Easy to maneuver. Lots of safety features. Tremendous fuel efficiency.
All-Wheel Drive Capability
Quirky Instrument Panel
The Toyota Prius is (and has been) a good vehicle, unless you live in colder climates. But that changes with the new XLE AWD-e model the Japanese automaker brings for 2019. If you live in an area where snowy and icy roads are the norm, the all-wheel drive will provide extra traction. Fuel economy suffers slightly with the 2019 Toyota Prius XLE AWD-e, but it’s worth the loss in efficiency, especially when the weather gets rough.
This week, we’ve been driving the 2019 Toyota Prius XLE AWD-e, which is the top of the Prius line.
2019 Toyota Prius: What’s New?
The fourth-generation Prius is built on Toyota’s New Global Architecture (TNGA). The platform introduces a new body structure, multi-link rear suspension, and a lower center of gravity. It’s on this platform the Prius AWD-e makes its debut, with refreshed styling and new black interior elements. Two new colors, Supersonic Red and Electric Storm Blue, are on offer for 2019. New trim level names include L Eco, LE, XLE, and Limited. The AWD-e model comes in LE and XLE with new, two-tone 15-inch alloy wheels.
The “e” in AWD-e stands for “electric.”
2019 Toyota Prius XLE AWD-e Hybrid: Features & Options
The new Prius XLE AWD-e ($28,820) comes standard with automatic LED headlights, LED running lights and taillights, heated mirrors, keyless entry and ignition, and automatic climate control. Other standard features include dual, 4.2-inch driver information screens, adaptive cruise control, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, cloth upholstery, a height-adjustable driver’s seat, and a 60/40-split folding rear seat.
The XLE trim adds automatic wipers, keyless entry for the front passenger door and rear hatch, SofTex simulated leather upholstery, wrapped steering wheel, and a power-adjustable driver’s seat. The XLE also includes an auto-dimming rearview mirror, semi-gloss black center console, and a wireless charging pad. All 2019 Prius models, including the Prius AWD-e, come standard with Toyota Safety Sense P.
Options included the Advanced Tech Package with a heads-up display, adaptive front lighting, auto-leveling headlamps, and the aforementioned 15-inch alloy wheels. Total MSRP including destination: $32,146. By comparison, the 2019 Toyota Prius starts at $23,770.
Interior Highlights: Quirky But Helpful
The Toyota Prius has always been a bit quirky in terms of exterior styling and interior configuration, and the new XLE AWD-e is no different. The shifter and center gauge cluster are still odd, and I don’t like when my wife can easily see the speed I’m going without straining her neck! Overall, the cabin is surprisingly roomy and practical for commuting. Even for those occasional longer trips, it’s comfortable enough.
The Prius feels solidly-built, and Toyota uses nice materials throughout the cabin in this new all-wheel-drive model. The touchscreen is user-friendly and responsive, and most controls are simple and well-placed. Within the menu of displays are various driver support systems for the hybrid model. These include things like an Energy Monitor, Hybrid System Indicator, Eco Score, and Eco Wallet among others.
Interior Highlights: Plenty of Room, Visibility Suffers
It’s hard to believe, but we enjoyed the heated seats and steering wheel this week. It’s been cold in Denver even up to the first days of summer! We found the back seat is okay for short trips if you are carrying adult passengers. Kids will ride just fine on longer trips. Visibility out the front is excellent, but rear visibility is still an issue with the split in the glass cutting through the sightline. Over-the-shoulder visibility is also hindered by the raked roofline.
The hatch provides plenty of space with the rear seats up or down. We carried some larger boxes this week and the cargo area with the rear seats folded down swallowed the boxes with no problem. The XLE AWD-e offers 24.6 cubic feet of cargo volume, expanding to 62.7 cubic feet of space with the rear seats lowered.
Engine & Fuel Mileage Specs
The 2019 Toyota Prius XLE AWD-e is powered by a 1.8-liter four-cylinder and a pair of electric motors/generators. Their combined 121 horsepower is sent through a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) to the front wheels. The electric motors send power to the rear axle when all-wheel drive is needed. Toyota says they use an independent electric, magnet-less rear motor to drive the rear wheels to improve traction between zero and six mph; re-engaging them when front tire slippage is detected up to 43 mph.
EPA fuel-mileage estimates come in at 52 city/48 highway and 50 combined with all-wheel drive. Helping aid fuel economy are the active grille shutters and a 0.24 coefficient of drag (Cd), among the lowest of any current production passenger cars.
Driving Dynamics: Lively & Fun
You don’t buy a Prius for its superior driving dynamics, but rather for its fuel efficiency. Yet Toyota has taken the dull out of this hatch as it’s a competent and efficient urban commuter. We enjoyed the solid handling of the AWD-e and its easy-to-drive nature. When we pulled away from the stop light, we punched gas and the electric motor, coupled with the engine, delivers surprising acceleration.
In full-EV mode, we experienced a quiet and comfortable ride but it still feels lively around town.
The front seats are better than the previous generation, although our only compliant is the buzzy engine noise. We pushed hard while driving uphill into the mountains west of Denver, and the noise was apparent. We chucked the small car around the tight mountains corners and it responded well for an economy vehicle. Body roll was marginal and we felt confident in its abilities.
As the hybrid synergy drive system makes the shift from EV to hybrid mode, we did not notice the transition. It was seamless and unobtrusive for our entire drive. The electric all-wheel drive is there when you need it, and is perfect for those who live in colder climates. This added hardware opens up new possibilities and it’s less likely to leave you stranded when snow and ice covers the road.
Given how the Prius can operate on the battery alone, every model comes with a Vehicle Proximity Notification System to help alert pedestrians and cyclists.
Conclusion: A Solid Choice
The 2019 Toyota Prius XLE AWD-e is a good commuter, especially with the added capability of all-wheel drive. It makes a good choice for those needing a fuel-efficient hatch for their daily lives. In addition, independent studies continue to verify the Prius’ reliability and longevity for owners.
Denis Flierl has invested over 25 years in the automotive industry in a variety of roles. All of his firsthand reviews are archived on our test drives page. Follow Denis on Twitter: @CarReviewGuy