2019 Toyota Prius Prime vs. 2019 Tesla Model S

Detailed Review, Specifications & Comparison

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Safety

For enhanced safety, the front seat shoulder belts of the Toyota Prius Prime are height-adjustable to accommodate a wide variety of driver and passenger heights. A better fit can prevent injuries and the increased comfort also encourages passengers to buckle up. The Tesla Model S doesn’t offer height-adjustable seat belts.

The Prius Prime has standard Active Headrests, which use a specially designed headrest to protect the driver and front passenger from whiplash. During a rear-end collision, the Active Headrests system moves the headrests forward to prevent neck and spine injuries. The Model S doesn’t offer a whiplash protection system.

To help make backing safer, the Prius Prime Advanced’s cross-path warning system uses wide-angle radar in the rear bumper to alert the driver to vehicles approaching from the side, helping the driver avoid collisions. The Model S doesn’t offer a cross-path warning system.

The Prius Prime’s driver alert monitor detects an inattentive driver then sounds a warning and suggests a break. According to the NHTSA, drivers who fall asleep cause about 100,000 crashes and 1500 deaths a year. The Model S doesn’t offer a driver alert monitor.

The Prius Prime Advanced has standard Safety Connect™, which uses a global positioning satellite (GPS) receiver and a cellular system to help track down your vehicle if it’s stolen or send emergency personnel to the scene if any airbags deploy. The Model S doesn’t offer a GPS response system, only a navigation computer with no live response for emergencies, so if you’re involved in an accident and you’re incapacitated help may not come as quickly.

Both the Prius Prime and the Model S have standard driver and passenger frontal airbags, front side-impact airbags, driver knee airbags, side-impact head airbags, front seatbelt pretensioners, four-wheel antilock brakes, traction control, electronic stability systems to prevent skidding, crash mitigating brakes, daytime running lights, lane departure warning systems, rearview cameras, available blind spot warning systems and rear parking sensors.

For its top level performance in IIHS driver-side small overlap frontal, moderate overlap frontal, side impact, rear impact and roof-crush tests, with its optional front crash prevention system, its “Acceptable” rating in the new passenger-side small overlap crash test, and its headlight’s “Acceptable” rating, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety grants the Prius Prime the rating of “Top Pick” for 2019, a rating granted to only 85 vehicles tested by the IIHS. The Model S has not been tested, yet.

Warranty

The Prius Prime’s corrosion warranty is 1 year and unlimited miles longer than the Model S’ (5/unlimited vs. 4/50,000).

Toyota pays for scheduled maintenance on the Prius Prime for 2 years and 25000 miles. Toyota will pay for oil changes, lubrication and any other required maintenance. Tesla doesn’t pay scheduled maintenance for the Model S.

There are almost 20 times as many Toyota dealers as there are Tesla dealers, which makes it much easier should you ever need service under the Prius Prime’s warranty.

Reliability

A reliable vehicle saves its owner time, money and trouble. Nobody wants to be stranded or have to be without a vehicle while it’s being repaired. Consumer Reports rates the Prius Prime’s reliability 55 points higher than the Model S.

From surveys of all its subscribers, Consumer Reports’ December 2018 Auto Issue reports that Toyota vehicles are more reliable than Tesla vehicles. Consumer Reports ranks Toyota second in reliability. Tesla is ranked 27th.

Fuel Economy and Range

On the EPA test cycle the Prius Prime running on electricity gets better fuel mileage than the Model S (MPGe):

 

 

 

MPG

Prius Prime

 

 

1.8 4 cyl. Hybrid

145 city/121 hwy

Model S

 

 

75D Motor

102 city/105 hwy

 

 

100D Motor

101 city/102 hwy

 

 

P100D Motor

92 city/105 hwy

The Prius Prime’s maximum EPA estimated driving range on a full tank of fuel and a full charge is 652 miles, after which it can be refueled at any gas station in minutes. The Model S’ range is only 259 to 335 miles, after which the minimum recharge time is 30 minutes for only a 54% charge at a specially configured quick charge station not available in most areas. A full recharge at a conventional charging station can take up to 82 hours and 53 minutes.

Brakes and Stopping

In an emergency stopping situation, many drivers don’t press the brakes with enough force to stop the vehicle in the shortest distance. The Prius Prime has a standard brake assist system to detect emergency braking situations (by how hard and how quickly the brake pedal is pressed) and then automatically apply maximum braking immediately in order to help prevent a collision. The Model S doesn’t offer a brake assist feature.

Suspension and Handling

For better maneuverability, the Prius Prime’s turning circle is 3.6 feet tighter than the Model S’ (33.4 feet vs. 37 feet).

Chassis

The Toyota Prius Prime may be more efficient, handle and accelerate better because it weighs about 1400 to 1550 pounds less than the Tesla Model S.

The Prius Prime is 1 foot, 1.1 inches shorter than the Model S, making the Prius Prime easier to handle, maneuver and park in tight spaces.

The Prius Prime is 8 inches narrower than the Model S, making the Prius Prime easier to handle and maneuver in traffic.

Passenger Space

The Prius Prime has .6 inches more front headroom, .5 inches more front legroom and 1.9 inches more rear headroom than the Model S.

Cargo Capacity

The Prius Prime has a much larger trunk than the Model 3 (19.8 vs. 15 cubic feet).

Servicing Ease

A maintenance reminder system is standard on the Prius Prime to save the owner time and money by calculating maintenance intervals for oil changes based on odometer mileage. This takes the guesswork out of keeping your vehicle in top condition and helps it last longer. Tesla doesn’t offer a maintenance reminder on the Model S.

Ergonomics

The Prius Prime Advanced has a standard heads-up display that projects speed and navigation instruction readouts in front of the driver’s line of sight, allowing drivers to view information without diverting their eyes from the road. The Model S doesn’t offer a heads-up display.

The Prius Prime’s standard side window demisters help clear frost or condensation from the side windows in the winter. The Model S doesn’t even offer side window demisters, so the driver may have to wipe the windows from the outside to gain side vision.

Economic Advantages

According to The Car Book by Jack Gillis, the Prius Prime is less expensive to operate than the Model S because it costs $144 less to do the manufacturer’s suggested maintenance for 50,000 miles. Typical repairs cost much less on the Prius Prime than the Model S, including $324 less for a water pump, $51 less for front brake pads and $723 less for a power steering pump.

Recommendations

Consumer Reports® recommends the Toyota Prius Prime, based on reliability, safety and performance. The Tesla Model S isn't recommended.

The Toyota Prius outsold the Tesla Model S by almost four to one during 2018.

© 1991-2018 Advanta-STAR Automotive Research. All rights reserved.

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