The 2019 Toyota Prius AWD-e has no real competitors in our market. It is a super efficient hybrid that has a simple all-wheel drive (AWD) system. Electrically powered rear wheels (hence, the AWD-“e“) give the hybrid the ability to pull itself out of dangerous low traction situations.
While there are crossovers that are AWD hybrids (Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid and Toyota RAV4 Hybrid come to mind) both are crossovers, built high off the ground with adventurous pretenses. The 2019 Toyota Prius AWD-e is only 5.3-inches off the ground (0.2-inches higher than the non AWD Prius). It is a purpose-built hybrid, a car – not a crossover.
In this bracket, there is nothing else out there that gets a combined 50 mpg that offers AWD.
What makes the Prius AWD-e
This is not a regular, performance-enhancing AWD system. Powered by a seven-horsepower electric motor strictly feeding the rear wheels, the AWD system is fully active up to six mph. After that, it will engage up to 43 mph to assist traction when needed.
Power and performance
Power comes from a 1.8-liter, four-cylinder engine and two electric motors (one to assist up front, the other is dedicated to the rear wheels). Combined, it makes a total of 121 horsepower. While it’s not a ton of power, the Prius has no problem keeping up with traffic. An E-CVT is the only transmission available.
According to Toyota, they opted to use old-school/heavier nickel metal hydride batteries over lithium ion based on their cold-weather hardiness. The overall extra weight adds 150 pounds to the Prius, but the interior space and driving dynamics aren’t compromised.
It handles just like a regular Prius, which is to say that it rides well, accelerates gradually and stops quickly. Cornering is a bit tippy, but even with low rolling resistance tires, grip is acceptable. The AWD-e system doesn’t seem to help aggressive driving performance.