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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)

    Options:
    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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      I rarely get the opportunity to drive two different flavors of the same vehicle within a short timeframe. But that's what happened in the fall when I had the chance to drive the new Hyundai Sonata in its standard and hybrid forms. The Sonata has always been a favorite of mine as it offered a lot for a midsize sedan, with a surprising price tag. It has also come very close to being at the top of the class, but falling somewhat short due to one thing or another. This new version has the chance of changing that.
      Very Polarizing Design

      The consensus from several readers on Cheers & Gears and various social media sites on the Sonata's design was of dislike. Many found the design to be a bit much and overdone. I found myself in the minority as I was impressed by the lengths Hyundai went. The flowing lines and raked roofline reminded me of the 2012 Sonata which gave notice to other automakers to step up their game. Little details such as the bars the run along the outer edge of the hood to the headlights to a distinct rear-end treatment make the Sonata stand out.
      If there is an issue I have with the Sonata's design, it is the grille. I find it to be slightly cartoonish due to the large size and shape.
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      If you're worried that the polarizing ideas from the exterior make their way inside, don't. The interior is surprisingly sedate with clean lines and a simple design. Hyundai should be commended for using a lot of soft-touch plastics and leather on various surfaces. It makes the Sonata look and feel more premium than its price tag may suggest.

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      Location of Manufacture: Montgomery, AL
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      Make: Hyundai
      Model: Sonata Hybrid
      Trim: Limited
      Engine: 2.0L GDI DOHC 16-Valve Inline-Four, Permanent Magnet Synchronous Motor
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    • By William Maley
      I rarely get the opportunity to drive two different flavors of the same vehicle within a short timeframe. But that's what happened in the fall when I had the chance to drive the new Hyundai Sonata in its standard and hybrid forms. The Sonata has always been a favorite of mine as it offered a lot for a midsize sedan, with a surprising price tag. It has also come very close to being at the top of the class, but falling somewhat short due to one thing or another. This new version has the chance of changing that.
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      The consensus from several readers on Cheers & Gears and various social media sites on the Sonata's design was of dislike. Many found the design to be a bit much and overdone. I found myself in the minority as I was impressed by the lengths Hyundai went. The flowing lines and raked roofline reminded me of the 2012 Sonata which gave notice to other automakers to step up their game. Little details such as the bars the run along the outer edge of the hood to the headlights to a distinct rear-end treatment make the Sonata stand out.
      If there is an issue I have with the Sonata's design, it is the grille. I find it to be slightly cartoonish due to the large size and shape.
      Simple, Yet Elegant Interior
      If you're worried that the polarizing ideas from the exterior make their way inside, don't. The interior is surprisingly sedate with clean lines and a simple design. Hyundai should be commended for using a lot of soft-touch plastics and leather on various surfaces. It makes the Sonata look and feel more premium than its price tag may suggest.

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      At least using the phone as the vehicle's key does work a bit better. It only takes a few seconds for the phone to make the connection to the vehicle and you can start it up. Although, I found myself wondering wouldn't it be easier and faster to have the key. The only feature that makes any sense to me is the ability to share the key with other people, but lock down certain aspects.
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      Power Selection
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      Hyundai has done some work on the Sonata's chassis and suspension to make it more rewarding to drive. It shows on a winding road as both versions show little body roll and feel more agile than the outgoing model. Steering feels direct and has a decent amount of weight. I will say the Mazda6 is still the one to beat if driving pleasure is your key goal.
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      Where most people will stumble on the Sonata is the exterior. It is very much a love or hate it affair. Plus, some of the tech features feel more like a party trick to show to friends than something you'll use. 
      Nevertheless, I think Sonata moves up to the top of the midsize sedan pecking order. 
      But there is one more question to answer. Between the regular and hybrid versions, which one I would drive away with. The answer which surprised me is the hybrid. I found it to be a little bit more well-rounded and deliver some excellent fuel economy figures during my time.
