knows – it might be quite the machine when it comes to handling.
Helping it stop will be four-wheel disc brakes, upgraded to large multi-piston calipers and slotted rotors on the TRD iteration. On top of the brakes will be lightweight wheels with much wider dimensions, plus some Toyo tires to make the traction. The steering should continue to be an electrically assisted rack and pinion set-up, but with a quicker ratio and heavier feedback.
Finally, less weight will go the distance on a Prius TRD. In fact, the latest Prius Prime even comes equipped with a carbon fiber rear hatch, so you know further composite body components are a possibility.
This is another tricky part of the review to piece together, but if I were to take a guess, I could see a Prius TRD priced at $27,500. That’s still a decent amount of money, especially if options bump that figure past $30,000, but considering the standard Prius starts at $23,475, while the Prime model goes for $28,800, a number around the top of the pyramid feels about right.
|Prius TRD rendering vs 2017 Toyota Prius Prime|
Some of our speculative articles don’t take a lot of chin scratching to create, given an individual model’s history and current market trends. But a Prius TRD is a bit of shot in the dark. While not totally out of the question, you’d be forgiven for thinking the idea is a bit… odd.
Still, a car like this has a lot of potential to be very fun, and somewhat efficient as well. Then there’s the completely hilarious idea of catching some high-powered sports car in the canyons and putting the pressure on.
But we wanna know – what do you think about a Prius TRD? Is it a good idea, or have we lost our marbles? Let us know in the comments section!