Anyone out there up for going muddin' in a Prius? That may be possible, sort of, because Toyota might be getting ready to offer an all-wheel-drive version of the world's most popular hybrid. No word on mudflaps, but one can only dream.
The Japanese automaker may include premium-level versions of the 2016 Prius with an electric motor that would drive the rear wheels, which so far have been simply along for a fuel-efficient ride, according to Japanese publication Minkara (nope, we can't translate it either, but India Autos Blog and Green Car Reports were kind enough to take a look for us). On the lenient JC08 cycle (94 miles per gallon. We said it was lenient), the standard Prius gets 40 kilometers per liter, while the e-AWD only gets 35 km/L (83 mpg).
Using the US tests, the 2016 Prius is expected to boost its fuel economy to about 55 miles per gallon, and an electric all-wheel-drive option will eat into those gains a bit. How much is uncertain, since those JC08 numbers are difficult to translate into US EPA figures.
The Prius can use all the advance buzz it can get, since people have been holding off on buying the current Prius while they wait to see what Toyota will do differently with the next one. Toyota spokesman Sam Butto, in an e-mail to Autoblog, declined to comment, only saying there'd be more information available on the 2016 Prius "at a later date."
Through August, US sales of the four variants of the Prius were down 17 percent from a year earlier to about 126,000 units. The option would dovetail nicely into the effort by Toyota to equip the next-generation Prius with a slightly sportier feel. The production version of the new hybrid was revealed a few weeks ago, and will go on sale early next year.