LOCATED GREEN LINK: Once all the petrol heads are replaced by e-motor heads, a challenging query on Trivia night could well be the identification of the “Missing Link” whence the first major step was taken towards an electric motoring market. That “Link” has to be what sibling outlet ChicagoNow.com “Drive…He Said” in April 17 called the Godfather of Green, the Toyota Prius hybrid.
Of late all automotive manufacturing hats have tipped towards mostly all-in on an accelerated compliance zero emissions future. Despite year over year increases in EV sales and a wider model array, Pure Plug-In battery electrics (BEVs) still comprise vast minority of all private vehicle registrations, as consumers anxiously await the arrival of an intelligent charging grid and hydrogen fueling network. However, it required the continued commitment of a Japanese autos giant to this transitional “hybrid” phase to recently wrest the U.S. overall fleet sales crown from General Motors for the first time. In solidarity with multi-generational loyalists of this quirky, ground-up designed hybrid, a 2022 Toyota Prius AWD-e is set to tread more sure-footedly in cases of weather inclemency.
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WHAT: 2022 Toyota Prius XLE AWD-e Mk.4 XW50 TNGA-C platform compact 5-door hatchback succeeding the 3rd generation XW30 Prius.
Standard Power: 1797 cc Atkinson cycle, dual VVT-i DOHC 16V start-stop idle I-4 cylinder gasoline engine: 95 hp/ 105 lb-ft @ 3600 rpm; 90 kW (125 hp) net hybrid
+ Continuously Variable Transaxle, parallel shaft gearset coupled, arranged parallel to:
- 1 x 650V synchronous AC traction / regenerative charging motor, front wheels: 53 kW (71 hp), 120 lb-ft, coaxially mounted with
- 1 x 650V synchronous AC Hybrid Starter Generator: 8 kW
- 1 x 650V synchronous AC traction motor, rear wheels: 5.3 kW (7 hp), 40 lb-ft
- Battery electric supply: Ni-MH, 201.6 V, 43 kW, 1.3 kWh
WHAT (A) STYLING DIFFERENCE: [From previous generation XW30] The fourth generation Godfather of Green retains the sharp drooping nose, now with deeper dual valleys on the hood tapering to form nearly a Formula race car center point. Jazzing things up are thinner boomerang LED headlamps and taller chrome vertical lower fascia corner “fangs”. Darkened egg crate louvers fill a narrow upper grille and taller lower air inlet.
The beltline rises more dramatically from below the windshield and a seriously sloped roof with thin C-pillar form a “Dustbuster” profile. The trademark dashtop corner glass returns. A rising crease now forms from the lower rear door. A “Flying Buttress” framed raked liftgate terminates in a Kammback drop splitting off a lower backlight, forming a rear deck spoiler. Outward opening boomerang taillamps cradle the lower backlight, with the center liftgate bottom bearing a large license plate bowl. The lower rear bumper cover rises to hold a darkened lower fascia.
WHY: All-weather drive comes to the Godfather of Green.
WHEN: On-Sale (in the U.S.) since Autumn 2021
WHERE: Toyota new vehicle dealers
WHERE MADE: Tsutsumi, Toyota Aichi Prefecture, Japan
HOW ROADWORTHY: Prius is the perennial antonym for anything resembling enthusiastic performance. Adding a low power supplemental traction motor for low speed all-wheel drive, despite lacking traditional heavier center differential parts, to an already considerable NiMH battery pack and supplemental front wheel traction motor pack merely raises the mass to ICE family sedan levels.
A forewarning: Prius AWD-e isn’t tuned for those in a hurry. Go light on the accelerator and all is city serene. From suburban stop lights, apply a harder throttle and the engine strains raucously by 40 miles per hour. Beyond that any extra engine revolutions made are nearly ignored by the continuously variable transaxle. Even the smooth application of the electric motors joining the effort don’t help. The power and drivetrain are merely optimized for fuel efficiency, which at nearly 55 combined mpg, remains impressive. Prius AWD-e authentic pure hybrid form includes a regenerative braking “B” drive mode. However engagement demands a counterintuitive arm maneuver of the Blue handled center stack drive mode lever.
HOW LIMBER: Bumps in the road are pillowed over by the independent suspension, without excessive wallow. Low rolling resistance tires ensure dull turn in but announce impending oversteer. Compared to your average Prius hybrid, steering response is less inert, though wanting road sensation, while the disc binder occupying four corners exhibit more linear pedal action but nothing that would be hot lap helpful.
