It’s impossible to keep a secret any more. In the age of the cell phone camera and the internet, all information wants to be free. Thanks to folks at the Indian Autos blog, photos of an internal Toyota staff manual have found their way online. They show that there will be a Prius all-wheel-drive option when the fourth-generation car goes into production, but they don’t say when that option will be available or which markets it’s coming to.
The best guess is that a second electric motor will be added at the rear of the car. With electricity, all you need is a cable to put a motor wherever you need one — no clunky driveshafts or differentials needed. Since the Prius is pretty much an electric car anyway, installing an extra motor is probably less of a challenge than programming the control software to manage it.
What the leaked photos do make clear is that the new Prius in standard trim will go 40 kilometers on a liter of fuel (in the Japanese test cycle), while the all-wheel-drive version will “only” go 35 kilometers on the same liter of fuel. That suggests two things — the AWD system is in operation at all times rather than on demand and the Prius with AWD will get about the same gas mileage as the current car. The new Prius without AWD is said to be about 10% more fuel efficient than the previous model.
The other thing the leaked photos tell us is that the fourth-generation Prius benefits from what Toyota calls ICONIC Human-tech. Who thinks of these labels? What that mouthful of syllables means is that the design of the new car features flowing curves with aggressive angular lines, resulting in “ground-breaking advances” and “aerodynamic innovations” for cutting through the air more efficiently. So far, the reaction to the styling of the new Prius is that it’s trying a little too hard to be hip, cool, and trendy.
Perhaps that is not surprising, given that company president Akio Toyoda sent his designers back to their drawing boards after seeing their original ideas and told them to make the car more appealing to younger buyers. The average age of Prius buyers is trending upwards, to the point where they are more likely to be seen parked outside retirement homes than night clubs.
The other change Toyoda-san insisted on was a more sporting ride. Whatever the benefits of the Prius to date, it has been roundly criticized for having handling that is more tame than taut. The new car has a lower center of gravity and upgraded suspension, both of which are expected to put some zing into the Prius driving experience.
Add the all-wheel-drive system and better vehicle dynamics to the larger Prius V and you might just have a fuel-efficient, fun-to-drive, crossover-type vehicle that would appeal to lots of people other than treehuggers.