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Launched in Japan in 1997, the Toyota Prius hybrid made its U.S. debut in 2001 and sold only 15,000 units that first year. By 2011, U.S. sales reached the 1 million mark, and today global sales top 3.5 million. The Prius uses a gasoline engine and an electric motor with a battery pack. The hybrid system saves fuel by using the electric motor at low speeds, with the gas engine automatically turning on when needed. The Prius’ batteries are recharged by energy captured from braking and by the gasoline engine. Known for its distinctive styling, the Prius name has been applied to other hybrid offerings, including the Prius c, v and Prime. Toyota’s hybrid system found in the Prius is also used in hybrid versions of some of Toyota’s mainstream models.
For 2019, car shoppers have another reason to consider the Prius: available all-wheel drive. The new Prius AWD-e adds an electric motor to drive the rear wheels for better initial traction between 0 and 6 mph and re-engages when front tire slippage is detected at speeds up to 43 mph. If you live in an area that has snowy or icy roads during the winter, the AWD-e could provide extra traction. Fuel economy suffers only slightly with the Prius AWD-e.
We also drove both cars on a flat but snow-covered road with an obstacle course that required a quick right-left S-turn. When we tried the maneuver in the front-drive Prius, its front tires were easily overwhelmed when we accelerated and steered at the same time. Because of that, it was hard to keep the car from running wide. With AWD-e, there was still some squirming through the course, but it was far more composed and easy to drive.
The hatchback body style of the Prius means there's plenty of room for cargo behind the back seat, although it's not the most spacious vehicle in this competitive set. Its dash-mounted shifter frees up room for storage cubbies in the front seat; rear cubby storage is limited to two unusually small door pockets and the small cupholders found in the center-seat pull-down armrest.
The Audi A6 has been redesigned for 2019 with an emphasis on evolutionary improvements. Like its predecessor, the new A6 delivers space, technology, luxury and performance in spades, but it's more refined and advanced than ever. Most of the changes for 2019 center on the A6's technology offerings, including additional advanced driver safety aids and a new dual-touchscreen interface that replaces the old knob-based MMI system. Equipped with a velvety-smooth turbocharged V6, the A6 won't leave you pining for more acceleration, although you may find yourself wanting a softer ride. With its typically European sporting bias, the all-wheel-drive A6 rides a tad firmer than some shoppers might prefer, but it's a remarkably well-rounded car overall. See the A6 in our Sedan rankings
The Toyota Camry is a family-sedan archetype, a seasoned veteran to which upstarts are inevitably compared. Gone, however, is the sleepy style of Camry's past. Today's Camry is lower, sleeker and sportier, but it doesn't sacrifice interior space in the bargain. The Camry's standard engine is a somewhat coarse four-cylinder that balances power and fuel economy, but the optional V6 offers spirited performance in high-end models. Serious fuel-watchers will want to consider the Camry Hybrid and its eye-popping EPA rating of 52 mpg combined. Although the Camry's subpar infotainment system and intrusive safety features drag down its standing among the best in this class, it's still a fierce rival. See the Camry in our Sedan rankings