HOW FAR: 54 combined miles per gallon; 500 miles highway range per tankful
- By Comparison: combined 2022 Prius AWD-e fuel economy:
HOW BIG/ LITTLE: 2022 Prius AWD-e remains a compact albeit with family aspirations. The deep dashboard and generous cargo space consume what could have been more passenger space. Two in front command lots of space but the descending roof makes it tighter for those assigned aft positions. Low cowl, tall greenhouse and the lower tailgate backlight make for excellent outward peering.
- 2022 Toyota Prius 106.3″ wheelbase = identical to Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid
- 33.4″-inches Row 2 legroom = 2.3″ < Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid
HOW USEFUL: √ Cargo bay = 2 full size cases and two carry-ons; √ Luggage liftover is conveniently low; √ 60/40% split folding rear seat backs expand to immense home improvement store shopping spree load space.
- +1 Generous center armrest bin and glovebox; Retracing cargo bay wall bag hooks; Chrome load floor anchors
- /- Sliding front center armrest can obstruct aftmost cupholder
- -1 Sparse front door pocket space
- -1 Shallow rear center seatbelt receiver recess
• 2022 Toyota Prius Hybrid 27.4 nominal / 57.0 (max.) cu. ft. cargo space = +15% / +5% vs. Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid
HOW SAFE: IIHS 2021 Top Pick = √ 8 airbags, √ Rear camera w/ fixed gridlines, √ Sonar park audible park assist;
Driver assist technology: √ 8 airbags; √ Rear camera; √ STANDARD Toyota SafetySense 2.0 = Pedestrian & daytime cyclist detection braking; Forward collision avoidance braking; Lane departure, Road edge & Sway Warning, Lane Keep Assist; Adaptive cruise control – partial, Automatic High Beam headlights
♦ OPTIONAL: Blind Spot & rear crosss traffic warning, Heads Up Display
HOW PEOPLE FRIENDLY: As with prior Priuses, the creased compact exterior shape of the 2022 Toyota Prius AWD-e belies its interior spaciousness. The Prius tradition of displacing the traditional driver position gauge cluster binnacle in Cyclopean fashion to the upper center dash filled by an exceedingly simple landscape oriented split function color LCD display continues Rather 1970’s retro is the missing lower center control stack. Your typical Toyota touch panoramic center media display benefits from proper embedding. A large 3-spoke helm incorporates smooth circular, but indistinguishable redundant thumb controls in place of the previous rubberized bits. An expansive dashtop is finished in a pliable cross stitch edged leatherette material, chrome door releases whisper elegant, and the panels exhibit exemplary fit, even if lots of the oversized switchgear is no more refined than what a Corolla contains.
√ Two-tone Leatherette seating, manual adjust front buckets; √ Power windows w/ full express, full retract x 4; √ Thick padded front and rear door armrests; √ Enhanced cabin insulation.
- +1 Fatigue reducing seats pay off.
- -1 Non-height adjusting front passenger seat
Cool Gizmo(s): √ Center upper dash 7.0″ inch selectable graphics color TFT gauge cluster multi-function display; √ HUD
Details Done Right: ♦ Stitched leatherette thin upper dashboard, metallic band spanning and encasing corner climate vents; ♦ Floating gauge cluster hood; ♦ Sloping padded lower instrument panel w/ stitching; ♦ Piano black accents traced by “U” metallic bands encasing center dash climate & center console and front door pulls; ♦ “PRIUS” stamping on climate vent levers; ♦ Tight pebble grained soft mid dash and upper door panels; ♦ Contrasting seat panels.
Nearly Non Descript: -1 left lower dashboard blank switch covers
HOW “APP” -LICABLE: √ Center dash split-pane 7.0″ flat-panel touch LCD infotainment screen; √ Voice command, hands-free communications; √ SMS text messaging; √ Siri Eyes, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto wired smart phone projection; √ 6-speaker, HD radio streaming audio; √ USB x 2, 12V x 1;
Free Apps: ♦ Entune 3.0 = limited to Amazon Alexa
By Subscription (trial): ♦ Sirius XM radio (3 mo.); ♦ WiFi by Verizon (2 GB); ♦ Toyota Connected Services (3 yrs.)
- + Embedded infotainment bears more finished appearance; 2nd Row USB
- +/- Android Auto joins Apple Car Play phone projection, but both require USB tethers
HOW MUCH: $32,469 = as tested 2022 Toyota Prius XLE AWD-e
WHAT’S MISSING: Sense of road surface; Deeper center console mobile device slot; Less Cyclopean instrument cluster
FINAL WORD: Godfather of Hybrid Green armed with all-wheel drive can stem tide towards crossover SUVs.
Contributing Editor: S. Frissell