Prius gains more trac­tion with AWD

Truro Daily News - - SALTWIRE WHEELS - JUSTIN PRITCHARD jpritchard@her­ald.ca @chron­i­cle­herald

Next time you need to blow your nose, you’ll hope­fully go reach­ing for a Kleenex. It may just be an off-brand tis­sue of course, but you’ll call it a Kleenex any­ways. That’s be­cause Kleenex is the most pop­u­lar tis­sue there is.

The Toy­ota Prius is the most pop­u­lar hy­brid car there is. Like Kleenex, it’s the first thing that pops into most minds when peo­ple think about hy­brids.

But as pop­u­lar among hy­brids as Prius is, it was long lack­ing a ma­jor fea­ture that many Cana­di­ans want: all-wheel drive.

In a move that’ll see more units into more north­ern drive­ways, Toy­ota now of­fers Prius with a clever AWD-E sys­tem for ex­tra win­ter trac­tion.

Here’s how hy­brids like the Prius work.

Think of The Ter­mi­na­tor: he’s one part man, one part mur­der­ous ro­bot. That is, two very dif­fer­ent things joined up to work as one.

That’s the def­i­ni­tion of a hy­brid, more or less. In fact, the Ter­mi­na­tor is a man-ma­chine hy­brid, or hy­brid for short.

In a hy­brid car en­gine, it’s the same con­cept, but with a gaso­line en­gine and an elec­tric mo­tor. They’re joined and work as one. This makes the en­gine a gas-elec­tric hy­brid, or hy­brid for short.

The elec­tric mo­tor in a hy­brid is pow­ered by a bat­tery that recharges it­self au­to­mat­i­cally as you drive around.

In front-drive Prius vari­ants, there’s one elec­tric mo­tor at­tached to the gas en­gine up front. The new AWD-E sys­tem adds a sec­ond elec­tric mo­tor that drives the rear wheels and sits within in the sus­pen­sion be­tween them. Both mo­tors are fed from the same self-recharg­ing bat­tery. In mod­els with AWD-E, that’s a cold-cli­mate spe­cific bat­tery pack, by the way.

Re­sult? The elec­tric mo­tor pushes the rear wheels while the hy­brid en­gine pulls the front wheels. It’s hy­brid all­wheel drive. Those rear wheels are pow­ered im­me­di­ately at take­off, mean­ing a strong and steady ini­tial bite from the first throt­tle in­put. From there, the rear wheels can be pow­ered on as as-needed ba­sis up to about 65 km/h — pro­vid­ing plenty of seam­less sup­ple­men­tal grip where it’s needed most.

This lets driv­ers fire the car con­fi­dently through snow deep enough to glue down a front­drive. I was also able to re­peat­edly start off on a drive­way so steep and slip­pery it was hazardous to walk on. Pulling out of a park­ing lot onto a road­way? Just point the wheel and squeeze the throt­tle and off you go. Ou­tac­cel­er­at­ing all man­ner of front­drive car in deep snow never gets old.

Favourite at­tributes in­cluded very good rough-road ride qual­ity and a killer light­ing sys­tem that wouldn’t look out of place in front of a twice-the-price lux­ury ride.

Still, the AWD-E sys­tem is not for do­ing snow drifts and those with even a lit­tle weight in their right foot will wish for more horse­power.

But if you’re a light-footed driver and a fan of AWD in the win­ter, you’ll find this setup de­liv­ers what you’re look­ing for.

Ex­ist­ing own­ers look­ing to up­grade can ex­pect a Priustyp­i­cal drive, but with a good deal more con­fi­dence when the go­ing gets greasy.

JUSTIN PRITCHARD PHO­TOS

Justin Pritchard says the 2020 Toy­ota Prius AWD-E of­fers solid ride qual­ity, good per­for­mance in the snow, a fan­tas­tic light­ing sys­tem, and is hi­lar­i­ously easy on fuel.

The 2020 Toy­ota Prius AWD-E'S large touch screen dom­i­nates the cabin’s cen­tre stack area.

Favourite at­tributes of the Prius AWD-E in­cluded very good rough-road ride qual­ity and a killer light­ing sys­tem that wouldn’t look out of place in front of a twice-the-price lux­ury ride.

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