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  • William Maley
    William Maley

    Quick Drive: 2017 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid XLE

      What is it like to drive the only hybrid small crossover on sale?

    Despite the popularity of compact crossovers, it seems somewhat odd there isn’t a large number of hybrid variants. In fact, there is only one available, the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid. Going hybrid usually means a hit in performance and cargo space. But in the case of the RAV4 Hybrid, it is quicker than the standard model and cargo space isn’t greatly affected. I spent some time with the RAV4 Hybrid over the holidays where it was driven to Northern Michigan and back. This is what I learned.

    • The RAV4 Hybrid’s powertrain is comprised of a 2.5L four-cylinder, three electric motors (one acting as the engine starter and battery charger, the other two drive the wheels and provide AWD), and a Sealed Nickel-Metal Hydride battery pack. Total output is rated at 194 horsepower. Power is routed through a CVT.
    • Fuel economy figures are noticeably better than the RAV4 SE AWD I drove last year - 34 City/30 Highway/32 Combined for the Hybrid vs. 22/29/25 for the standard RAV4. My average for the week landed around 30.7 MPG. I think the average could have been higher if Michigan had not experienced a cold snap where temperatures fell to single digits at times, causing the engine to run longer to keep the vehicle warm.
    • The hybrid also feels slightly quicker than the standard RAV4 thanks to the electric motors providing instantaneous torque when leaving a stop. But merging on to a freeway or passing becomes a bit unpleasant as the engine pegs at high rpms to provide the power needed. This also brings forth a lot of noise from the engine and CVT.
    • Doing a lot of driving on the freeway and country roads made me really appreciate the smooth and compliant ride of the RAV4 Hybrid. Most bumps and road imperfections are smoothed over. Some credit has to go to the 17-inch wheels on the XLE.
    • Handling is competent as the suspension keeps body motions in check. However, the rubbery steering and low-rolling resistance tires will make drivers think twice about pushing the RAV4 Hybrid. 
    • The low-rolling resistance tires also hamper traction in snow. I could tell when driving in deep snow, the all-wheel drive was working a bit harder to keep the vehicle moving. If you live in a snowy area, I would highly recommend swapping the low-rolling resistance tires for a set of all-seasons or winter tires.
    • At first glance, the RAV4 Hybrid looks like any other RAV4. It is only when you get closer that you will notice the blue-tinted emblems and ‘Hybrid’ badging on the front fenders and tailgate.
    • The interior is much the same as any other RAV4 aside from a different gauge cluster and a button to activate the EV mode. This is ok as the RAV4 is an ok place to sit in with a utilitarian design that puts various controls within easy reach for driver and passenger. Materials are what you would expect to find in a vehicle of this class, a mix of soft and hard-touch plastics.
    • The back seat is still a plus point to the RAV4 as there is plenty of head and legroom for most passengers.
    • Cargo space in the hybrid is about 3 cubic feet smaller than the standard RAV4 due to the battery with the rear seats up or down. Still, the hybrid’s cargo space is one the of the largest in the compact crossover class and I was able to fit luggage for myself and my brother, along with gifts for various relatives with no issue.
    • All RAV4 Hybrids come with Toyota’s Entune infotainment system with a 6.1-inch touchscreen. The system is becoming quite dated in terms of the interface and features - no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto for example. On the upside, Entune is easy to master thanks to a simple layout and physical shortcut buttons to various functions.
    • 2017 saw Toyota make a number of active safety features standard on all RAV4s. That includes radar cruise control, pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, automatic high beams, and lane keep assist. I would like to see blind spot monitoring added to this suite.
    • The 2017 RAV4 Hybrid begins at $29,030 for the base XLE, about $4,000 more than the RAV4 XLE. Taking into consideration the noticeable fuel economy increase and better performance, I would be willing to spend the extra cash.

    Disclaimer: Toyota Provided the RAV4 Hybrid, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas

    Year: 2017
    Make: Toyota
    Model: RAV4 Hybrid
    Trim: XLE
    Engine: 2.5L Atkinson-Cycle 16-Valve DOHC with Dual VVT-i Four-Cylinder, Two 650V Electric Motors
    Driveline: CVT, AWD
    Horsepower @ RPM: 150 @ 5,700 (Gas), 105 kW (Front Electric Motor), 50 kW (Rear Electric Motor), 194 (Combined Output)
    Torque @ RPM: 152 @ 4,400 (Gas)
    Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 34/30/32
    Curb Weight: 3,925 lbs
    Location of Manufacture: Obu, Aichi, Japan
    Base Price: $29,030
    As Tested Price: $31,965 (Includes $940.00 Destination Charge)

    Convenience Package - $1,905.00
    Tonneau Cover - $90.00

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    Awesome reading, very informative and I enjoyed it. Thanks for the review Bill. Learned some good things.

    Dash is not bad, interior looks better than others in this class. Exterior is what I have come to expect from Toyota. It should do well for those that love Toyota.

    QUESTION: You state there is a button for EV mode. So then you always have to push this when you first get in to run on pure electric only till the battery is depleted?

    QUESTION: How many miles in pure EV mode does it support and what is the top speed in EV mode?

    QUESTION: Anyway to make EV mode always on by default?

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    It will never allow you to fully deplete the battery, it always keeps some in reserve in case you need some boost.  I think the engine wants to be at operating temperature also, but William can confirm. 

    EV mode max speed seems to be around 40 mph, but you have to almost hyper-mile it to get there.  It's mostly for getting around parking lots or other slow speed movement. 

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