Toyota’s reputation as a leader in alternative-fuel vehicles goes back a long way, including more than the hybrids for which the company is so well-known. During the late 1990s, the company began to issue battery-powered versions of its compact RAV4 crossover, initially to fleet buyers. Production lasted until 2003. For 2016, the RAV4 has gained a variant with a hybrid powertrain. It’s Toyota’s eighth battery/gasoline model, promising quicker throttle response as well as greater gas mileage.
What's New for 2016
Gasoline-powered RAV4s have been around for almost two decades, but the RAV4 Hybrid is a brand-new model for 2016. New features includes LED illumination on the center console, a 12-volt power outlet in the rear, and a cupholder that holds tall mugs with handles. RAV4 is among the first U.S. models to offer a Toyota Safety Sense package. Standard on the Limited edition, it includes automated pre-collision braking, forward collision warning, lane departure alert, automatic high beams, and adaptive cruise control. The Limited also features a blind-spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert.
Choosing Your Toyota RAV4 Hybrid
Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive combines a 2.5-liter Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder gasoline engine with a small, high-torque electric motor. The gas engine develops 112 horsepower and 206 pound-feet of torque. Total system output is 194 horsepower, driving a continuously variable transmission (CVT).
Acceleration to 60 mph takes 8.1 seconds, which is nearly one second quicker than a gasoline-engine RAV4. To enhance all-weather capability, an on-demand all-wheel-drive system is standard on all RAV4 Hybrids. A second electric motor drives the back wheels when needed to help maintain traction.
Drivers can select Eco mode for maximum fuel economy, or EV mode to travel up to 0.6 miles on battery power alone (below about 25 mph). Indicators on the 4.2-inch screen give advice on driving the Hybrid as economically as possible. Fuel economy is estimated at 34 mpg in city driving and 31 mpg on the highway (33 mpg combined).
Cargo volume behind the rear seat is 35.6 cubic feet, growing to 70.6 cubic feet with the back seat folded. Towing capacity is 1,750 pounds.
Two Hybrid trim levels are offered:
Front/rear parking assist is available, including the new Bird's Eye View camera system with perimeter scan, for a 360-degree view around the vehicle.
Fuel economy is clearly the principal reason for selecting the new Hybrid rather than a conventional gas-engine RAV4, along with a moderate increase in performance. Gas mileage on a comparable regular RAV4 is estimated at 22/29 mpg (city/highway). The Limited adds some tempting features, but the price differential over an XLE is substantial.
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