2017 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid AWDPosted on November 15th, 2016
Toyota’s Recreational Activity Vehicle gets a green footprint
By Nina Russin
Hybrid vehicles are a win/win for buyers wanting to go green without infrastructure challenges. Recently, Toyota introduced its hybrid synergy drive system that powers the Prius into the RAV4 compact crossover. Buyers can choose between three grades: the base XLE, sporty SE and upscale Limited: all standard with all-wheel drive.
Power comes from a four-cylinder Atkinson cycle engine and three electric motor generators: two driving the front and rear axles respectively and the third controlling the engine starter and recharging the Nickel Metal-Hydride battery pack.
Pricing for the Limited model tested starts at $34,030 excluding destination. Standard convenience features include keyless entry and start, dual-zone climate control, Entune premium audio system with app suites, backup camera, leather seating and steering wheel, heated front seats, reclining and folding second-row seats, 18-inch alloy rims, LED headlamps and tail lamps and a power moonroof.
Options on the test car include a technology package that adds a bird’s eye view camera, JBL premium audio system, iPod compatibility, Siri eyes-free, HD and satellite radio. Final MSRP is $37,057.
Test drive in the Midwest
On a recent trip to the Midwest, I had the opportunity to test drive the RAV4 hybrid on highways between Indianapolis and Cincinnati as well as Cincinnati’s city center. Cincinnati is a great town to test drive cars in because the streets are glorified cow paths: narrow, hilly and usually in some state of disrepair due to the city’s harsh winters. Weather in the Midwest is ever-changing. While we avoided November’s typical chilly temperatures, we did see our share of precipitation.
From the moment the driver slips behind the wheel of the RAV4 it’s obvious that Toyota’s recreational activity vehicle is easy to live with. It’s comfortable, easy to drive and park and extremely safe with new Toyota Safety Sense P: active safety technology including pedestrian detection.
Driver’s seat memory settings make it easy for multiple family members to share the car. The large, configurable cargo area is perfect for buyers with active lifestyles. Engineers were able to package the battery pack underneath the second-row seats and cargo area so it doesn’t impinge on either.
Because electric motors develop peak torque at very low speeds, the RAV accelerates from zero-to-sixty in a hurry: 8.1 seconds according to the manufacturer. Variable valve timing has enabled engineers to utilize a high compression ratio for the gasoline engine, maximizing power and efficiency, without piston damage from detonation.
LED exterior lighting combines minimal energy usage, enhancing fuel economy, with excellent brightness for good nighttime visibility. Driving across I-74 between Indianapolis and Cincinnati after dark, the car’s low beams provided plenty of light for visibility without blinding other drivers in the vicinity.
The car’s continuously variable automatic transmission operates quite well under normal driving conditions, giving the RAV4 32 mile-per-gallon average fuel economy according to the EPA. Fuel economy is slightly higher in the city than on the highway, since the gasoline engine automatically shuts off when the car stops at a traffic light.
An electric power steering system saves space and weight under the hood. On-center response is a bit soft, but not so much that the driver feels disconnected from the wheels. Low-speed assist is excellent. The test car’s larger rims increased the car’s turning circle from 34.8 to 36.7-feet, but it was still quite easy to slip the RAV into parallel parking spaces on the street.
A four-wheel independent suspension consists of MacPherson struts up front and a compact double wishbone setup in the rear. Stabilizer bars on both axles keep the chassis flat in the corners. Ventilated disc brakes up front and solid discs in the rear stop the RAV4 in firm, linear fashion.
The bird’s eye camera gives the driver a complete view of the car’s perimeter so he can monitor for obstacles. In a city with older parking structures that have lots of supporting pillars and pylons, it’s a handy feature to have.
Blind spot monitoring illuminates LED signals in the side mirrors when vehicles in adjacent lanes pass through the driver’s blind spots. Since entrances to Cincinnati freeways are on both the right and left sides, it’s not unusual to miss a vehicle traveling at significantly faster or slower speeds, making this feature invaluable.
Because the RAV4 Hybrid’s motor generators drive front and rear axles independently, the all-wheel drive system is extremely well balanced, delivering power to the wheels with the best traction.
In addition to the rearview camera, the RAV comes standard with cross traffic alert with visual and audible alarms warning the driver of pedestrians and vehicles passing to the back.
Engineers did an excellent job of minimizing noise intrusion to the interior so occupants can enjoy the car’s premium sound system.
From its stylish leather upholstery to the JBL surround-sound system, the RAV4 Limited’s interior brings a bit of luxury to its owners. Standard satellite radio makes the miles go by faster on long road trips. A power rear liftgate makes it easy to load up the back with large cargo. With second-row seats folded flat, the RAV meets our bicycle friendly standards.
I found the power driver’s seat very comfortable on the two-hour drive between Indianapolis and Cincinnati, even on the heels of a three-hour flight. There are plenty of bins and cubbies to stash everything from purses and laptops to cell phones, with multiple 12-volt charging ports and USB ports.
The RAV4 Hybrid Limited comes with eight airbags, antilock brakes, stability control, traction control, hill start assist, blind spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control, rearview camera with cross traffic alert, pre-collision with pedestrian detection, automatic high beams and tire pressure monitoring.
The RAV4 Hybrid received a five-star crash test rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
The RAV4 Hybrid is on display at Toyota dealerships nationwide.
Like: A four-season compact crossover with excellent fuel economy and a high level of active and passive safety features.
Dislikes: Soft on-center response. Floor and cargo mats are a $224 option.
Model: RAV4 Hybrid Limited
Base price: $34,030
As tested: $37,057
Horsepower: (gasoline engine only) 150 Hp @ 5700 rpm
Torque: (gasoline engine only) 152 lbs.-ft. @ 4400 rpm
Zero-to-sixty: 8.1 seconds
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: Yes
Fuel economy: 34/30 mpg city/highway2017, Green Hybrid 2017, Active Lifestyle Vehicles, auto review, performance, pricing, RAV4 Hybrid, standard safety, Toyota