REVIEW: 2019 Toyota Prius XLE AWD-e Hybrid – Sensible Traction

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For 2019, Toyota’s Prius line continues to expand with the addition of all-wheel drive. Other tweaks help keep the Prius fresh and competitive.

What is it? 

The Prius is the go-to hybrid, the one that waits for all buyers when they finally grow a green conscious and downscale from the crossover or SUV that’s occupying their minds. “Well, I could always get a Prius” rolls off the tongue because of this hybrid’s proven reputation for marginal operating costs and brick-like durability.

Looking for a new or used Toyota Prius? Check out BestRide’s listings search here.

Model year 2019 brought welcome revisions to the Prius’s front and rear. The front end in particular smooths out the sharp-edged triangles that had been pressed into the bumper’s corners.

Pricing and trims

Four trims – L Eco, LE, XLE, and Limited – define the front-wheel drive Prius range. The AWD-e variants stick to LE ($27,310) and XLE ($29,750).

The XLE adds features over the LE like SofTex leather-like upholstery and steering wheel trim, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, Qi wireless smartphone charging, glossy console plastics, and more.

The LE isn’t available with the tested XLE’s $800 Advanced Technology Package, which includes an Adaptive Front Lighting System (AFS), which points the headlight beam where the wheels are steered. These headlights also auto-leveled.

Other options include the $299 Illuminated Door Sills, for a bit of hybrid bling.

The 15-inch alloy wheels ($899) had locks ($65) to prevent theft.

A $69 Rear Bumper Applique protected the top surface from cargo drag.

The $49 Cargo Net – Envelope Type easily swallowed the results of a quick Trader Joe’s run.

Including $264 worth of carpet and cargo mats brought this 2019 Prius XLE AWD-e Hybrid to $32,195.

Safety

All Prius trims comes standard with Toyota Safety Sense P (TSS-P), a suite of active and passive safety features.

TSS-P includes everything from Pedestrian Detection to Full-Speed Dynamic Cruise Control. It’s admirable that Toyota makes standard the safety-related items for which even some premium brands charge extra.

The Prius nails it with crash tests, earning a 2019 Top Safety Pick rating from the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS)

Performance

Thoughts of Priuses don’t turn to dragstrips, and the tested Prius XLE AWD-e Hybrid doesn’t change that.

One hundred and twenty one hybrid system horsepower ain’t a lot for a 3,200-pound sedan, and so you learn to work with the powertrain for maximum effect.

First, stick with EV mode as much as possible. That’s where this Prius XLE AWD-e Hybrid felt nimble and smooth.

Conditions that demand revving the engine result in a whole lotta raucous noise, and the solution is to keep the Prius XLE AWD-e Hybrid in the middle zone – just above EV deactivation and just below where the sounds of internal combustion can fill the interior.

Essentially it means doing what you’d do in any low-power vehicle – plan ahead and maintain momentum so that bursts of power really aren’t needed. That middle zone is likely where most Prius drivers stay, and the Prius XLE AWD-e Hybrid’s response there is unobtrusive.

The other set of responses for which to plan come from the CVT transmission, which on San Francisco’s hills was an object lesson in the noisy over-revving that can define this setup. Same with highway merging, where a sharp throttle stab can send the revs to Mars as the Prius XLE AWD-e leans forward.

It’s here again that the Prius XLE AWD-e Hybrid rewards gradual requests by minimizing those shenanigans. Moderate your inputs, and the Prius XLE AWD-e Hybrid quickly fades into the background.

Ride and handling

Fifteen-inch wheels are the limit for all-wheel drive Priuses; they’re not available with the 17-inchers on upper front-wheel drive trims. That along with the 150 pounds or so of extra weight the extra traction brings would place the tested Prius XLE AWD-e Hybrid on the low end of what you’d expect from Prius handling, and you’d be right.

Those low expectations are met mostly by the steering, which seems to smother any feedback from the road. Its creaminess is undoubtedly a pleasure to some, but we’d like to know more of what’s going on down below.

The AWD-e system has a bit of neat technology with the Motor Generator Rear (MGR); it’s a seven-horsepower, 40-lb-ft-of-torque helper that drives the rears in sync with the fronts.

Also worth noting is the Prius XLE AWD-e Hybrid’s gloriously tight, 33.5-foot turning radius.

Seating

The tested Prius XLE AWD-e Hybrid’s standard SofTex upholstery sits as cushily as it has in previous tested RAV4s. It looks like leather but has a gel-like feel.

The driver’s seat has a manual height adjustment, but a power seat is not available on the Prius XLE AWD-e Hybrid. It wasn’t missed much, as the seat’s contours were supportive but still broad enough for wide frames.

The rear seat can seem confining, with less than 34 inches of legroom and an enclosed canopy feel. But it’s fine with a little cooperation with occupants in front.

Cargo

Hatchback utility has long been a Prius hallmark, and it never wears out its welcome. Its 24.6-cubic-feet capacity is down about three from the front-wheel drive XLE.

The seats fold just about flat, and the optional envelope-style cargo net is a must-get.

Handy hooks flip down from the sides to grab your bags.

Only the front-wheel drive LE has a spare tire; all others rely on a repair kit.

 

You’ll want to keep your auto-club membership paid up in case the tire damage is beyond the abilities of this half-measure.

Infotainment and controls

First thing to note about the tested Prius XLE AWD-e Hybrid is that the all-black interior can take on a plastic bathtub effect. The upward swelling to the base of the windshield reinforces it, and no sunroofs on all-wheel drive trims means a solid roof above.

As of this writing late in the 2019 model year, the Toyota website indicates that the two lighter colors are sold out, and we can see why.

That said, the controls work well. The Entune infotainment system and 6.1-inch display – the optional 11.6-inch screen is another not-available on the Prius XLE AWD-e Hybrid – continues to eschew Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, but the screen benefits from a clear interface and snappy response.

Overall

Toyota has a certain buyer in mind with its all-wheel drive Prius.

It’s not a person who wants a moonroof, or a big touchscreen, or larger wheels, or a power-adjustable seat. Instead, the brand has targeted this one to the more function-based buyer, who is happy with the basics and probably has specific reasons for seeking out the extra traction.

The all-wheel drive is a silent addition to the Prius, so until you need it, the extra ability in the Prius XLE AWD-e Hybrid is simply along for the ride.

That’s pretty much how a Prius driver feels anyway, and it’s nice that the rest of the car is still so versatile and accommodating.

2019 Toyota Prius XLE AWD-e Hybrid

Base price: $28,820

Price as tested, including $930 destination charge:  $32,195

Options:

Advanced Technology Package: $800

– Includes Color Head-Up Display (HUD) with speedometer, and Hybrid System Indicator, Adaptive Front Lighting System (AFS) and Auto-Leveling Headlamps

Carpet Floor Mats/Carpeted Cargo Mat: $264

Alloy Wheel Locks: $65

15-inch Alloy Wheels: $899

Rear Bumper Applique: $69

Cargo Net: $49

Illuminated Door Sills: 299

Likes:

  • Efficiency combined with all-wheel drive
  • Roominess
  • Improved rear styling

Dislikes:

  • Noisy and elastic engine response
  • Black-plastic-bathtub interior effect
  • Limited options with all-wheel drive
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