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http://www.forbes.com/sites/jasonfo...rav4-hybrid-test-drive-and-review-the-answer/

By Jason Fogelson--Contributor




For years, my friends and acquaintances have been asking me when Toyota would finally add a hybrid version of its popular compact SUV, the RAV4, to its lineup. The answer, finally, is here. The 2016 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid is Toyota’s eighth hybrid gasoline-electric vehicle, joining the Prius, Prius C, Prius V, Camry, Avalon and Highlander Hybrids.

Toyota likes to claim that they invented the compact crossover market when the RAV4 Concept debuted in 1989. Maybe that’s true, if you don’t count the AMC Eagle (1979 – 1987). The first generation RAV4 debuted in the US in 1996, followed by the second gen in 2001, third gen in 2006 and the current (fourth) generation vehicle in 2013. The 2016 RAV4 represents what the auto industry calls a “mid-cycle refresh.”

The RAV4 Hybrid features RAV4’a redesigned front fascia, some tweaks to the rear fascia, interior enhancements and a few other appearance tweaks. Hybrid models are available in XLE and Limited trim levels only. LED headlamps and daytime running lights (DRL) are available on the SE and Limited (it’s halogen for the rest of the lineup). New rear taillights are LED on SE and Limited, and light tube taillights on LE and XLE. 17-inch wheels are standard on LE (steel with painted covers) and XLE (alloy), while 18-inch alloy wheels get fitted to Limited and SE. Tire Pressure Monitoring (TPMS) is standard on all models. Hybrid is such a common Toyota aspect that only subtle badging distinguishes the model on the exterior.

A few subtle changes have made the RAV4 interior better. New front door panels are now scooped out a little more, providing more space for the driver’s left arm and front passenger’s right arm to rest, and making the whole front cabin feel bigger. Thicker padding has been added to the lower part of the dashboard, which looks good and feels nice to the touch. There’s less of a mélange of materials in the cockpit now, which simplifies and cleans up the look and feel of the interior.
RAV4’s instrument panel is right behind the steering wheel, and an available 7” touchscreen display lives at the top of the center stack (standard on Limited). The standard backup camera displays on the screen, and there’s an available Bird’s Eye Camera with Curb View and Perimeter Scan that’s very helpful when reversing and parking.

RAV4’s cargo capacity has been slightly reduced by the addition of a 244-volt sealed Nickel-Metal Hydride (Ni-MH) battery, which resides under the rear seat. RAV4 Hybrid can swallow 35.6 cubic feet of luggage behind its second row, and up to 70.6 cubic feet of cargo with the 60/40 split rear seat folded flat. That’s about 3 cubic feet less than the gas-only models. Gasoline capacity is also slightly reduced versus the gas-only model, down from 15.9 gallons to 14.8 gallons.
RAV4 Hybrid gets a 2.5-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine and two electric motors (front and rear). The gas engine runs on the Atkinson cycle, and is tuned to produce 112 hp. Total system output (gas plus electric) is 194 hp and 206 lb-ft of torque. An electronically controlled continuously variable automatic transmission (ECVT) sends power to all four wheels, with priority operation in front-wheel drive mode. The rear wheels are engaged when additional traction or power is needed – for instance, on a slippery surface. The transmission is a planetary gear-type. Regenerative braking gives the feel of engine braking and captures energy that is used to charge the battery pack.

The hybrid technology is transparent, requiring no special attention from the driver. There are three special driving modes available (Sport, ECO and EV). Electric-only (EV) performance is only for short range (0.6 miles) at low speeds when the battery is charged, and only operates with a gentle throttle foot. ECO mode moderates the air conditioning and drive power for greater efficiency. Sport mode allows access to higher engine revs and sharper throttle response, while reducing power steering assistance to deliver more road feel.

Overall performance feels very much like the gasoline-only RAV4, which comes with less power (176 hp/172 lb-ft of torque) but weighs about 300 lbs less than the 3,925 (XLE)/3,950-lb (Limited) Hybrid. Handling is good but not great – the MacPherson strut front/double wishbone rear independent suspension can feel a little floaty in curves, but RAV4 delivers an overall quiet, serene ride. Standard sway control works with the Hybrid’s 1,700-lb towing capacity.
Fuel economy for the Hybrid is estimated at 34 mpg city/31 mpg highway/33 mpg combined – a decent improvement over the gasoline version’s 22/29/25 with all-wheel drive.

The RAV4 Hybrid will be offered in XLE trim at $28,370 and in Limited trim at $33,610. That represents a $700 premium over similarly-equipped gasoline-only models. A base LE trim RAV4 FWD gasoline-only model starts at $24.350, so the price of entry to hybrid is still a little steep.
Currently, there are few compact Hybrid SUVs available. The Subaru XV Crosstrek Hybrid is the only other 2016 model for now. The big competition will come from the gasoline-only Honda CR-V, Nissan Rogue, Mitsubishi Outlander Sport and others.
RAV4 was already a popular choice for compact SUVs, and now RAV4 Hybrid buyers will have bragging rights for fuel economy in the class.
 

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now RAV4 Hybrid buyers will have bragging rights for fuel economy in the class
I hope that the hybrid lifts the classes CAFE rating enough to let Toyota produce the RAV4 in V6 again.
 

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I didn't realize the Hybrid's gas mileage was that much better than gas-only. Twelve miles/gallon average is a pretty big difference over the course of a tank, though. I just wonder if what you save in gas (by going with the Hybrid) you spend in increased electrical usage (from charging it).
 

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I just wonder if what you save in gas (by going with the Hybrid) you spend in increased electrical usage (from charging it).
No plug-in charging possible, or necessary. :)
 

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Really? :surprise Well I don't understand electric vehicles at all then, LOL. I thought you had to charge them up every so often at charging stations and then install a charger at home to charge it overnight.
The RAV4 HYBRID is NOT an electric vehicle. It has a gasoline engine that charges the battery pack. The battery pack powers the 2 electric motors when they are needed. If you want a REAL ELECTRIC RAV4, look for a RAV4 EV, which only has an electric motor and battery pack that must be plugged into a power source to charge.
 

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The RAV4 HYBRID is NOT an electric vehicle. It has a gasoline engine that charges the battery pack. The battery pack powers the 2 electric motors when they are needed. If you want a REAL ELECTRIC RAV4, look for a RAV4 EV, which only has an electric motor and battery pack that must be plugged into a power source to charge.
Okay! I get it now... Thanks for clarifying. :) These 'new' all-electric and gas/electric hybrids are way beyond the technology of my '03 gas-only Altima, LOL. I guess I need to do a bit more research and make a decision about whether to buy hybrid or all-electric; I know either would have *much* better gas mileage than my Altima.
 

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The RAV4 HYBRID is NOT an electric vehicle. It has a gasoline engine that charges the battery pack. .
This is imprecise, or incorrect if you prefer. The gas engine does do some minimal charging, but the bulk of charging comes from regenerative braking. The gas engine does perform all needed charging when the car is not moving.
 

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I guess I need to do a bit more research and make a decision about whether to buy hybrid or all-electric; I know either would have *much* better gas mileage than my Altima.
Pure electric vehicles have a pretty limited range, so take that into account and do your homework. Also keep in mind that electricity is made from natural gas and coal.
 

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Yes, that would be great (referring to producing the V6 again). I will never buy another RAV4 because they killed the V6. It seems like all the RAVs in Colorado have the V6. If I remember correctly, you give up 1MPG vs. the 4Cyl for lots more horsepower with the V6.
 
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