World Debut: New All-Wheel-Drive Toyota Prius Is All-Weather Ready

Additional traction for winter drivers

The overall shape remains, but some tweaks to the front end arguably improve the looks of the 2019 Prius, while the addition of available all-wheel drive offers additional traction for winter drivers.

How the new AWD Prius moves

The Prius AWD-e system powers the rear wheels exclusively with an electric motor, similar to the Lexus RX400h or RAV-4 Hybrid, with a conventional Hybrid Synergy Drive powertrain powering the front wheels. The rear motor is disabled when four-wheel traction is not required. In a first for Toyota, the Prius AWD-e rear motor is without magnets.

It offers additional traction with only a small penalty in fuel economy, 52 MPG (4.5 litres per 100 km) from the Prius’ typical 58 MPG (4.0 l/100km).

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RelatedHybrid & Electric Vehicle Buyer’s Guide

Toyota group vice-president Jack Hollis called it the “most fuel-efficient hybrid all-wheel drive in America.”

The all-wheel-drive model will be offered on two trim levels only, LE and XLE. Buyers choosing L Eco or Limited models will be limited to two-wheel drive.

It does all this while still providing more cargo room than competitors, and even more room than some mid-size sedans. The split, fold-flat rear seats increase cargo room to 62.7 cubic feet (1,775 litres).

Prius Hybrid powertrain

The hybrid powertrain combines a 1.8-litre Atkinson-cycle gas motor with the output of two motor/generators through a planetary gearset continuously variable transmission. As a gas engine, the 1.8-litre is no slouch, approaching 40 per cent thermal efficiency thanks to low-friction internal components and efficient combustion.

Atkinson-cycle engines trade low-end torque for high fuel efficiency by employing a short intake stroke and long expansion stroke. In hybrids, it isn’t a bad tradeoff since the electric motors can replace that missing low-end torque.

2019 Toyota Prius AWD-e front view with roof rack

New Prius platform

The chassis represents the Toyota New Global Architecture, which introduces a high-strength body structure, multi-link rear suspension and lower centre of gravity. Combined with the low and central mounting position of heavy components such as the battery, the chassis design offers the potential for excellent handling.

Safety

Perhaps as a nod to those drivers who dislike the use of a centre-mount instrument panel, Toyota is making available a head-up display projected in the driver’s line of sight.

Standard on all Prius models is Toyota Safety Sense P, which uses millimetre-wave radar and a monocular camera to help detect a pedestrian, vehicle and lane markers, as well as headlights in the surrounding area. TSS-P offers a host of safety features including pre-collision with pedestrian detection, lane departure with steering assist, automatic high beams and full-speed dynamic radar. Prius models also incorporate a proximity notification system to alert nearby pedestrians when operating in the ultra-quiet EV mode.

Interior features

The Prius uses a 4.2-inch colour dual multi-information display that for all-wheel-drive models, adds an AWD indicator to the menu of displays. Standard for AWD also is Entune, Toyota’s multimedia system that manages smartphone enabled features such as music streaming, voice recognition Siri Eyes Free and integrated back-up camera. Limited models also get the Entune Premium JBL Audio system with integrated navigation and a large 11.6-inch display.

LED headlamps and taillights are also standard.

2019 Toyota Prius AWD-e interior

Release Date

The 2019 Prius and Prius AWD-e hits stores in January next year. Pricing hasn’t been announced but we’ll have that when released. 

Kelly Taylor has been writing about cars since 2000. His favourite ride has been the Audi R8 from Thunder Bay to Winnipeg, where he nearly traded the car for a Ford Ranger, a Greyhound Bus and the Blue Heron Gift Store in Kenora, Ont.