For the first time in the Toyota Prius’ 19-year history are optional towing capability and all-wheel drive, but neither of these are offered in the U.S.
While the fully revised mid-sized hybrid is essentially the same in all global markets, Toyota has tailored it to meet specific government regulations as needed in different countries, and has made choices about what consumers may want.
In the U.S., news of no “E-Four” all-wheel drive, an approximately $1,450 option available only in Japan, was published last fall, and currently, adding to the list of options not sold in the States is towing, which Toyota in the UK recently began promoting.
To call attention to the feature, the automaker’s UK arm put out a few poignant photos highlighting the possibilities of utilizing a “tow hook” (tow hitch) and pulling a trailer or light “caravan” (travel trailer).
The weight of the potential load is limited to less than the 2,000-pound threshold of Class 1, and is just 725 kg (1,598 pounds), but enough for the lightweight teardrop trailer shown.
“Prius’s new-found ability is thanks to heat management measures that have been introduced in the hybrid system’s main electric motor-generator and the differential,” says the automaker. “As a result, the car has a maximum towing capacity of 725 kg for both braked and unbraked trailers.”
Before this, enterprising owners have been known to attempt their own hitch, some have used them for actual light towing, others at least for more-benign rack installations suspended from the hitch for bicycles and other light items.
According to Sam Butto, Toyota Product Communications however, the automaker does not make any recommendations in the U.S. to set a Prius up for towing.
When asked if there are any technical difference in the U.S. market 2016 Prius powertrain, chassis, or other aspect that would render it incapable in the U.S. from towing such as it is being shown in the UK, Butto said Toyota’s U.S. arm does not have this info. Requests to Europe for info have not been returned before deadline.
And apart from any potential differences between the 2016 Prius in UK or Europe versus the U.S., Toyota’s UK-based representatives say an official range of accessories including necessary wiring harness is now on offer.
As for the other feature that’s off limits in the U.S., all-wheel-drive, some Americans who had combed the internationally sourced press online had thought this was coming, and it did, but it was not for this market.
Some have also said the rear-wheel drive helper motor in Toyota’s E-Four system would be welcome in snowbelt states. It is similar to the slip-sensing system that comes on the RAV4 Hybrid, Highlander Hybrid, Lexus NX 300h, and RX 450h.
Butto said Toyota has not said never to the prospect of AWD for a Prius, but it’s not on the radar at this stage.
“We are always studying new technologies and improving our current and future products, however, in regard to AWD in the Prius here in the U.S., we have nothing to announce at this time,” said Butto.