Behind the Wheel

2020 Toyota Prius AWD-e Review: Reliable on the road, more capable than you'd think in the snow

The all-wheel drive model is designed to tackle tough driving conditions.

Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sakes U.S.A. Inc.

When the first Toyota Prius came out twenty years ago, it was for environmentalist wackos and early-adopter do-gooders who didn't mind driving a weird car (according to cynics), and actually did so proudly.

The Prius was (and is) odd-looking compared to other autos because it's so focused on aerodynamics. Everything on this car is made to maximize fuel economy and, if you drive a long way to work every day, it's worth a look just for the financial benefits alone. That said, if you like owning a big truck and driving everywhere by yourself even though you never haul anything, maybe this isn't the car for you.

2020 Toyota Prius AWD-e There are a lot of Prii on the streets of New England these days.Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sakes U.S.A. Inc.

My test unit was an XLE AWD-e trim, the highest in the Prius lineup. With an $800 Advanced Technology Pack that added a heads-up display and slightly better headlights, it priced out at $31,005.

During my week test driving, I felt a little conspicuous in the thing because of its looks alone, and I live in New England which is full of Prii — and yes, that's the official plural of Prius. Toyota had a contest. It's in the dictionary and everything.

The Prius is so unique looking that everyone knows how green you are and, probably, who you voted for. I wanted to put a Trump sticker on the thing solely because it would confuse people. It'd be like putting a Bernie sticker on your pickup and then rolling coal. Confusing and, potentially, hilarious.

Trolling and visual weirdness aside, the Prius is what I've known it to be for at least ten years: a normal car. Mostly. It has four doors and heated seats (standard in the XLE trim), absolutely enormous windows and great visibility thanks to the high roofline, Apple CarPlay is standard for 2020, and beginning last year there's an all-wheel drive variant too. Toyota calls it the Prius AWD-e.

2020 Toyota Prius AWD-e The car was tested on the snow and on bare roads for this review.Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sakes U.S.A. Inc.

It's a standard front-wheel drive car but at the back there's a standalone electric, magnet-less rear motor that will power the rear wheels from a stop up to six mph. If more rear wheel torque is needed because of conditions, it can keep driving the wheels up to 43 mph.

Naturally, this means the system runs in front-wheel drive mode most of the time, but the rear wheels get a little kick of power when traction-needs demand it — or just to improve fuel economy with the electric motor like a normal Prius would. On dry roads, you'll never even notice it. It feels like any other Prius. The engine turns off when coasting to a stoplight, and kicks on again once you start moving.

At very low speeds, the car is capable of driving itself in full EV mode and then the engine (an ultra-efficient 1.8-liter four-cylinder unit making a whopping 96 horsepower) takes over. Unsurprisingly, it isn't fast. In total, with gas and electric combined, the car puts out 121 horsepower and 105 pound-feet of torque.

In real-world driving conditions, the Prius AWD-e will be in front-wheel drive mode most of the time. After testing on relatively dry pavement in New England, I went to Utah to test it on the ice and snow. On the highways from Salt Lake City to Midway, by way of Park City, the model was easy to drive with no thrills or reason to exert its tech.

2020 Toyota Prius AWD-e The interior of the Prius is made to be lightweight but is relatively well appointed.Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sakes U.S.A. Inc.

Out on the snow course Toyota built at the former home of the Salt Lake City Olympics Nordic Racing facility, it was a different story. As promised, torque was sent to the rear wheels as winter slipperiness increased, and the all-wheel drive system kept things under control with surprising ease. The transition to all-wheel drive is seamless and more invisible than some of the systems on Toyota's SUVs.

The AWD version weighs in at just 3,220 pounds- that's 210 pounds heavier than the Prius base model.

As the Prius is a hatchback, the rear cargo area is absolutely massive. A Costco run was easy to load and there was plenty of space left over.

Rear visibility is atrocious thanks to the split rear window that looks huge from the outside but is sloped so aggressively (again, thanks to aerodynamic concerns) that it is tiny from the inside.

The car comes standard with Apple CarPlay and Amazon Alexa compatibility as well as a USB port. The standard 7-inch infotainment screen in the XLE model is too small, with a lot of space wasted by unnecessary buttons around the outside and the unbranded stereo is pretty terrible. There's also a dearth of sound dampening, likely to reduce weight and, again, improve fuel economy.

2020 Toyota Prius AWD-e The car, as tested, comes standard with Amazon Alexa and Apple CarPlay compatibility.Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sakes U.S.A. Inc.

Upgraded versions of the screen and audio system, and additional USB are not available in the all-wheel drive model like it is in the traditional Prius.

