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Later this month at the Los Angeles auto show, Toyota will be releasing an updated 2019 Prius hybrid that will likely be available with all-wheel drive. The hint comes from a Toyota press release issued today saying that the 2019 Prius "performs on roads whether snowy or clear," and the accompanying image pictures a Prius driving down a snow-covered road.
All-wheel drive doesn't actually originate with this fourth-generation Prius. Since its launch in 2015, the hybrid has been offered in Japan with what Toyota calls E-Four, which is an all-wheel-drive system specifically developed for hybrid models. The E-Four setup adds a second electric motor to the rear axle that solely drives the rear wheels, and the system can switch between front- and all-wheel drive depending on driving conditions and fuel-efficiency needs. Thanks to its compact design, Toyota says, the AWD system only adds a slight weight penalty, fuel economy is no different, and luggage capacity is identical compared with the front-wheel-drive Prius.
The E-Four system is also found in hybrid versions of the Toyota RAV4and the Lexus NX, but those models use a much larger rear motor than the Prius does. Toyota showed off an updated version of the technology earlier this year; this version offers more torque and a new control system. Toyota is sharing its hybrid technology with Subaru for the upcoming Crosstrek hybrid, but the Subie will use its own all-wheel-drive system, not Toyota's E-Four.
With snow obscuring almost the entire car in the teaser photo, we can't see if any changes have been made to the 2019 Prius's looks. Having debuted more than three years ago, the Prius is due for its mid-cycle refresh, so the hybrid could receive updates to the front and rear styling as well as the interior. We also wouldn't be surprised if a version of the all-wheel-drive model were to gain SUV-like plastic body cladding, as the smaller Prius C hatchback did for 2018. The option of all-wheel drive will likely bring a slight price premium; in Japan, the E-Four system adds around $1700.
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