Toyota unveiled the 2019 Prius AWD-e on the 2018 Los Angeles Auto Present. With 50 miles per gallon mixed, it’s going to be essentially the most environment friendly all-wheel-drive automobile you should buy with out a plug when it goes on sale in January 2019. For many who swear by excessive mpg however need AWD (or vice versa) it is a great point. The Prius nameplate has been a go-to for many who desire a automotive that is economical each up entrance and on the pump. Now, these four-wheels-driven stalwarts within the Snow Belt can take pleasure in comparable frugality.
Not solely that, however Toyota has listened to the lots and scaled again the visible weirdness for 2019. The up to date lighting entrance and rear makes this automotive rather more approachable. Inside, gone is the ocean of white plastic, which concurrently managed to look each dramatic and low cost. As a substitute is extra palatable piano black plastic on the middle console, the shifter encompass and the steering wheel. There have been a pair different minute tweaks, resembling inserting seat heater buttons in higher view close to the cupholders, and including extensions to the solar visors. Lastly, the Prius adopts the grade naming of the remainder of the Toyota lineup – L, LE, XLE and Restricted — with the AWD-e model accessible in LE ($27,300) and XLE ($29,740) trims.
Energy to the entrance wheels comes from the identical 1.Eight-liter gasoline-fueled four-cylinder engine as each different Prius, together with a pair of motor/mills, to supply a mixed 121 horsepower. In contrast to different Prius fashions that use a lithium-ion battery pack, the AWD-e as a substitute depends on a nickel-metal hydride pack. Toyota says the battery chemistry swap was made with the intention to present superior cold-weather efficiency.
The all-wheel-drive system on this Prius has been engineered to take care of the effectivity prospects demand whereas offering a traction profit when wanted. As such, the rear motor — which provides simply 7.1 horsepower, however a way more vital 40.6 pound-feet of torque — operates independently from the remainder of the powertrain. There isn’t any driveshaft to hyperlink the rear axle to the fuel engine or entrance motors. It places equal energy to every rear wheel by means of an open differential with no mechanical torque vectoring concerned, and the wheels may be braked independently as wanted to compensate.
The rear motor is not offering energy on a regular basis, both. It is all the time on from zero to six miles per hour, serving to to tug away from a cease or by means of a nook with most traction (it really works in reverse as properly). From 7 to 43 miles per hour, it solely engages when wanted. It’s going to additionally energy up in conditions the place you might doubtlessly lose grip, calculating yaw and pace — say, below arduous cornering — to forestall understeer and assist maintain you in your line. In any other case the rear motor stays quiet to preserve power, and the magnet-less design of the motor means it does not add resistance when not offering energy. That additionally signifies that this motor is not used for regeneration; the entrance motors deal with that.
Above 43 miles per hour, the rear motor does not activate in any respect. Toyota says this isn’t a limitation of the system, however as a substitute a characteristic or selection with the intention to present the effectivity and gasoline economic system figures Prius patrons demand. As deputy chief engineer of the Prius, Shoichi Kaneko, informed us, prospects on the colder, snowier Japanese island of Hokkaido had been primarily involved with traction at low speeds, the place it may imply holding up a line of drivers behind you at a cease. At highways speeds, the automotive depends on the identical tech because the FWD Prius to supply stability.
“For Prius, clearly, gasoline economic system is all the time prime of thoughts,” Kaneko-san stated by means of a translator. “And as well as, we have had this secondary goal the place we wish to go develop our base for our environmentally pleasant autos. Primarily based on that, we needed to create a four-wheel-drive system for the Prius that did not sacrifice gasoline economic system, however that might be a comparatively cheap system that might enable us to promote Prius to new individuals.”
For our drive, we began by taking the Prius AWD-e out on public roads in and round Kohler. It was chilly out — about 25 levels — but it surely hadn’t had any snow not too long ago within the space, so our roads had been clear and dry. In these regular situations, the automotive feels similar to a traditional Prius. Other than the few beauty modifications contained in the AWD-e, we may have simply satisfied ourselves we had been driving the front-drive model. Solely when accelerating arduous from a cease did it develop into in any respect obvious that the rear wheels had been being pushed together with the entrance. You would not discover the tiny little bit of chunk and shove if you happen to weren’t particularly in search of it. It is a lack of hesitation that’s solely obvious compared to the usual Prius.
