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  • 2018 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid SE AWD

    Posted on November 18th, 2018 ninarussin

    Green machine for outdoor enthusiasts

    By Nina Russin

    Toyota RAV4

    If you’re an outdoor enthusiast, you are probably more aware than most of how air pollution can negatively impact a person’s life. And while that might make you consider purchasing Toyota Prius for that reason, other lifestyle needs make the liftback an imperfect choice: lack of ground clearance and limited traction being two big factors. The RAV4 crossover is a green alternative that uses the same gasoline/electric hybrid technology, in a package that’s adventure friendly.

    All-wheel drive gives the RAV4 better traction on wet or snow-covered roads, while the crossover’s additional ground clearance makes it more practical for traversing unimproved roads. With second-row seats folded flat, there’s plenty of room to stash camping equipment or bicycles in back, where both are protected from the elements.

    The 2018 RAV4 hybrid is essentially carryover from 2017, with big changes coming in 2019. Power comes from a 2.5-liter inline four-cylinder Atkinson cycle engine and three electric motors, dishing out 194 net horsepower. A continuously variable transmission delivers power to the wheels. Average fuel economy is 32 miles-per-gallon, according-to the EPA.

    Base price is $32,185 minus the $995 delivery charge. Options on the test car include an advanced technology package that includes a bird’s-eye view camera with perimeter scan, premium JBL audio system with navigation and Toyota Entune infotainment, hands-free phone capability, Siri Eyes Free, high-definition and satellite radio, real-time traffic and weather updates, Bluetooth interface and more ($2,785). A tonneau cover adds $90, bringing the final MSRP to $38,055.

    Test drive in Phoenix, Arizona

    Toyota RAV4

    Over the past week I drove the RAV4 hybrid around the Phoenix, Chandler, Tempe and Gilbert metropolitan areas. Toyota’s hybrid synergy drive system is one of the best gasoline/electric technologies in the industry. Toyota established a precedent early on of developing and producing the components internally, which gives the automaker greater control and the ability to fix any issues that might arise quickly.

    As with other Toyota hybrids, transition between gasoline engine and electric motors is seamless. Was it not for the EV indicator on the gauge cluster, drivers probably wouldn’t be aware of it at all. The continuously variable transmission does a good job of providing linear acceleration with none of the rubber band feel earlier units suffered from. Zero-to-sixty acceleration is 8.1 seconds according-to the manufacturer.

    An electric power steering system is nicely tuned, with plenty of low-speed response for maneuverability through crowded parking lots, and good on-center response at speed. Those who disliked former EPS systems for their soft response on the highway will find this one to be much improved.

    Toyota RAV4

    The optional bird’s-eye perimeter camera gives the driver a view all the way around the car. It’s a great safety feature for parents whose small children might be playing in the vicinity, and it is also helpful for spotting rocks, small saplings and other outgrowths at trailheads that have a way of scratching or denting the bottom of the car.

    Toyota has now made its Safety Sense with Pedestrian Detection standard across the line-up, adding important active safety features such as lane departure alert and lane keeping assist, dynamic radar cruise control and high beam assist. Blind spot monitoring is also standard, making it easier to weave through rush ‘hour traffic. LED headlamps, tail lamps and daytime running lamps provide plenty of lighting for dark suburban streets or rural roads after dark. The daytime running lamps make the car easier for other drivers to see on winding canyon roads or in low light conditions.

    Engineers did an excellent job of minimizing road, wind and engine noise intrusion to the interior so occupants in both rows can enjoy the audio system or converse on the highway.

    Spacious interior

    The RAV4 hybrid has one of the roomiest and must functional interiors in its competitive class, making it an appealing choice for buyers who plan to haul gear on a regular basis. Because the nickel metal hydride battery pack is located under the floor, it doesn’t impinge on cargo space. A friend of mine who mountain bikes on a regular basis finds it easy to load his beast of a bike into the back with room left over for his friend’s machines.

    Keyless entry and start means drivers don’t have to fumble for a key fob after dark. If you’ve ever tried to locate a key slot at a pitch-black campsite, you know that’s a huge advantage.

    I found the power driver’s seat easy to adjust for a clear forward view with plenty of lower lumbar support. Both the center stack screen and gauge cluster are easy to see in bright sunlight and after dark.

    Both rows of occupants will find plenty of storage bins and cubbies for small items around the passenger compartment. Infotainment controls are easy to reach from either front seating position and intuitive to operate. Knobs for basic audio and temperature controls mean the driver doesn’t have to worry about multiple clicks into the center stack screen.

    Standard safety

    The Toyota RAV4 hybrid comes with eight airbags, antilock brakes, stability control, traction control, daytime running lamps, Toyota Safety Sense with Pedestrian detection, blind spot monitoring, rearview camera with cross traffic alert and tire pressure monitoring.
    Toyota builds the RAV4 hybrid at its Aichi, Japan assembly plant.

    Like: A safe, versatile and environmentally-conscious option for outdoor enthusiasts with lots of gear to haul.

    Dislike: Expensive options add significant cost over the base sticker price.

    Quick facts:

    Make: Toyota
    Model: RAV4 Hybrid
    Year: 2018
    Base price: $32,185
    As tested: $38,055
    Horsepower: 194 net system HP
    Torque: N/A
    Zero-to-sixty: 8.1 seconds
    Antilock brakes: Standard
    Side curtain airbags: Standard
    First aid kit: N/A
    Bicycle friendly: Yes
    Off-road: No
    Towing: No
    Fuel economy: 24/30 mpg city/highway

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