Hybrids

2019 Toyota Prius adds AWD, borrows looks from Prius Prime

An electric motor out back provides on-demand traction without big economy penalties.

Toyota

The Toyota Prius has been front-wheel drive since its inception, and while the refreshed 2019 Prius keeps that theme alive, it's adding all-wheel drive for some electrified peace of mind.

Toyota introduced a raft of changes to the 2019 Prius, the most important of which is the addition of optional all-wheel drive. Up front is the usual mix of a 1.8-liter I4 gas engine and an electric motor powering the front wheels through a continuously variable transmission. Now, there's also an additional electric motor out back independently powering the rear wheels -- but only when it's called for.

Now playing: Watch this: Toyota updates 2019 Prius with all-wheel drive
1:13

The rear electric motor will provide rear-wheel traction from 0 to 6 miles per hour, and after that, it'll kick in as needed up to 43 mph. Otherwise, the car will continue to operate as a front-wheel-drive car, boosting fuel economy that would otherwise be lost to an always-on system. Toyota estimates its AWD Prius will return 52 miles per gallon city and 48 mpg highway.

All-wheel drive will only be available on the two highest trims of 2019 Prius, XLE and Limited. The base L Eco trim is geared for outright economy, with an estimated fuel economy of 58 mpg city and 52 mpg highway. All other FWD variants are estimated to achieve 54 mpg city and 50 mpg highway.

If it wasn't parked in the snow, how would you know it's all-wheel drive?

Toyota

What's interesting is that the Prius will actually have two different kinds of batteries. While the FWD Prius will sport a lithium-ion battery, the AWD variants will use a nickel-metal hydride battery that fits under the rear seat without impacting cargo volume. All Prius variants have a hefty 65.5 cubic feet of cargo space and split rear seatbacks for haulin' long stuff.

While the fourth-generation Prius has always had a love-it-or-leave-it look, it's bound to be even more polarizing now that Toyota has seen fit to bring it closer to the Prius Prime plug-in hybrid. The standard LED headlights lost the little bit that went down the bumper, and out back, the taillights have been lifted up and rotated toward the center of the hatchback. There's no mistaking it for anything else, that's for sure.

As before, the gauge cluster is mounted in the middle of the dashboard, with an available head-up display bringing pertinent information closer to the driver's field of view. While AWD models pack a standard 6.1-inch touchscreen infotainment system, opting for the Limited trim replaces that with the monstrous 11.6-inch vertical screen from the Prius Prime.

Toyota's standardized its safety systems in just about every car, and the 2019 Prius is no exception. It packs the Toyota Safety Sense P suite of driver assist systems, including autobrake, full speed adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning and automatic high beams.

Toyota hasn't yet said when the 2019 Prius will go on sale, but we'll be driving it in just two weeks, so make sure to keep your eyes pointed to Roadshow to find out if that extra electric motor is worth it. Pricing information should come closer to the car's release.

2020 Toyota Corolla: See what else Toyota's crankin' out these days.

Toyota Prius Prime: Want a bit more electric range from your Prius? Plug it in!