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First off, I admit I still have not read every page of our 752 page owner’s manual. Some of my questions and concerns below probably are explained well in the manual however time is limited. Somewhere in my rambling below I have questions in bold underlines, however feel free to comment on anything. I have already learned a great deal from the forum. The software is also very intuitive too since a different forum I use (GL1800Riders) is on a similar platform.
So here here we go…
Normal Versus Eco mode – For our first tank of gas we got about 40 MPG (according to the car computer) or about 37.9 MPG (according to the pump gallons divided by odometer reading). Has anyone ever experienced this significant a difference in readings between the onboard display vs old school logbook arithmetic? Driving has been about an even mix of city vs highway driving in normal mode. With this second tank of gas, we experimented with Eco mode. The available acceleration power appears adequate enough, but gas mileage went up about two MPG. I was going to drive a tank in Sport mode but apparently, I need to intentionally switch to sport each time I start the car. I guess I’ll just leave it in Eco mode. Also in a related note, has anyone ever done a poll on which driving mode is used most often? (If not I guess I could make one).

Rough starts while backing out of garage – We have been told to there is no real benefit to using EV mode and just leave it off. However, one thing that bothers me is when backing out of the garage the ICE starts and it’s kind of startling. I sometimes think that I might have hit something while backing (although we all know there are so many sensors that hitting something is unlikely). My way of fixing this option would be to turn EV back on again. Is there any harm in leaving EV on all the time? Otherwise, it seems the faster I drive, the less likely it is that I even notice the ICE turning on/off (other than the indicator on the dash going off and on).

Water wading, HV connection – We live in Florida and have read about the high voltage connector suffering from corrosion in snow country. Of course, we won’t have salty roads to clear the snow and ice. However, being near the ocean we have salt air and being so flat and wet here in Florida we have standing water quite often after rain. So, a few questions of concern; First, what is the deepest water that should be attempted to be waded with a RAV 4 Hybrid Limited? Second, what is the lowest hanging potentially water sensitive item? Third, what is that item? Yes we will do some snow driving at some point (we like going up to North Georgia/Western NC and Eastern TN a few times a year) and will do a limited amount of off-road driving (nothing real technical). Our primary concern remains water wading on flat but flooded streets.

Towing, why do some RAV 4s have twice towing capacity? – First, I must admit that we originally wanted to buy a Prime, however not many make it to the East Coast. IIRC, one advantage would have been a 2,500-pound towing capacity (the sporty power, gasoline savings, onboard 120-volt outlets, etc. would have been advantages too, along with a $7,500 tax incentive). However we are happy with the Hybrid Limited as is, but (to my knowledge) we ONLY have 1,750 towing capacity. We don’t even have the hitch yet but we have significant towing experience (last vehicle was a Highlander, that we pulled a Toyhauler that had a Goldwing inside, clear up into the mountains without a problem). Here are our questions:
  • Why are some RAV 4s able to tow up to 3,500 pounds, others only 1,750 pounds, when they weigh essentially the same and have the same powertrain?
  • Who currently tows with their hybrid; what are the concerns?
  • Has anyone ever enhanced their towing using a weight displacement and/or anti sway device (we used to use a Blue Ox with our Highlander)
So, let’s compare our driving habits, please see graphic below. To a certain extent driving the RAV 4 Hybrid is kind of like playing an inverse video game where the goal is to get low score (and I like it). I have always been proud of my patient braking. Even before we bought our Hybrid, I would let up on the accelerator sometimes a half mile (or more) ahead when I see a light turn red. I don’t think I’m as aggressive on the accelerator as the graphic indicates; rarely ever going past halfway down. If I take off from a stop any slower, I will lose lane position and maybe upset other drivers. So, who drives conservatively and who drives more aggressively?

Also in a related question, what does a Tesla (or even a Prime) owner call the pedal on the far right (seems inappropriate to call it the gas pedal).

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2021 RAV4 XLE Premium Hybrid
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To reply to some of your questions:

1. The only way the RAV4 hybrid can back up is EV mode. The eCVT does not have a reverse gear. If the gas engine starts while you are backing up, it is because the computer wants to warm up the gas engine. It will happen more often in cold weather. With the onset of winter, my hybrid almost always starts the gas engine when I am backing out of the garage, but in summer it seldom does.

When the gas engine starts, there is a bit of shudder. That is normal. Is that what you mean by "rough start"?

2. The amount of gas you put into the gas tank can vary significantly depending on how sensitive the gas pump shut off is, and whether you try to "top off" the gas tank after the first shut off. Thus your mileage calculations can vary some. Also, the computer display for your gas mileage on the dash display is only an estimate. Therefor there can be significant variation between the two. I see nothing to be worried about with your numbers.

3. There is no harm in leaving EV on all the time, but when the traction battery gets low on the hybrid, the computer will use the gas engine whether you want it to or not.

4. Eco mode will give you slightly better gas mileage by adjusting several parameters. One thing I've notice, there is less power in "full throttle" acceleration. The hybrid is quite peppy (not as much as the Prime), and I can chirp the front tires in normal full throttle acceleration, but not in Eco mode. I normally drive in Eco mode, but when I want to show off, or outrun some idiot at the stop light, I push the "normal" button, but then go back to Eco mode when I am up to speed.
 