      Alternative:
      Kia K5: Like the idea of the Hyundai Sonata, but not to sure on the design? Then the Kia K5 may be the answer. Based on the same bones as the Sonata, the K5 takes a more evolutionary approach to the design. The basic shape may remind you of the previous-generation Optima, but its the little details such as a new grille and revised rear deck lid that help it stand out. From reviews, the K5 proves to be a bit sportier. We hope to get our hands on this challenger in the near future. Disclaimer: Hyundai Provided the Sonatas, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
      Year: 2020
      Make: Hyundai
      Model: Sonata
      Trim: Limited 1.6T
      Engine: Turbocharged 1.6L GDI DOHC 16-Valve Inline-Four
      Driveline: Eight-Speed Automatic, Front-Wheel Drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 180 @ 5,500
      Torque @ RPM: 195 @ 1,500-4,500
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 27/36/31
      Curb Weight: 3,336 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Montgomery, AL
      Base Price: $33,300
      As Tested Price: $34,365 (Includes $930.00 Destination Charge)
      Options:
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      Make: Hyundai
      Model: Sonata Hybrid
      Trim: Limited
      Engine: 2.0L GDI DOHC 16-Valve Inline-Four, Permanent Magnet Synchronous Motor
      Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic, Front-Wheel Drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 150 @ 6,000 (gas); 51 @ 1,800 - 2,300 (electric motor); 192 (total output)
      Torque @ RPM: 139 @ 5,000 (gas); 151 @ 0 - 1,800 (electric motor)
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 45/51/47
      Curb Weight: 3,530 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Asan, South Korea
      Base Price: $35,300
      As Tested Price: $36,430 (Includes $975.00 Destination Charge)
      Options: 
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    • By William Maley
      Despite being one of the best sellers in the luxury crossover class, the Lexus RX lacked something many competitors offered; a third-row option. Lexus rectified this a couple of years ago by stretching the RX's body and adding a third-row to create the RX L. I spent some time in the RX 350L Luxury back in the fall to find out if Lexus has another winner or if this a half-baked attempt.
      You can tell the difference between the standard RX to the longer L by looking for a floating roofline treatment. This is due to Lexus blacking part of the c-pillar to help disguise the added bulk. It doesn't fully work as looks somewhat half-baked. At least Lexus was more successful upfront where non F-Sport models get a new mesh insert to replace the horizontal slats, along with a revised bumper. When equipped with the Luxury Package, the RX is a plush and pleasant place to spend time. The leather upholstery feels nice to the touch and the use of contrasting colors (cream and brown in my tester) help make it feel special. Lexus has finally added a touchscreen for the RX's infotainment and it makes a huge difference. Gone are the litany of issues I have noted in previous models such as, Being precise with your finger movements when selecting an item Becoming very distracting to use when on the move Not the most intuitive controller Now using Lexus Enform or Apple CarPlay/Android Auto is not an exercise in frustration, but one of ease. My only complaint is that I wished Lexus moved the screen slightly more forwards. It is quite a reach to use the touchscreen. Those sitting in the second row will not have much to complain about as head and legroom are plentiful for most passengers. The same cannot be said for the third-row. Getting back here is difficult as there is not enough a gap when the second-row seat is moved forward. Once back here, space is non-existent with your head touching the headliner and legroom from nothing to something bearable depending on where the second-row is set. The one upside to the longer RX is cargo space. With the third-row seat folded, you get about seven extra cubic feet of space compared to standard RX. Power comes from a 3.5L V6 used in several Lexus and Toyota vehicles.  For the RX 350L, it produces 290 horsepower and 267 pound-feet of torque. My tester came with all-wheel drive, but front-wheel drive is standard. Performance is adequate as you'll be able to keep up with traffic or make a pass with no issue. Those wanting a bit more performance should look at something like the upcoming Acura MDX or Volvo XC90. Comfort is still a key hallmark to the RX. Bumps and potholes become mere ripples when driven over. There is also a noticeable lack of road and wind coming inside. The RX 350L feels like a stop-gap solution until Lexus finishes up their upcoming three-row crossover due out within the next couple of years. The third-row isn't all useful for carrying passengers and is best to fold down to expand cargo space. If you need a third-row, there are much better options such as the Volvo XC90. But if you really want an RX, stick with the standard two-row version and pocket the cash you saved for something nice. Disclaimer: Lexus Provided the RX 350L, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
