For the 2019 model year, the Prius finally gains all-wheel drive in the US, having had it in Japan for a couple years.
This new setup, which Toyota calls AWD-e, takes up about 25 percent less space than the larger rear-axle AWD system found in the RAV4 and Highlander, all in the name of efficiency.
That drive for all the emm-pee-gees also means Toyota swapped in an electric motor without a permanent magnet, which is some engineering-degree-tier stuff that Toyota says creates less fuel-sucking drag than a motor with a magnet.
This electric motor adds about 7 horsepower and 40 pound-feet of torque to the mix, but the added weight should cancel out any potential performance benefits.
Up front, the 1.8-liter I4 gas engine and its electric motor put out 121 hp and 105 pound-feet.
It always provides four wheels' worth of traction and torque from launch to 6 mph, and it'll provide grip as required up to 43 mph, at which point it disengages and acts like a front-wheel-drive car.
That's why Toyota expects the AWD Prius to hit 50 mpg combined, just 2 mpg less than the FWD Prius.
Having a physical connection to the front end would only harm fuel economy, which is why the AWD-e system hangs out back there by its lonesome.
I could stand and scream about the perfectly fine nature of FWD cars when equipped with winter tires, but the fact of the matter is buyers would rather get their peace of mind from all-wheel drive, and Toyota's happy to supply it.