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The first tank isn't going to be as accurate as subsequent tanks. There isn't a baseline to begin with. Zero isn't a great value. ha Plus you don't know how much gas was in the tank when you started. Did you notice if the 'full' needle position when you filled was higher than when you purchased? I thought mine was full at purchase, however when I filled the needed was higher. Since you don't actually know how much fuel was in the tank you can't realistically do math. Because you added 10 gallons doesn't mean you used 10 gallons.
However, 37.9 vs 40 isn't bad. I wouldn't expect too much better.
I vary at least 1 mpg comparing math to computer.

There have in fact been several threads about which mode is your favorite, etc.
I experimened with eco and forget I am in ECO so I'm pretty much an ECO driver accidentally.
ECO more or less reduces your throttle input, or it feathers the throttle where as you cannot do it. If you sneeze and press on the gas pedal, the eco strategy could all be ignore the input as it was a quick glitch of your foot. If that makes sense. I do not believe timing curve is changed, I could be wrong.
I feel the power is plentiful to get around town. I don't need a lot of power to get to the next red light anyway.

You will get used to the feeling of the motor starting while backing. I'd be lying if I said I never once panic braked before fully exiting my garage. You can tap the gas pedal while you're still in park (with electric motor only) and it will initiate an engine start. I've been doing that to rid the loud pedestrian warning while in the garage. And even more now with it being 'colder' ambient temps. Give a chance for the motor to run a bit before it fires up cold while in motion. I can at least get to the corner on gas power, it will shut off at the traffic light near the end of my street.

I haven't experimented with using EV as prevention method while backing and keeping the electric motor on only.
I do not think there is any harm, but really as you already mentioned it is all but useless. Not useless if it keeps you from becoming startled while backing from the garage of course.

I do not think your RAV4 should have any special rules about driving through standing water. It will splash regardless.... if you are considering submerging the undercarriage of other cars but not the RAV, well then maybe yuo should tread your RAV differently than other cars. ha
Your salt water environment could be an issue if you are driving through salt water, but rain water won't be any different than any other part of the country. The 'water' should drain away no problem. Sure water is bad, however salty roads and snow pack the corrosive water in there for long periods of time until it can fully thaw. If slushy or packed snow that will last many hours vs the normal drip dry.
You shouldn't have any concerns of it in general, unless you do decide to use your RAV as a canoe.

There are a few factors for towing limitations. I do not remember all of them but one of them is the weight of your car. The RAV4 line can essentially have a combined weight of X. Your RAV Hybrid started out heavier than a gas car, therefore the penalty is allowing you to tow less.
Some of the vehicles have a different drivetrain (Adventure for example) and they have different trans coolers, etc.
I think there is one or a second additional reason aside from those 2.

I have no input on your driving score or Tesla.
I came from a pickup truck that was lucky to get 15 mph around town regardless how gentle of a driver I am.
I'm happy to get in the drive seat and drive like a real human. I'm still smart, I coast to the stops, I don't grip the steering wheel and floor it at a green light but I don't try for "high score" while driving. I think my current 1/2 tank is about 34 mpg which is lower by 3-5 from the previous tanks. I may be on winter blend fuel. But I've had different driving requirements in addition to being a bit more speedy from store A to store B. I have more than doubled my fuel economy and sometimes the car is more fun to drive than the truck was so I actually have a slightly better driving experience now, and using less fuel to do it.

My motor has 1500 on it +/- based on hybrid/gas and I feel like I need to start driving it properly so as not to induce carbon buildup. Keep my plugs clean. Keep the motor warm, blah blah blah.

Also I don't use the APP so I'll never know my score anyway.

It sounds like you are enjoying your car and getting to know it. Keep it up!
Play around with sport mode too, it can make the traffic light to traffic light driving pretty fun. Goofing off through the course of a tank will in fact persuade your MPG to lower quite well. Note: if you use sport mode, drive it like you are. Gentle sport mode driving should be prohibited. haha But you won't have a good gauge of how inefficient is sport mode to drive.
 

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As far as a difference in fuel economy among the eco, normal, and power modes, I think it depends on whether you apply the same pedal pressure or pedal travel distance when you accelerate from stopped to cruising speeds. I find that I have a preference for modest acceleration in most situations and that my foot adjusts to how aggressive the accelerator responds when accelerating. I naturally use less pressure in power mode than I do in eco mode in most situations. Your personal preference for smoother or aggressive starts and acceleration has the greatest effect on fuel efficiency, not the power mode. If I’m in cities where people seem to accelerate faster I might use normal or power mode more, but I’m usually in eco mode.

As for determining fuel efficiency I think the old, divide the miles driven by the gallons consumed since the last fill up is the most trustworthy means for determining fuel efficiency.
 

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NC '19 Rav4 Hybrid Limited, Entune 3.0, Adaptive Headlights, Advanced Technology Package
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My fuelly calculated MPG and my ECU computed MPG are within .1 MPG after 25 miles. Since one includes the first tank with its unknown amount of fill and fuelly doesn't, I conclude they are pretty even. '19 Limited driven in ECO all the time. I cut my teeth on cars that had 20% to 40% of the HP this one has. I have chirped the tires in ECO mode, My impression is ECO minimizes the reaction on the right foot pressure on the accelerator pedal except when you press it hard. So it minimizes the second to second variations. I use cruise on long trips, generally 2 MPH under the limit unless I am in a hurry. Every 3 MPH makes a difference. Use the displays that help you learn.
 
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