Road Test: 2017 Toyota RAV4 Limited Hybrid

Toyota was the leader nearly 20 years ago with the first RAV4, starting a segment that is the most popular today. RAV4 now comes in Hybrid flavor to offer the win-win combo of efficiency, all-weather capability, and versatility.

Our week with the RAV4 Hybrid consisted of experiencing Toyota’s seamless hybrid performance, high efficiency, and reliability. We love the way it works, because we cannot feel it working, and that’s the point. Power output from a 2.5-liter Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder engine and a small high-torque electric motor through its unique transaxle provides a feeling of peppiness. Total system horsepower is rated at 194, accelerating the RAV4 Hybrid to 60 MPH in 8.1 seconds.

The system seamlessly varies power between the gas engine and electric motor, or combines both as needed. Regenerative braking converts the electric motor to a generator that captures the kinetic energy of the still-turning wheels when the brake is applied, storing it in the nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) hybrid battery pack. A second, independent electric motor drives the rear wheels as needed to help maintain optimal traction.

Several operating modes are available at the push of a button to either increase efficiency or performance. Choosing ECO mode optimizes throttle response and air conditioning output to help prioritize fuel economy. In EV mode, the RAV4 will run solely on the electric motor for up to 0.6 miles at lower speeds (below ~30 mph).  The EPA rates the hybrid crossover at 34 mpg city/30 mpg highway/32 mpg combined and we averaged exactly that!

Room for All
The easy-to-maneuver, easy-to-park RAV4 consumes little exterior space while offering a cavernous interior. There’s ample room for five adults, including 37.2 inches of rear legroom and, behind the rear seat, 35.6 cu. ft.  With the 60/40 split rear seats folded, that space expands to 70.6 cu. ft. The rear seatbacks recline several degrees for additional comfort.

Toyota paid special attention towards improving cabin quietness with the addition of sound insulation materials in the rear cargo area, floor pan, and side and rear doors, reducing road noise, while creating a premium feel.

Entune Infotainment
The RAV4 plays music from any source its Entune audio system.

Entune Premium Audio comes with a 7.0-inch screen, apps galore, and a hybrid drive indicator to show how power is being delivered.

Standard Safety Tech
RAV4 is as safe as a modern vehicle gets. From passive systems like airbags, to active systems like stability control, the RAV4 comes standard with everything on every trim level.

The standard Toyota Safety Sense P (TSS-P) driver assist system bundles cutting edge active safety technologies including Pre-Collision with Pedestrian Detection function (PCS w/PD) featuring forward collision warning and Automatic Emergency Braking, Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist function (LDA w/SA), Automatic High Beams (AHB), and Dynamic Radar Cruise Control (DRCC).

The Pedestrian Detection function of Pre-collision System (PCS) uses a camera and radar to detect a pedestrian ahead of the vehicle in certain conditions. When the system determines there is a possibility of collision, it prompts the driver to brake with an audio and visual alert. If the driver notices the hazard and brakes, the system may provide additional braking force using Brake Assist. If the driver fails to brake in a set time and the system determines that the risk of collision with a pedestrian is extremely high, the system may automatically apply the brakes, reducing speed in order to help the driver avoid the collision or reducing the impact.

Lane Departure Alert (LDA) with Steering Assist function uses the same camera designed to detect visible white and yellow lane markers in front of the vehicle and the vehicle’s position on the road. If the system determines that the RAV4 is starting to unintentionally deviate from its lane, it then provides an audio and visual alert.

In addition to the alert function of LDA, the RAV4 also comes with Steering Assist. If the system determines that the vehicle is on a path to unintentionally depart from its lane, the system provides small corrective steering inputs to the steering wheel for a short period of time. We found it worked very well and wasn’t overly obtrusive in any way.

On highways, Dynamic Radar Cruise Control (DRCC) functions similar to conventional “constant speed” cruise control in that it helps vehicles travel at a consistent speed, but this system adds a vehicle-to-vehicle distance control mode designed to assist by adjusting vehicle speed (within a set range) to help maintain a pre-set distance to a preceding vehicle when the preceding vehicle is traveling at a lower speed. Dynamic Radar Cruise Control uses a front-grill mounted millimeter-wave radar and an in-vehicle camera designed to detect a preceding vehicle and help determine its distance.

If the vehicle ahead is detected traveling at a speed slower than the driver-set speed or within the distance range setting, the system is designed to automatically decelerate the vehicle without having to cancel the cruise control. When a greater reduction in vehicle speed is necessary, the system may apply the brakes and operate the vehicle brake lights. The system will then respond to changes in the speed of the vehicle ahead in order to help maintain the vehicle-to-vehicle distance. When there is no longer a preceding vehicle driving slower than the vehicle’s set speed, the system accelerates until the set speed is reached and returns to the pre-set speed cruising.

Automatic High Beams (AHB) helps enhance forward visibility during nighttime driving. It uses a camera to detect the headlights of oncoming vehicles and the tail lights of vehicles ahead, and then automatically switches between high beams and low beams so as not to blind oncoming drivers. The headlights themselves are superb at nighttime illumination.

Complementing TSS-P are standard Hill-Start Assist Control (HAC) and rear backup camera, as well as available Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Cross Traffic Alert.

Also available as part of the Advanced Tech package is the bird’s eye camera system with perimeter scan which gives a cool 360 degree view of what sourrounds the RAV4.

Summary Scorecard (1-10)
Ride and Handling 9
Braking 10
Powertrain and Fuel Economy 10
Noise 10
Headlights 10
Interior Fit and Finish 10
Seating 10
Visibility 10
Gauges and Controls 10
Infotainment 9
Crash-Avoidance 10
Total Score  98


Make: Toyota
Model: RAV4
Trim Level: Limited Hybrid
Engine: 2.5L 4-Cylinder
Transmission: CVT
Options: Advanced Tech Package, Accessories

Base Price: $34,030
As-Tested Price: $37,348

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