• Larry Weitzman

Review: Toyota Prius XLE AWD-e

The Road Beat - Toyota Prius AWD-e, An off-road hybrid?

Words and Pictures by Larry Weitzman


As most of you know I am not a big fan of electric vehicles. They are expensive to build and have

limited utility creating range anxiety. If Tesla didn’t have government and utility subsidies of about 25

percent of the purchase price, they would have folded long ago. Even though their stock is over $240 a

share and their market cap nearly equal to Ford’s, they have yet to turn a real profit and that’s with

receiving $two Billion in government subsidies directly and indirectly in the last six or seven years. Over

the last five years losses totaled over $3 Billion including the income from subsidies. And that’s not

counting discounted electrical rates to the purchaser, another expensive ratepayer subsidy.

But, the Prius AWD-e hybrid is a different animal. You will never run out of electrons because of

its 1.8L 96 hp (at 5,200 rpm) four-cylinder engine tucked under the hood that meshes perfectly using a

CVT transmission with its three-electric motor/generators of 31, 71 hp and 7 hp respectively. But the

maximum combined hp is limited to a total of 121 hp which will not exactly create escape velocity.

Outside the Prius looks right out of the Jetsons. To call it beautiful would be an overstatement,

but if you want to be recognized as driving a hybrid, saving the world, then this is your ride. From the

rear, it somewhat reminds me of a 1959 Chevy with its aircraft carrier flight deck. While it may not look

sleek with its big, busy front end, its coefficient of drag is a minimal 0.24. While a compact car in size

(180LX69WX58H inches), inside dimensions are mid-size.

Electricity is provided by an on-board Nickel-Metal Hydride battery of about 1.3 kWh. It is

charged by the engine, but mostly be regenerative energy from coasting and braking. The battery

powers a front axle electric motor primarily and the rear motor from 0-6 mph and then as necessary up

to 43 mph. So Prius operates as an AWD vehicle full time at very low speeds and when necessary at

speeds up to 43 mph.

As to performance, the AWS-e averaged 9.91 seconds in 0-60 mph runs which is very

comparable to a regular Prius. Passing times in hybrid mode from 50-70 mph was 5.49 seconds and the

same run up a 6-7 percent grade lengthened that time to 9.92 seconds, again very comparable to the

current Prius Prime which averaged 9.71/5.38/10.20 seconds. The CVT has a gear called “B” and it really

does a nice job of recharging the battery and controlling speed in a long downgrade.

But here is the deal, it feels spunkier than those times reveal, even when pure electric. In normal

or even somewhat aggressive driving the Prius will surprise you, especially from 10-50 mph. Yeah, sure

there isn’t much left after 70-75 mph, but the Prius is not about racing and if you compare it to the

sedans of the 1970s or earlier, the Prius rocks pretty good.

But buying a Prius AWD-e is about minimizing gasoline energy use which it does admirably.

Hybrid highway full economy is just a bit better than the EPA data which indicates fuel economy

numbers of 52/48/50 mpg city/highway/combined. At 70 mph, the Prius averaged 53 mpg in two, two

way runs. In 120mile trip during late morning rush hour, Prius averaged 55.9 mpg. Overall fuel economy

in over 400 miles averaged 52 mpg. In 53 miles of aggressive driving including all acceleration testing the

Prius averaged 47.9 mpg. That is remarkable. However, the fuel tank in remarkably small at 10.6 gallons.


Handling will surprise most drivers as it could be called nimble. Sure, standard rubber is tall and

comparatively skinny 195/65X15 tires, but it has fully independent suspension. And while certainly not a

Mini-Cooper, it acquitted itself well when pushed in the twisties. Steering, however, has an unusual

rubbery feedback, like there is some sort of robotic system in charge. I just overpowered it. As “Dirty

Harry” said, “A man got’s to know his limitations. Ditto for the Prius. It certainly exceeded my

expectations and what I thought its limitations would be.

Prius rides superb. It is a supple well controlled ride best demonstrated when leaving a driveway

that had 45 degree angled four inch curbs as it absorbed the bump better than most every vehicle ever

tested and equaling the best such as a Lexus RX450h. It’s a bit cushy, but I doubt any Prius buyer will

take his car to the race track or ever participate in a traffic light grand prix. Prius buyers are interested in

comfort, quiet and technology. it’s so quiet, tire noise becomes a bit apparent. However, when

ascending grades the engine becomes a bit intrusive as it races at high rpm a result of the CVT. At the

end of a long uphill grade, I thought a newly stitched shirt would also pop out of the glove box. It sure

sounded like it. While wind and engine noise are well subdued on level driving, tire noise can be an

issue on coarser roads. Maybe it is the low rolling resistance tires. I’ll take one mpg less fuel economy

and quieter tires.

As a leader in technology, Prius has all the safety features and four-wheel disc brakes with every

acronym. Headlights were excellent.

Inside is a Toyota quality interior with top quality materials. The comfortable seats were done in

Toyota’s quality SofTex leather like material and were quite comfortable. Rear seating is also decent.

Trunk is huge. Instead of a conventional binnacle in front of the steering wheel it uses a centered dash which

uses letters and digits that are too small, but the info that is accessible is amazing, not just fuel

economy, but daily driving fuel economy, a driver’s rating system for economical driving and so much

more. It is quite the “entertainment system.”

Pricing for this line of plug in hybrids starts at $28,820 for the Prius AWD-e plus930 for the boat

from Japan. My tester had an #800 HUD display $899 alloy wheels and a few other small items bringing

the total to $32,195 all in.

But, heBut, here’s the deal. This AWD Prius is about half the price of an AWD EV and it costs less to

drive, about 6 cents a mile. An EV where I live costs from about nine cents in winter a mile to 12 cents in

the summerre’s the deal. This AWD Prius is about half the price of an AWD EV and it costs less to

drive, about 6 cents a mile. An EV where I live costs from about nine cents in winter a mile to 12 cents in

the summer. And there is no range and refueling anxiety. Case closed. EVs can’t compete.


Specification and performance figures below.


Specifications

Price $27,965 to about $36,000

Engine and motors

Gasoline: 1.8L Inline four cylinder DOHC, 16 valve 96 hp @ 5,200 rpm

105 lb.-ft. of torque @ 3,600 rpm


Electric Three motor/generators 31 hp and 30 lb.-ft. of torque, 71 hp and 120 lb.-ft. of torque and 7 hp

and 40 pounds of torque.

Battery 1.3 kWh NMH battery with an output of 25 hp.


Transmission

Continuously Variable

Configuration

Transverse front engine and motors/front wheel drive

Dimensions

Wheelbase 106.3 inches

Length 180.0 inches

Width 69.3 inches

Height 58.1 inches

Track (f/r) 60.2/60.6 inches

Ground clearance 5.1 inches

Fuel Capacity 10.6 gallons

Passenger volume 93.1 cubic feet

Cargo volume 24.6 cubic feet

Weight 3,375 pounds

Wheels 15X6.5-inch alloy

Tires 195/65X15

Turning circle 33.5 feet

Coefficient of drag 0.24


Performance

0-60 mph 9.92 seconds

50-70 mph 5.49 seconds

50-70 mph uphill 9.92 seconds

Top speed Estimated at 115 mph

Fuel economy EPA rated at 52/48/50 mpg city/highway/combined. In suburban driving expect 52-55

mpg and on the highway (level) at legal speeds 53-55 mpg.

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