If you are a Prius fan you know that all-wheel drive and the Prius will go together like peas and carrots.
If you are not a fan of the Prius you may not know that winter prep for those in North America who own the car is serious business. On the Facebook Prius clubs, posts and chat about the best tires and best way to prepare for Snowmageddon 2019 is a hot topic right now. One member of the Prius Prime group from Massachusetts proudly added the image below of his Prius Prime wearing tire chains this very week. To say that an all-wheel drive Prius will be a welcome trim option in the wintery parts of the U.S. and Canada is an understatement.
Toyota isn’t reinventing anything with the new AWD Prius. The company has been selling an AWD Prius in other markets. Like Subaru models, the AWD Prius has developed a bit of a cult following who like to see just how far they can push its limits.
Toyota’s AWD-e system, as it will be labeled in the U.S. market, is similar to the setup the company uses in its popular RAV4 Hybrid and Lexus RX 300h Hybrid crossovers. There is an electric drive in the rear of the vehicle that has no mechanical connection to the engine. When starting off, the rear wheels are always engaged. Once underway, the electric drive powers the rear wheels when needed up to about 43 MPH. The vehicle monitors the battery level to ensure that it always retains enough charge to power the rear wheels. The system is already proven in other markets to be quite effective as the video shows. Although the mileage isn’t quite as high as the Prius’ non-AWD trims, Toyota is still expecting an EPA-estimated 50 MPG Combined rating.
Speaking of batteries, the AWD-e Prius will not use lithium-ion batteries, but will instead use a Nickel-Metal Hydride (Ni-MH) battery that is designed to provide excellent performance in cold-weather conditions. The packaging of the AWD-e system was part of this generation’s design from the beginning, so luggage space is not impacted. In fact, with 65.5 cubic feet of total cargo space, the Prius has more carrying capacity than a Subaru Crossstrek (55.3 cu ft) or even a Mazda CX-5 (59.6 cu ft).
The 2019 Prius AWD-e system will be offered on the middle two of the four Prius trim levels, LE and XLE grade. Toyota is also updating the looks of all Prius models for 2019 and making small nips and tucks inside. Along with the AWD option for 2019 Toyota is also planning to offer Genuine Toyota Accessory cargo crossbars for roof rack attachments that will carry snowboards, skis, and all that jazz. Toyota expects that once the AWD Prius is available it will account for 25% of its total sales, or roughly 2,000 units per month. The 2019 Prius AWD-e is expected to arrive at dealers in January.
Prius with chains image courtesy of Sean Dansro.