Toyota has teased what is probably an all-wheel-drive Prius, slated for introduction at the Los Angeles auto show late this month.
In studying the picture the company teased, with a Prius churning through the snow, it’s hard to come to another conclusion. The automaker says in a greeting-card-like teaser: “Fall is here, winter’s near, but the 2019 Prius performs on roads whether snowy or clear.”
Refreshed styling is also due for the Prius lineup, which will as a whole inherit more of the Prius Prime's styling cues. Many found the design of the Prime to be more cohesive and eye-pleasing, so that's a good thing.
For years, Toyota has sold a version of the Prius in its home market (Japan) called the E-Four, which retains the same two-motor Toyota Hybrid System up front but adds a third motor at the rear wheels, for rear traction, stability, and additional regenerative braking.
In the Prius E-four, the electric motor in back generates just 5.3 kilowatts—just over 7 horsepower. And now the parent company is sending this same system—and motor output—to the U.S. in the all-wheel-drive Lexus UX250h.
2019 Lexus UX (UX250h E-Four hybrid)
At the launch of the current generation of the Prius, for 2016, Toyota wasn’t convinced that enough Americans would be interested in an all-wheel-drive Prius, because Prius sales tend to be focused in California and Southern states.
It might not just be sharing the technology with Lexus. The Subaru Crosstrek plug-in hybrid that’s already been confirmed for sale by the end of the year—and also expected at the LA show—is different in that it’s a plug-in hybrid. But it will share Toyota’s hybrid system and have all-wheel drive in a somewhat different arrangement.
We can only guess that being able to amortize the cost of the E-Four’s extra kit over several different models and brands made an extra amount of engineering and development worthwhile.
If this is an AWD Prius, we’ll have plenty of questions—like whether adding that rear motor actually helps or hurts fuel economy. Check back for more in a few weeks, as we report from the show.