Road Test: 2018 Toyota RAV4 SE Hybrid

We last drove the RAV4 Hybrid in Limited trim last year. Toyota’s RAV4 has taken its owners on countless urban, suburban and off-the-beaten-path adventures for two decades, and it continues that tradition for 2018.

Our RAV4 Hybrid tester brings both added power and higher fuel efficiency – a winning combination. Hybrid grades come equipped with an Electronic On-Demand All-Wheel-Drive System with intelligence (AWD-i) as standard. A second, independent electric motor drives the rear wheels when needed to help maintain optimal traction.

Toyota Hybrid Synergy Drive sets the benchmark for seamless hybrid performance, high efficiency, and exemplary dependability. Drivers love the way it works, because they can’t feel it working, which is precisely the point.

The 2018 RAV4 Hybrid combines output from a 2.5-liter Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder engine and a small high-torque electric motor through its unique transaxle. It delivers powerful performance from a combined 194 system horsepower. The versatile Hybrid is the quickest in the RAV4 line, with zero to 60 mph in 8.1 seconds.

The hybrid system varies power between the gas engine and electric motor, or combines both as needed, all seamlessly. Regenerative braking changes 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.

Choosing ECO mode optimizes throttle response and air conditioning output to help prioritize fuel economy. In EV mode, available under certain conditions, the crossover will run solely on the electric motor for up to 0.6 miles at speeds below around 25 mph. A Hybrid System Indicator and fuel consumption indicator, located in a 4.2-inch TFT screen, helps coach the driver to operate the vehicle as economically as possible.

The 2018 RAV4 Hybrid received an EPA-estimated 34 mpg city/30 mpg highway/32 mpg combined, and we easily achieved 32 in mixed commuter driving across our week of evaluation.

Inside, RAV4 Hybrid is incredibly roomy. There’s ample room for five adults, including competitive 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 back up to 24 degrees for added passenger comfort, and rear privacy glass is standard on all RAV4 models.

Special attention was directed towards improving cabin quietness. Sound insulation materials in the rear cargo area, floor pan, and side and rear doors help reduce road noise and create a premium feel.

RAV4 SE features 18-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights and taillights, and an exclusive front bumper with a honeycomb grill design.

On the infotainment side, Entune Audio Plus with Connected Navigation comes standard on SE grade provides a high-resolution and customizable Home Screen to the 6.1-inch touch-screen display and also includes HD Radio, SiriusXM satellite radio, and Traffic/Weather. The Connected Navigation via Scout GPS Link app is standard with this upgraded system and includes cell-phone driven navigation, voice activated search, traffic-based commute information, and more.

Entune Premium JBL Audio with Integrated Navigation and App Suite is available for those who prefer to upgrade.

Ahead of the safety curve, all 2018 RAV4 grades are equipped as standard with Toyota Safety Sense P (TSS-P), which combines the Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection (PCS w/ PD), Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist (LDA w/ SA), Automatic High Beams (AHB), and Dynamic Radar Cruise Control (DRCC). TSS-P’s comprehensive features create in-the-moment safety designed to support a driver’s awareness and decision-making on the road.

We found the AHB system to work flawlessly each and every night, and the dynamic radar cruise is excellent, but unfortunately disables below speeds of 20 MPH.

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

One aspect of the RAV4 we found especially neat was the rearview mirror’s frameless design, with Homelink buttons integrated underneath.

Summary Scorecard (1-10)
Ride and Handling 7
Braking 9
Powertrain and Fuel Economy 9
Noise 9
Headlights 10
Interior Fit and Finish 9
Seating 10
Visibility 9
Gauges and Controls 8
Infotainment 5
Crash-Avoidance 8
Total Score  85


Make: Toyota
Model: RAV4
Trim Level: SE Hybrid
Engine: 2.5L Hybrid
Transmission: CVT
Options: Advanced Tech Pkg

Base Price: $32,185
As-Tested Price: $36,055

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