2016 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid XLEPosted on April 28th, 2016
Compact crossover has a green footprint
By Nina Russin
This year Toyota adds a hybrid model to its RAV4 lineup, utilizing the same gasoline/electric technology found in the newest Prius liftback. The RAV4 Hybrid comes in XLE and Limited grades: both with standard all-wheel drive.
Base price for the XLE tested is $28,370 excluding the $900 destination charge. A convenience option package on the test car adds an Entune premium audio system with navigation, larger center stack screen, Bluetooth streaming audio, iPod compatibility, HD and satellite radio. Final MSRP is $29,795.
Better traction and fuel economy
The RAV4’s all-wheel drive system utilizes separate electric motors to drive front and rear axles, boosting power and fuel economy. A torque vectoring system can move power from side-to-side as well as front-to-rear so drivers experience the best traction on slippery roads. Electric motors are mated to a 2.5-liter Atkinson cycle four-cylinder engine and continuously variable transmission. Average fuel economy is 33 miles-per-gallon according to the EPA.
A nickel metal hydride battery pack is located under the floor so as not to impinge on the passenger compartment or cargo bay. Although Toyota is offering lithium-ion batteries in upscale trim levels of the Prius, the OEM is sticking with its tried-and-true battery technology in the RAV4 Hybrid.
An electric power steering system is more compact than a traditional hydraulic setup, saving weight and space under the hood. Low-speed response is excellent. A 34.8-foot turning circle on the test car with 17-inch wheels makes it easy to maneuver into tight parking spots. On-center response at speed is soft, but the driver by no means feels disconnected from the wheels.
A four-wheel independent suspension consists of MacPherson struts up front and a double wishbone setup in the rear. The compact double wishbone design accommodates the car’s battery pack without having to dig into cargo space.
Test drive in Southern Arizona
This week I put 200 miles on the test car, averaging 30.9 miles-per-gallon. Most travel was on the highway, explaining the discrepancy between this and the 33 mile-per-gallon EPA estimate.
As with all of Toyota’s hybrids, the RAV has exceptional low-end acceleration. Electric motors develop peak torque at extremely low speeds, giving drivers who use their vehicles to commute through traffic an additional advantage. The car’s biggest Achilles heel is its continuously variable transmission that suffers from the rubber band feel that tends to plague this technology. When accelerating hard there’s a noticeable delay between the transmission winding up and response at the wheels.
Aside from that, the RAV4 Hybrid offers the same appealing performance as its gasoline-powered counterparts, except with better gas mileage. The suspension does a good job of isolating occupants from bumps in the road while keeping the chassis flat in the corners.
Visibility around the perimeter is good. I was able to adjust the manual driver’s seat for a clear forward view. Over-the-shoulder visibility is also good, so monitoring traffic in adjacent lanes on the highway is a non-issue. The standard rearview camera projects a wide angle view to the back of the car when the driver shifts into reverse, making it easier to see cross-traffic in crowded parking lots.
Engineers did a good job of minimizing engine and wind noise intrusion to the interior. There is some road noise most likely due to the low rolling resistance tires, but nothing that owners would find bothersome.
The RAV4’s spacious interior makes it an excellent option for buyers with active lifestyles or young families. Unlike the competing Ford C-Max, battery storage does not affect the cargo area. Reclining rear seats keep kids comfortable on long road trips. The seats also fold flat to extend the cargo floor, making the RAV4 Hybrid bicycle friendly.
Keyless entry and start saves the driver for fumbling for the key fob after dark. I found both the center stack screen and gauge cluster easy to read in bright sunlight and at night.
Although the driver’s seat does not have a separate lumbar adjustment, lower back support is fine for drives lasting over an hour. Dual-zone climate controls keep front-row occupants comfortable in temperature extremes, while a standard power moonroof brings a welcome dose of ambient light into the interior.
New active safety features
Toyota is offering a new bird’s eye view camera that gives the driver a 360-degree view of the car’s exterior on the Limited grade. It’s such a great feature: we hope that they will add it to XLE options on subsequent models. Also new is a collision warning system with autobrake that will bring the car to a complete stop at slow speeds if it senses a pedestrian in the car’s path.
Standard safety features include front, side and side curtain airbags, antilock brakes, traction control, stability control, tire pressure monitoring and the rearview camera.
The 2016 RAV4 Hybrid is rolling into Toyota dealerships nationwide.
Like: A versatile and fuel efficient compact crossover with Toyota’s reputation for rock-solid reliability.
Dislike: Continuously variable automatic transmission has a rubber band feel during hard acceleration.
Model: RAV4 Hybrid XLE
Base price: $28,370
As tested: $29,795
Horsepower (gasoline engine only): 150 Hp @ 5700 rpm
Torque (gasoline engine only): 152 lbs.-ft. @ 4400 rpm
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: Yes
Fuel economy: 34/31 mpg city/highway2016, Green Hybrid 2016, Active Lifestyle Vehicles, auto review, performance, pricing, standard safety, Toyota