2019 Toyota Prius AWD-e: Conquering Nature, While Saving It

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
2019 toyota prius awd e conquering nature while saving it

While we’re not sure if consumers were ever really clamoring for an all-wheel drive Prius, Toyota has decided to grace North America with one for 2019. And it would have been a monumental surprise for the kissless virgins that make up the brunt of automotive journalism, had Toyota not already telegraphed its move by selling the model in Japan.

That’s alright, though. Average Joe had no clue such a vehicle already existed in Asia and we’d imagine most Prius fans will just be happy they’ll have an opportunity to buy one that can conquer snowy, mountainous terrain. Whether or not the 2019 Toyota Prius AWD-e can traverse glaciers on a thimble of fuel remains to be seen, but this seems like a wise move. People are constantly coming up to us and explaining how they “have to have” all-wheel drive and Toyota’s premier hybrid could certainly use a sales boost right now.

Perhaps this mid-cycle makeover can help with that.

After peaking in 2012, domestic Prius family volume took a serious hit. Deliveries within the United States for 2017 were roughly half what they were a few years earlier. Meanwhile, 2018 looks like it’s shaping up to be one of the worst periods the model has seen in over a decade. Only the plug-in hybrid is gaining any ground right now.

If you’re wondering what went wrong, there really isn’t much to say. The Prius simply has more direct competition now and lost some of its other-worldly appeal with the green crowd. It also happens to be playing host to some pretty questionable styling at the moment.

The point is, the Prius isn’t broken, and the manufacturer has done quite a bit to keep it that way. Toyota Safety Sense P (TSS-P) is now standard across the Prius range, all-wheel drive is newly available, and so are vastly improved exterior aesthetics.

While the company should be praised for trying something different, it didn’t quite come together upon execution. Toyota was smart in toning town the Prius’ polarizing looks for 2019. The prominent headlamps still ride along the edge of the hood, but they don’t melt into a perplexing series of creases on either side of the grille. It retains the more subtle aspects of the previous styling, ditching exactly what it needed to stop it from looking quite so “bold.”

However, Toyota revising the Prius’ alien-like fashion sense is only half the story. You want to know about the AWD-e models. For 2019, the base Prius will remain a front-drive vehicle. However, customers will have the option to configure their vehicle with Toyota’s electric all-wheel drive system. The catch is that they’ll have to purchase an LE or XLE to do so. Base L Eco trimmed vehicles and upper-crust Limited models will be FWD only.

Fun Fact: Toyota ditched the numerical trims for the Prius to bring the model in line with the rest of its fleet.

The system appears similar to what it offers in its existing hybrid crossovers. Rather than running a driveshaft down the vehicle’s length, AWD-e positions an entirely separate electric motor at the rear. That unit is responsible for spinning the back tires under 6 mph and will continue working up to 43 mph as needed. When it isn’t, the system defaults to front-wheel drive, improving fuel economy.

Speaking of which, Toyota claims the Prius AWD-e should be capable of averaging 52 mpg in the city and 48 mpg highway. Meanwhile, the rest of the family should lay down roughly the same numbers as last year — 54 city and 50 highway, with the L Eco doing slightly better.

As previously mentioned, the new Prius also receives the Toyota Safety Sense P driving aid bundle as standard equipment. That includes automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, automatic high beams, and lane-keep with assist.

That’s the important stuff covered, but we did notice it wasn’t quite as robust as the safety tech on some of Toyota’s other models. It’s a similar story with the multimedia setup. The 2019 Prius will march onward with the 6.1-inch Entune infotainment system it had last year, not the larger upgraded unit we saw in the new RAV4. It’s a trifling matter, especially considering there’s a good chance the larger touchscreen might not even fit, but still worth noting if you want to cross shop.

The 2019 Prius is currently on display at the 2018 Los Angeles Auto Show (probably adorned with a few of the automaker’s new accessories), sharing space with the 2020 Corolla Hybrid and Toyota’s new TRD sedans. Let us know which one you think it the most exciting and be serious. We don’t need the comments section flooded with a bunch of fake praise for the Avalon TRD.

[Images: Toyota]

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  • Jacob Jacob on Nov 30, 2018

    I think Prius is a fun little car, and extremely reliable (brother's 2012 already did 150K miles with just oil changed, and maybe some other expendables like spark plugs). But my problem with it is that you effectively get the ride quality and equipment of a Corolla for the price of a mid-range Camry. In the age of 2-3 dollar gallon of gas, I'd rather have a Camry of course.