But both the heated seats and heated steering wheel work excellently, which is good news for colder climes. My XLE had automatic high beams and windshield wipers, which are increasingly becoming standard on lower-trim vehicles. And there is a full safety suite including automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control, lane departure assist, and blindspot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert. Toyota puts most of this in all the cars it sells now and it's worth calling out and praising them for. Car companies that aren't on the bandwagon here are going to be left behind soon.

I don't know that I would buy a Prius, even if I had a long commute. The RAV4 Hybrid appeals to me a bit more and I like the high seating position and, let's be honest, it's much more subtle in its good-fuel-economy-having-ness. But if you don't care if other people know you care about the environment or, more likely, if you want them to know, the Prius remains at the top of its class.

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New sports sedan

2022 Infiniti Q50 gets more standard tech

The car sees new tech and interior features for 2022.

Infiniti

The Infiniti Q50 is an aging but still-stylish sedan that offers value and power, but it hasn't quite kept pace with the crop of more engaging premium European cars. However, it's still worth a look, and to press that point further, Infiniti has updated the car for 2022 with a healthy list of standard features.

2022 Infiniti Q50 Exterior styling has not changed for 2022.Infiniti

Headline updates for the 2022 Q50 are wireless Apple CarPlay and newly standard Bose Performance Series Audio. There's now leather for every trim, but in the ways that count, the car is the same as the one we saw last year, the year before, and so on.

That's not to say that the car is bad. After all, it still offers a 300-horsepower twin-turbo V6 as standard and can be upgraded with a 400-horsepower version of the engine. And, despite its aging exterior styling, it's still a handsome car with smooth, sculpted bodywork. The seven-speed automatic transmission and available all-wheel drive remain in place.

2022 Infiniti Q50 All-wheel drive is available for all models.Infiniti

Pricing for the 2022 Infiniti Q50 starts at $43,125, which includes a $1,025 destination fee. The car gets standard wireless Apple CarPlay, leather upholstery, 18-inch wheels, and Bose Performance Audio. All-wheel drive is available for a $2,000 upcharge.

2022 Infiniti Q50 Wireless Apple CarPlay and Bose audio are standard.Infiniti

The mid-range Q50 Sensory starts at $48,825, and comes with 19-inch wheels, black open-pore wood interior accents, navigation, and an air purifier system. Stepping up to the top Q50 Red Sport 400 will run $56,975, and brings the more powerful V6 engine, semi-aniline leather upholstery, and Dynamic Digital Suspension, which adjusts damping settings depending on road conditions and driving style.

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New AWD performance car

The Subaru WRX is all-new for 2022

The new WRX's body cladding is already stirring up controversy.

Subaru

The Subaru WRX is a rally-bred performance car that offers a unique mix of rowdy all-wheel drive fun, a value price, and youthful styling. The car is long overdue for an update, though, and Subaru is doing just that for the 2022 model year. The fifth-generation WRX is all-new, and features a more powerful engine, along with several go-fast upgrades.

2022 Subaru WRX Both a manual and an automatic transmission will be offered.Subaru

A new GT trim joins the WRX lineup for 2022. It features a new automatic transmission, adaptive dampers, and drive mode selections. With various customization options available to the driver, the system offers up to 430 different settings combinations. The GT's interior adds Recaro seats wrapped in Ultrasuede with red stitching. The GT also gets exclusive 18-inch wheels.

Though still a Boxer engine, the 2022 WRX's powerplant is new and more powerful than before. It delivers 271 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque, as well as a broader torque curve. Subaru says that the larger engine plus an electronically controlled turbo wastegate and air bypass valves improve responsiveness and acceleration.

2022 Subaru WRX A larger 11.6-inch infotainment screen is on board. Subaru

All WRX models come with Subaru's Symmetrical all-wheel drive system and active torque vectoring, which can shift power to individual wheels that need the most traction. A six-speed manual transmission is standard, but a new Subaru Performance Transmission is available, which features faster shifts and other features to improve performance.

The 2022 WRX also gets a tech upgrade that brings a large 11.6-inch tablet-style touchscreen. It runs Subaru Starlink infotainment, handles HVAC and vehicle controls, and offers split-screen functionality for two apps to run simultaneously. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard, as is Bluetooth, SiriusXM radio, and HD radio. An upgraded version of the system also offers navigation with three years of free map updates.

2022 Subaru WRX Subaru will offer a new GT trim with upgraded suspension and finishes.Subaru

As it has done with many of its other vehicles, Subaru is equipping every WRX with its EyeSight suite of advanced driver aids. The packge includes lane departure prevention, adaptive cruise control with lane centering, and more. A new available automatic emergency steering system works with the car's pre-collision braking feature to help avoid collisions at speeds under 50 mph.

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