Toyota’s legendary Prius gains available all-wheel drive
Now, car shoppers looking to get into greener motoring have another option that offers the extra benefit of traction in all weather conditions: Toyota’s legendary Prius gains available all-wheel drive. Called AWD-e(lectric), the system works on an on-demand basis requiring no centre differential or torque management device, or even a front-to-rear driveshaft. Instead, an independent electric motor spins the rear wheels at speeds from a dead stop up to 10 km/h to help get the vehicle moving, and can provide power up to 70 km/h when additional grip is required. Otherwise it stays off to conserve fuel consumption.
Unlike most traditional AWD setups, which can be quite gasoline hungry due to lots of moving parts, this new entry to the Prius lineup has a fuel economy rating of 4.5 L/100 km in the city and 4.9 on the highway. That’s nearly the same as the front-wheel drive Prius — still being carried at dealers — rated at 4.4 and 4.6, respectively.
Regular models are equipped with a lithium-ion battery, while the AWD-e versions utilize a new compact Nickel-Metal Hydride battery designed to maintain a high level of performance even in cold weather conditions. Installed under the rear bench, there is no change in cargo space, still offering 1,855 litres when the 60:40 split back seats are folded down. Rear legroom, at 848 millimetres, is generous for its segment. From the outside, the vehicle doesn’t appear any different from the standard variant that was given a styling makeover in 2018 highlighted by elongated headlamp housings and Z-shaped taillamps. The foglamps have been relocated to either side of the larger central lower air intake. A subtle AWD-e badge sits on the tailgate.
All Prii feature plenty of standard equipment such as energy-saving bi-LED lighting, backup camera, heated front seats, push button start and the Toyota Safety Sense P suite of driver assistance technologies. These include emergency braking, land departure assist, automatic high beams and radar cruise control.
Data geeks rejoice, as there’s no shortage of real-time analytics provided to help anyone become a greener motorist. The 4.2-inch Dual Multi-Information Display installed in the middle of the dashboard is customizable and can be programmed to show an Energy Monitor, Hybrid System indicator and Eco Score, Eco Savings Record, Drive Monitor, Eco Wallet, Eco Diary and much more.
Our loaded Technology trim bundled the Tesla-esque 11.6-inch high definition touchscreen (instead of the 6.1-inch unit found in the base) responsible for not just entertainment functions but things like climate as well. Although it is stunning from an aesthetic point of view, the screen is bright enough to light up the entire cabin at night. Response to finger inputs is fairly instantaneous, however a physical volume knob is sorely needed do dial in quick, precise adjustments during driving.
The 1.8-litre four-cylinder gasoline engine carries over, mated to two motors/generators and an electronically controlled continuously variable transmission. Total output remains 121 horsepower and 105 lb-ft of torque. It’s not a quick car by any means, and at nowhere was this more apparent than trying to get up a steep Burnaby hill without losing momentum.
Motor: 1.8-litre four cylinder + two electric motors
Horsepower: 121 (net)
Torque (lb-ft): 105 @ 3,600 rpm
Gearbox: Six-speed automatic
Layout: Front engine, all-wheel drive
Fuel economy: 5.4 L/100 km mixed city/highway (observed)