      Year: 2020
      Make: Lexus
      Model: RX
      Trim: 350L Luxury
      Engine: 3.5L DOHC 24-valve with VVT-iW V6
      Driveline: Eight-Speed Automatic, All-Wheel Drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 290 @ 6,300
      Torque @ RPM: 263 @ 4,700
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 18/25/21
      Curb Weight: 4,597 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Miyawaka, Fukuoka, Japan
      Base Price: $54,700
      As Tested Price: $63,540 (Includes $1,025.00 Destination Charge)
      Options:
      12.3" Navigation System/Mark Levinson 15-Speaker Premium Audio System - $3,365.00
      Blind Spot Monitor with Intuitive Parking Assist, Panoramic View Monitor, and Rear Cross Traffic Alert Braking - $1,865.00
      Running Boards - $640.00
      Color Head-Up Display - $600.00
      Second-Row Captain's Chairs - $405.00
      All-Weather Floor Liners with Cargo Mat - $330.00
      Cold Weather Package - $315.00
      Mudguards - $155.00
      Door Edge Guards - $140.00
    • By William Maley
      Do you need a V8 engine in your flagship luxury sedan? That's a question I posed myself when a Genesis G90 equipped with a 5.0L V8 engine was dropped off for a week. The standard G90 with the twin-turbo V6 offers an impressive amount of performance and refinement. But the V8 offers much more power, along with some extra goodies you cannot get with the V6. 
      Since our last visit with the G90, Genesis has given a bit of a facelift. The front end prominently features a new diamond-shape. I found myself growing to like it, even if I thought it was a tad too large. But I can see this becoming a point of contention. Other changes include new wheels and a restyled rear end that makes the G90 look a bit cleaner. No changes of note for the interior. It still is very luxurious to sit in and the controls are logically laid out. The only item I'm sad not to see is the new 12.3-inch digital cluster that is found in the all-new G80 and GV80. Opting for the Ultimate means back seat passengers get their own screens mounted behind the front seats. This allows you to tap into the G90's infotainment system to play audio, check various information, and look at the navigation system. Ultimate models come with the larger 5.0L V8 producing 420 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque. This is paired with an eight-speed automatic and rear-wheel drive. All-wheel drive is available as an option. The V8 is a bit of a tough sell when compared to the twin-turbo 3.3L V6 as it slower off the line and not as flexible whenever you need to accelerate quickly. Both engines also are similar in terms of refinement, offer a muted engine note. The only place I found the V8 to be slightly better than the V6 was in my average fuel economy. The V8 returned 24.7 mpg, while the V6 only got 20.3 mpg. A combination of the V8 G90 being rear-wheel and not all-wheel, along with more miles being done on the highway likely contributed to the better fuel economy figures. Ride quality is still on the hallmarks of the G90. With the adaptive suspension in either SMART or Comfort, the G90 glides along any road surface with nary a bump or pothole coming inside.  Around bends, the G90 doesn't feel at home with a fair amount of body roll. There is a Sport model to help reduce this, along with adding more weight to the steering. For the as-tested price of $76,695, you are getting quite a lot of equipment. There are LED headlights, Nappa leather upholstery, three-zone climate control, 17-speaker Lexicon audio system, power sunshades, adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring, memory settings for seats, and much more. The only way I could recommend the G90 Ultimate is either if you're operating a livery service or just want a V8 engine no matter what. Otherwise, you'll be happy with the G90 Premium and its twin-turbo V6. That said, the current G90 is starting to show its age, especially when compared to some of the new Genesis models such as the G80 and GV80. A new model is coming down the pipeline and if the recent models are any indication, the G90 has a real shot of becoming one of the best luxury sedans. Disclaimer: Genesis Provided the G90, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
      Year: 2020
      Make: Genesis
      Model: G90
      Trim: 5.0 Ultimate
      Engine: 5.0L GDI V8
      Driveline: Eight-Speed Automatic, Rear-Wheel Drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 420 @ 6,000
      Torque @ RPM: 383 @ 5,000
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 16/24/19
      Curb Weight: 4,817 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Ulsan, Korea
      Base Price: $75,700
      As Tested Price: $76,695 (Includes $995.00 Destination Charge)
      Options: N/A
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