Following in all four of the 2019 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid's tire tracks, the 2019 Toyota Prius that bowed Wednesday at the 2018 LA Auto Show will offer all-wheel drive as an option for the first time. Toyota expects that about a quarter of Prius shoppers will opt for all-wheel drive.
The 2019 Prius' all-wheel-drive system adds an additional electric motor to the rear axle to create automatic, on-demand propulsion to the rear wheels when slip is detected. The magnet-less electric motor powering the rear wheels serves two functions—to get the hybrid hatchback moving from a stop for better acceleration and to increase grip in inclement weather. At low speeds—from a standstill to 6 mph—the electric motor powering the rear wheels reduces acceleration burden from the conventional hybrid powertrain. The electric motor can also operate at speeds up to 43 mph in wet or wintry conditions.
The additional electric motor tucks under the Prius' body and doesn't intrude into cargo space. As in the standard Prius, a 1.8-liter inline-4 engine paired to an electric motor fed by a nickel metal-hydride battery pack serves as the hybrid's primary propulsion.
Toyota said that the all-wheel-drive Prius will be rated on the EPA's fuel economy test at 52 mpg city, 48 highway, 50 combined. That's a big hit compared to the 58/53/56 mpg for the front-wheel-drive 2019 Prius L Eco trim level, but it's still miserly compared with competitors' all-wheel-drive cars. Other front-wheel-drive Prius hatchback trim levels are rated at 54/50/52 mpg.
For 2019, the Prius lineup has been reworked to L Eco, LE, XLE, and Limited trim levels. Front-wheel drive is standard on all, while the new all-wheel-drive system will be available on LE and XLE trims. The XLE builds on the LE with synthetic leather upholstery, heated front seats, and 8-way power adjustment for the driver's seat. Like other Prius models, the 2019 Prius all-wheel drive comes standard with a wide array of active safety tech such as forward-collision warnings with automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warnings, and automatic high-beam headlights.