2018 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid Review - By Larry Nutson, More Power More Economy More
2018 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid Review
More economy with more power
By Larry Nutson
Senior Editor and Bureau Chief
The Auto Channel
Trend forecasts say more and more new vehicle buyers will choose an SUV, both large and small. And trend forecasts also say more and more new vehicles will have electrified power trains.
Electrified as in pure battery powered. And electrified as in a hybrid that uses a combination of an internal combustion engine and an electric motor to provide the power.
Toyota has been a leader in hybrid development as well as in bringing new variations of SUVs to the market. The Toyota RAV4 is one of the original compact SUV that came to market about twenty years ago. Now, today, many other carmakers have followed their lead and offer compact SUVs.
There is more about hybrids than reduced fuel consumption. Hybrid powertrains can also deliver more power compared to the equivalent more traditional gasoline engine vehicle.
I had a 2018 Toyota RAV4 at my disposal for driving the streets of Chicago as well as for a road trip to Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin and back.
For 2018 Toyota offers the RAV 4 in a total of sixteen different models. Four of them are hybrids. Base prices range from $27,950 to $36,400. Two-wheel drive and all-wheel drive configurations are offered, except that all RAV4 Hybrids are all-wheel drive.
On the hybrids, a second, independent electric motor drives the rear wheels when needed to help maintain optimal traction.
The RAV4 Hybrid is offered in LE, XLE, SE and Limited trims with base prices ranging from $27,385 to $34,280. The LE is a new trim level added for 2018. I drove an SE model with a window sticker base price of $32,185.
The fuel economy benefit of a hybrid power train is most evident at lower, city-driving speeds. More specifically, the EPA test-cycle city rating for the RAV4 Hybrid is 34 mpg whereas that for the non-hybrid all-wheel drive RAV4 is 22 mpg. That’s a big difference!
In the EPA highway rating, note that the hybrid is rated lower at 30 mpg than the 34 mpg city rating. For comparison, the RAV4 non-hybrid with all-wheel drive is rated at 28 mpg in the highway test.
Hybrids are not just about lower fuel consumption. They can also have more power than a non-hybrid. In the case of the RAV4, the hybrid has 194 total system horsepower whereas the non-hybrid has 176-horsepower coming from its gasoline engine.
On my long-ish highway road trip I averaged about 10 percent better than the EPA rating, getting 33 mpg while cruising mostly at spirited highway speeds on 70 mph interstates. The RAV4 Hybrid has plenty of performance, with good off-the-line acceleration as well as very competent highway merging and overtaking. Toyota says the RAV4 Hybrid will accelerate from zero to 60 mph in 8.1 seconds.
The RAV4 Hybrid seats five and has 35.6 cu.ft of cargo space behind the rear seat that opens up to 70.6 cu.ft. with the 60/40 split rear seat folded down. A power lift gate helps make rear cargo access easy.
In the cabin the elevated driver’s position offers good outward sight lines. Toyota has done a good job with noise isolation minimizing tire and wind noise. SUVs tend to be a bit noisy on the inside since they can behave like a big open drum. Sound insulation materials in the rear cargo area, floor pan, and side and rear doors help reduce road noise on the RAV4.
Toyota has nicely equipped the RAV4 with a decent amount of semi-autonomous driver assistance safety features. All are equipped with Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection, Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist, Automatic High Beams, Dynamic Radar Cruise Control and a rear back-up camera. Depending on trim level, blind spot monitor and rear cross traffic alert are also available.
Some of you may be concerned about all the electronics in a hybrid. The RAV4 Hybrid has Toyota’s 36-month/36,000 mile basic new-vehicle warranty. Additional 60-month warranties cover the powertrain for 60,000 miles. The hybrid-related components, including the HV battery, battery control module, hybrid control module and inverter with converter, are covered for eight years/100,000 miles. In applicable states, hybrid-related component coverage is 15 years/150,000 miles with the exception of the hybrid battery, which is covered for 10 years/150,000 miles.
If you’re a motorsports fan I might mention that Toyota has the team of Ryan Millen and co-pilot Rhianon Gelsomino competing with a 2WD RAV4. They clinched the American Rally Association’s 2WD championship in 2017.
Lastly, Toyota recently unveiled a redesigned RAV4 for 2019. But, that won’t go on sale until late this year. If you don’t need the latest and greatest you might just check out the current RAV4 that’s at Toyota dealers now.
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© 2018 Larry Nutson, the Chicago Car Guy