In any other case, in these situations, it is the standard Prius expertise: an environment friendly, inexpensive solution to comfortably get from level A to level B. It isn’t a fast automotive by any stretch of the creativeness, and that is clearly not the purpose. Prius prospects aren’t in search of pace. They’re in search of effectivity, and the AWD-e nonetheless has it. It gives 52 mpg metropolis, 48 freeway, and 50 mixed. In comparison with the FWD model, it suffers successful of simply 2 mpg throughout the board.
The Prius AWD-e nonetheless has Regular, Eco and Energy modes to cater the accelerator response to your wants or whims. It additionally retains the identical shifter structure, with a “B” setting that enables for a stronger regenerative braking really feel, permitting you to get on the brake pedal later and fewer typically. Whereas we thought we might recognize the extra direct acceleration really feel of Sport mode, extra energy means extra sound from the fuel engine up entrance. After utilizing Sport for a bit, we dubbed it “Groan” mode, and switched out of it. Eco mode, whereas offering better effectivity, additionally makes it simpler to drive the Prius quietly, which makes all the automotive — and any electrified automobile, actually — really feel extra refined.
With Mom Nature — and the realm’s flat geography — failing to cooperate for our take a look at, we took the Prius to a closed circuit the place we may simulate the kinds of conditions the place all-wheel drive may show extra helpful. With the assistance of some snow-making machines and a entrance finish loader, we had a small circuit that turned from asphalt to dust to gravel to snow, together with a hill of snow close to the beginning. We had each FWD and AWD Priuses available for testing, every sporting its inventory set of all-season, low-rolling-resistance tires on 15-inch wheels.
Whereas we weren’t allowed to take the FWD Prius over the hill, we had the prospect to take it round the remainder of the observe a variety of instances. With a bit little bit of effort, we may get the Prius to understeer a smidge on the unfastened surfaces. With sufficient gusto, we may overcome the nannies and get it to plow extra aggressively whereas cornering by means of the snow, although it resisted the urge higher than we had anticipated.
Within the AWD-e, we headed for the snow hill first. We stopped fully on the icy incline. After a second, we put our foot into the throttle. The Prius paused a half beat, then slowly pulled up and away. It constructed pace slowly with smoothness and linearity because it climbed, and stored its nostril pointed straight because it crested the small however steep hill. We repeated this train a number of instances that day, and every time was the identical: regular, easy and undramatic.
We flogged the poor little Prius more durable with each lap of the course. Every uneventful go by means of the snow slalom had us taking it a bit quicker by means of the slippery curves. On lots of the laps, a courageous man waited on the skin of a curve with a snowblower to switch the white stuff we displaced as we handed. We may hear the quiet, muffled clicking as the steadiness management labored its magic, however weren’t capable of push the Prius AWD-e into understeer — the upper cornering speeds it allowed over the usual mannequin meant crossing that threshold may’ve doubtlessly meant a foul day for snowblower man. Or maybe under no circumstances, relying on how properly the automotive may get well. We weren’t prepared to search out out; we’ll save that take a look at for an empty parking zone.
And that is was when the Prius AWD-e actually started to make extra sense to us, regardless of our affinity for snow tires. With all-wheel drive, the automotive largely felt the identical as another Prius. It wasn’t including any enormous, tangible change in driving conduct. What it does is delicate and demonstrates itself as a lack of the negatives you’d in any other case discover: slip, instability, hesitation, understeer. That provides as much as confidence. And it is confidence you’ll be able to recognize with out having to sacrifice a lot in gasoline economic system.
Nearly all of drivers by no means make the swap to snow tires within the winter, whether or not due to its added value, a matter of cupboard space or a difficulty of gasoline economic system. A lot of them would slightly simply have all-wheel drive. For them, there’s now a Prius possibility.