There's an extra motor in the back and a minor facelift up front.
We suspected something might be happening in the land of Prius when Toyota dropped a teaser photo of its familiar hybrid shooting a rooster tail of snow that, upon closer inspection, appeared to show the rear wheels doing the spinning. In fact, all four tires were doing the driving because our suspicions are now confirmed: Toyota has a new all-wheel-drive Prius for the North American market that was just revealed at the 2018 Los Angeles Auto Show.
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The system is actually called AWD-e, where predictably, e stands for electric. There is no direct connection between the rear wheels and the engine – a separate electric motor supplies power to the back tires full-time from 0 to 6 mph to help with initial acceleration. Beyond that, the onboard computer engages the rear rubber only when it’s deemed necessary for grip or stability, up to a maximum of 43 mph.
Those familiar with the Prius in its home market of Japan will recognise this setup, as it’s been available there for a few years now. With SUV and crossover sales going bezerk, it seems Toyota is hoping to slip something of a ringer into the segment. In fact, the automaker estimates that 25 percent of new Prius sales could go to the all-wheel-drive model, and it does offer quite a bit of interior room comparable to many smaller crossovers. With fuel mileage ratings of 52 mpg city (62.4 mpg-UK) and 48 mpg highway(57.6 mpg-UK), it’s certainly among the least-thirsty all-wheel drive vehicles you can get.
But wait, there’s more.
In addition to the new AWD-e option, Toyota is giving the 2019 Prius a minor styling update that mimics the look of the current Prius Prime. Two new colours enter the Prius palette – Supersonic Red and Electric Storm Blue – and the AWD-e will get new two-tone 15-inch wheels.
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Inside, the 2019 Prius will be familiar to fans of the brand. The 4.2-inch display on AWD-e models will gain an additional menu, and AWD-e XLE variants get heated front seats with powered 8-way adjustability and SofTex trim. A cool crossbar setup for the roof rack will be available through Toyota’s accessory group, and on the safety side, all Prius models get Toyota Safety Sense P as standard equipment.
The new 2019 Toyota Prius will make its first European appearance at the Brussels Motor Show on January 18 next year.