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The 2019 Toyota Prius feels like a natural fit, winding its way through the foothills of Colorado’s Rocky Mountains. It’s said that an adventure is more about the journey than the destination, and as the sunlight filters through the pines and the ore-colored rocks, you can be sure that you’re going to enjoy this journey.

The Toyota Prius, introduced over 18 years ago as the company’s commitment to making a difference, helped set the stage for the explosion of hybrid vehicles on the market today. To this day, the Prius remains the definitive choice among the competition, and the fourth-generation model has only improved upon the popular design with its added Electronic On-Demand Compact All-Wheel Drive (AWD-e). In addition to its EPA-estimated fuel economy and cargo volume, the added muscle of the AWD-e comes with newfound versatility that will now help drivers better battle the challenging weather and terrain that Colorado drivers know so well.

As Toyota would say, “Let’s go more places, in more conditions”

The 2019 Prius comes in two variants: the AWD-e LE and AWD-e XLE. The AWD-e LE model took us into the Rocky Mountain foothills for this test drive.

An extra, magnet-less electric motor powering the rear wheels is what transforms the 2019 Prius into an AWD vehicle. The lightweight motor adds 5 kW of induction and 41 pound-feet of torque to the car and only engages when needed up to 43 miles per hour in low-traction situations. The engagement of the rear motor is seamless and automatic, without the need for manual adjustment with buttons or shifting.

The 2019 Prius also features three drive modes, allowing you to adjust the driving dynamics based on your trip. “EV” mode maximizes fuel efficiency for city driving and rush-hour traffic, while “ECO” balances fuel economy with performance. Once you’ve left the I-25 corridor and are heading out into the mountains, you can switch to “POWER” mode, which provides more pick up where needed on hills and uncrowded stretches of highway. Switching between modes is also seamless, as you can make an adjustment without having to pause your trip.

In the 2019 Prius, you also won’t have to worry about distance and range: the magnet-less design means less drag, so the AWD-e design still features an impressive Toyota-estimated 52 city, 48 highway, and 50 combined miles per gallon.

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Peace-of-mind safety features

The AWD-e LE and XLE models come packed with all of the safety features of the Toyota Safety Sense system that Toyota has come to be known for, including the Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection that detects crossing pedestrians, alerts the driver to take action, and then automatically applies the brakes to help mitigate impact or avoid a collision if the driver doesn’t take action.

The Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assistant is also a useful standard feature, kicking in when you’re traveling over 32 mph. In certain circumstances on a road with visible lane demarcation, the alert system will detect when you’ve drifted from your lane and let you know with both aural and visual cues. When the Steering Assistant has been enabled, the system may automatically adjust to return you to your lane.

Toyota has also added more standard safety features to the new Prius AWD-e models, including a Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Cross-Traffic Alert, helping you avoid vehicles while reversing, and vehicles or objects in your blind spot so that you can have the safest trip possible.

New tech

The new tech that Toyota added to the AWD-e variants is cool. While the front-wheel-drive Prius uses a lithium-ion battery, the new AWD-e model has a nickel metal hydride battery, which performs better in cold climates, making it optimized for mountain weather. In other words, you can feel free to call in “sick” the morning of that powder day storm, and you won’t have to worry about your Prius’ performance as you head west to the ski hill.

Additionally, the Full-Speed Range Dynamic Radar Cruise Control that detects other vehicles’ proximity is particularly useful in morning traffic. Without deactivating cruise control, the system automatically slows the Prius if the driver ahead of you is traveling more slowly and resumes to the preset speed when the slower vehicle has exited your lane. There are three distance settings available, so that you can control the speed and distance more accurately, depending on the nature of the traffic that you find yourself in.

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Streamlined design

While the 2019 Prius has maintained its practical hatchback design, Toyota has streamlined the exterior with redesigned front and rear fascias and new colors, Supersonic Red and Electric Storm Blue. The AWD-e XLE variant also has an available adaptive front lighting system with auto-leveling headlamps.

Finally, Toyota has been able to make all these updates, including the addition of the nickel metal hydride engine situated under the rear seats, without comprising cargo space. Pack in the kids, pack in the gear, and you’ll be ready to head out for an unforgettable weekend in the mountains.

The takeaway

With Toyota’s commitment to its customer and to continually improving upon its market-leading vehicle designs, it’s easy to see why they boast a 95% loyalty rating. The price — for the Prius AWD-e LE, it begins at $27,300, only $1,400 more than the front-wheel drive model — combined with the added performance is sure to make the new 2019 Toyota Prius one of Colorado’s favorite new vehicles.

For more information or to take a test drive, contact: Larry H. Miller Toyota, 15 E. Motor Way, 719-471-3100, toyotaofcoloradosprings.com, or Larry H. Miller Liberty Toyota, 5115 New Car Drive, 719-598-2222, libertytoyotacoloradosprings.com.