Hybrids

2019 Toyota Prius probably has all-wheel drive, heads to LA Auto Show

A picture of a Prius in the snow offers a pretty strong hint about its alleged newfound capability.

Toyota might be lending its hybrid tech to Subaru, but that doesn't mean the automaker won't also try to snag some of its market share.

Toyota

Toyota has been offering its Prius hybrid with all-wheel drive in Japan for three years, but the US has been stuck with front-wheel drive exclusively. That appears to change for the 2019 model year.

Toyota announced Thursday that it will unveil the 2019 Toyota Prius at the 2018 Los Angeles Auto Show at the end of November. The accompanying press release says the 2019 Prius "performs on roads whether snowy or clear," and the teaser image shows a Prius leaving a cloud of snow in its wake.

So, what does that mean? In all likelihood, it means Toyota will finally bring an all-wheel-drive Prius to the US. The E-Four system it offers in Japan attaches an electric motor to the rear axle, which can be used or ignored based on the road conditions -- a smart idea, since it prioritizes efficiency unless safety demands otherwise. Car and Driver says the system isn't that heavy, and it doesn't eat into cargo space or fuel economy.

It's not clear -- literally, there's a bunch of snow in the teaser -- if Toyota will give the Prius a redesign alongside the AWD Prius' likely debut. Based on what I can see of the side, it has the same character lines that head rearward to its wildly styled tuchus, so even if Toyota does change a bit, I wouldn't expect the revisions to be too crazy. The roof rack on top of the car is a nice touch.

Adding all-wheel drive to the Prius' lineup would be a smart move. Buyers in parts of the country with actual seasons appreciate the peace of mind that comes with four driven wheels, even though front-wheel drive is plenty safe, especially in conjunction with proper winter tires. Sales of the Prius have begun to cool off in 2018, so this could also give Toyota's O.G. hybrid a sales boost ahead of a proper full-on redesign.

2016 Toyota Prius v 5dr Wgn Two