Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow
There may be some Toyota Prius owners in Japan who are chuckling about the announcement at the LA Auto Show that the U.S. 2019 Prius will be available with an electric all-wheel drive system called AWD-e. The reason? Since December 2015, the Prius with AWD, called F-Four, has been available in their home country.
There are some differences between the two systems and here’s what we know about the U.S. 2019 Toyota Prius AWD-e.
The New All-Wheel Drive System
The AWD-e system revolves around a new rear-mounted independent electric motor that engages from launch until six mph, and then as needed for traction at speeds up to 43 mph. Like some other AWD systems, it doesn’t require a center differential or front-to-rear driveshaft. The motor features magnet-less induction technology, just like the front motor in the new dual-motor Tesla Model 3. The advantage of this design is that, when the motor is not needed, there are no spinning magnets to generate stray current that might otherwise create drag. Toyota has revealed specifications for the motor.
Instead of the lithium-ion battery used in other Priuses, it uses a small nickel-metal-hydride battery that Toyota says is specifically designed to perform well in cold weather. Like the motor, there is little information about the battery. However, neither the motor nor the new battery intrude on cabin space; the AWD and non-AWD cars both get 65.5 cubic feet of cargo room.
The Prius and Prius AWD-e still use the familiar Atkinson cycle 1.8-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine, two electric motors and a continuously variable transmission (CVT).
The 2019 Toyota Prius AWD-e is rated at 52-mpg city/48 highway/50 combined. For comparison, the front-drive-only 2019 Prius is expected to get 58/53/56 mpg in L Eco trim, and 54/50/52 mpg across the rest of the range.
Other 2019 Prius Changes
Toyota has moved away from the numeric nomenclature for the various trim levels of the Prius, and adopted the more common Toyota trim labels of L Eco, LE, XLE and Limited. If you want the full-meal deal Limited, or the hyper eco L Eco, you can’t have AWD. The AWD-e will only be available in LE and XLE trims.
The current Prius exterior design stymied some buyers, so Toyota made some changes. The big differences are up front where the lighting gets streamlined, and is more subtly integrated into the surrounding bodywork. The rear lighting is all new, ditching the wild angles for a more conservative shape, with a more rectangular element underscored by a swooping, horizontal brake light extending onto the trunk. The new look makes it much more approachable.
Inside there are some color and trim revisions, too, and on AWD-e models the 4.2-inch dual multifunction display will offer screens portraying things such as the front and rear torque distribution. The 2019 Toyota Prius AWD-e XLE gets a heated steering wheel and unique heated cloth front seats.
Toyota expects the AWD-e feature to account for up to 25 percent of Prius sales in the U.S. Pricing for the 2019 Prius when it arrives early in 2019 has not yet been announced, but in Japan the all-wheel-drive system costs around $1,700 extra.
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