Friday, July 15, 2016

The RAV4 Hybrid


By John Heilig

  • MODEL: 2016 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid
  • ENGINE: 2.5-liter DOHC I-4
  • HORSEPOWER/TORQUE: 194 hp total/ 206 lb.-ft. total
  • WHEELBASE: 104.7 in.
  • LENGTH X WIDTH X HEIGHT: 181.1 x 72.6 x 65.9 in.
  • TIRES: P235/55R18 
  • CARGO: 35.6/70.6 cu. ft. (behind 2nd row/2nd row seats down)
  • ECONOMY: 34 mpg city/31 mpg highway/22.2 mpg test 
  • FUEL TANK: 14.8 gal.
  • CURB WEIGHT: 3,950 lbs.
  • COMPETITIVE CLASS: Ford Escape, Buick Encore, Kia Sportage
  • STICKER: $36,609 (includes $900 delivery, $2,099 options)
  • BOTTOM LINE: The new Toyota RAV4 Hybrid is smooth running, quiet and comfortable in a package that is a practical size for a SUV.

            Introduced at the 2015 New York International Auto Show in April, the 2016 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid is the latest addition to Toyota’s growing hybrid stable. Adding the fuel economy of a hybrid to what I believe is the almost perfect size for a SUV is just gravy on the mashed potatoes. Larger SUVs may carry more, but for the greater majority of the time a small SUV fits the bill perfectly.

            Unfortunately, we didn’t achieve anything nearly close to the RAV4’s advertised economy numbers, despite the fact that we drove it on Interstates and local roads. I’m not sure what the problem might have been, but 22.2 mpg isn’t bad. Its just isn’t 31-34 mpg.

            Nevertheless, the RAV4 delivered a comfortable ride over all roads. Both the driver and front passenger have power adjustable seats with a lumbar adjustment that helped an achey back from too much golf.

The front seats also were heated (didn’t need in summer) and offered some side support.

            The engine in the RAV4 is a 2.5-liter four rated at 194 total horsepower with the addition of Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive. Torque is 206 lb.-ft., a decent number. Acceleration is very good, thanks to the electric motor assist. And, more importantly, the combination is quiet. It doesn’t have the power of a sports car, but the RAV4 can get up and running with the better of them.

            I have a few concerns. The speedometer, for example, is not that easy to read, being hidden by the nacelle surrounding the meter. A digital speedometer would have been a nice addition, but I couldn’t figure out how to program the instrument panel between the tachometer and speedometer to convert to a digital speedometer. However, that info panel did display the cruise control setting, so on our longer trips we kept it in cruise most of the time.

            Speaking of cruise control, the system in the RAV4 is called Dynamic Radar Cruise Control and it adjusts your speed to that of the vehicle in front of you. It will also brake the car if the speed differential is too great. I’m not totally sure if the system will actually stop the car if a collision is imminent. I didn’t have the courage to test it. 

            In place of the tachometer is an “ECO” dial that shows how much power you are using or whether or not you are operating the RAV4 economically or not. 

            The infotainment screen is split between audio and a map. You can touch either to expand it to a full screen view, but after a while in audio it reverts back to the split screen. The navigation system is very easy to program in a new destination.

            I’m a proponent of good interior styling, almost as opposed to good exterior styling, because you see the inside of the vehicle more than the outside. That’s what kept the Pontiac Aztec alive for as long as it did. Anyway, the interior styling of the RAV4 is very nice. There’s a padded panel in contrasting color running from the right of the instrument panel across the dash. The color combination matches the two-tone seats. An added benefit is that the visors have extensions, for those difficult days.

            At the base of the center stack is a panel with switches for EV mode, ECO mode, and Sport mode, with heated seat switches, USB and AUX connections and a 12-volt outlet. A small flat cubby beneath this is ideal for holding keys, since the RAV4 has push button start and stop. 

            The cup holders are different. There’s a normal round one close to the center console/arm rest, but the one closer to the center stack has a different shape to accommodate cups with handles. There is room for two water bottles in each door. 

            Rear legroom is excellent. There are four assist handles, one over each door. In the rear they are excellent for carrying clothes on hangers. There are also hanger hooks, but these are smaller. 

            Behind the power rear hatch is a very good cargo area. We were able to put a golf bag in there horizontally, without having to wedge it in diagonally or fold down a rear seat. The rear seats fold easily to create a flat cargo area. The inside rear hatch release is almost hidden next to the steering column, but it’s there. 

            Safety features include a lane departure warning with an annoying beep, blind spot monitors with lights in the exterior rear view mirrors, rear cross traffic alert, and a “bird’s eye camera” that shows an overhead view of the RAV4 when you’re backing up.

            In a sense it’s hard to evaluate Toyotas because they are all, generally, pretty good and have well thought-out designs. The RAV4 Hybrid is no exception. It does all things well and is a star in its class.

(c) 2016 The Auto Page Syndicate 

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