    • HotPotato HotPotato on Dec 02, 2018

      The Camry has finally become a nice looking car but it's also become a freakin' land whale size-wise. Having gone indy/wishbone in the suspension dept, the current Prius is finally a good handler, it's sized right, and it swallows loads of stuff with the hatch. I'd be inclined to take the Prius. It's pretty neat that Toyota has upped its game to where people who enjoy driving would seriously consider either though, honestly.

  • HotPotato HotPotato on Dec 02, 2018

    It looks like you've run the interior picture from a plug-in Prius Prime with its giant faux-Tesla center stack, not the interior of the ordinary plugless Prius you're reviewing with its 6.1" infotainment screen.

  • Jeff S Corey--We know but we still want to give our support to you and let TTAC know that your articles are excellent and better than what the typical articles are.
  • Jeff S A sport utility vehicle or SUV is a car classification that combines elements of road-going passenger cars with features from off-road vehicles, such as raised ground clearance and four-wheel drive.There is no commonly agreed-upon definition of an SUV and usage of the term varies between countries. Thus, it is "a loose term that traditionally covers a broad range of vehicles with four-wheel drive." Some definitions claim that an SUV must be built on a light truck chassis; however, broader definitions consider any vehicle with off-road design features to be an SUV. A [url=https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crossover_(automobile)]crossover SUV[/url] is often defined as an SUV built with a unibody construction (as with passenger cars), however, the designations are increasingly blurred because of the capabilities of the vehicles, the labelling by marketers, and electrification of new models.The predecessors to SUVs date back to military and low-volume models from the late 1930s, and the four-wheel drive station wagons and carryalls that began to be introduced in 1949. The 1984 [url=https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeep_Cherokee_(XJ)]Jeep Cherokee (XJ)[/url] is considered to be the first SUV in the modern style. Some SUVs produced today use unibody construction; however, in the past, more SUVs used body-on-frame construction. During the late 1990s and early 2000s, the popularity of SUVs greatly increased, often at the expense of the popularity of large [url=https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sedan_(automobile)]sedans[/url] and station wagons.More recently, smaller SUVs, mid-size, and crossovers have become increasingly popular. SUVs are currently the world's largest automotive segment and accounted for 45.9% of the world's passenger car market in 2021. SUVs have been criticized for a variety of environmental and safety-related reasons. They generally have poorer fuel efficiency and require more resources to manufacture than smaller vehicles, contributing more to climate change and environmental degradation. Between 2010 and 2018 SUVs were the second largest contributor to the global increase in carbon emissions worldwide. Their higher center of gravity increases their risk of rollovers. Their larger mass increases their stopping distance, reduces visibility, and increases damage to other road users in collisions. Their higher front-end profile makes them at least twice as likely to kill pedestrians they hit. Additionally, the psychological sense of security they provide influences drivers to drive less cautiously. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sport_utility_vehicleWith the above definition of SUV any vehicle that is not a pickup truck if it is enclosed, doesn't have a trunk, and is jacked up with bigger tires. If the green activists adhere to this definition of what an SUV is there will be millions of vehicles with flat tires which include HRVs, Rav4s, CRVs, Ford Escapes, Buick Encores, and many of compact and subcompact vehicles. The green movement is going to have to recruit millions of new followers and will be busy flattening millions of tires in the US and across the globe. Might be easier to protest.
  • Sckid213 I actually do agree that most Nissans are ultimately junk. (I also think many BMWs are also). I was talking challenging the 3 in terms of driving dynamics. Agree all were failures in sales.
  • THX1136 More accurately said, we are seeing exponential growth in the manufacturing capabilities in this market. Unless, of course, all those vehicles are sold with customers waiting until more a produced so they can buy. Indeed, there are certainly more EVs being purchased now than back in 2016. Is demand outstripping manufacturing? Maybe or maybe not. I sincerely don't know which is why I ask.
  • ToolGuy The page here (linked in the writeup) is ridiculously stupid https://www.tyreextinguishers.com/how-to-spot-an-suvLike, seriously stupid, e.g., A) Not sure that particular Volvo is killing the planet as quickly as some other vehicles we might choose. B) A Juke is "huge"??? C) The last picture shows a RAV4 Hybrid?