FIRST DRIVE: Toyota RAV4 Finally Gets a Hybrid

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Toyota is a big player in the hybrid game with its newly redesigned Prius sitting at the top of the heap. The number of hybrids in their fleet has grown over the years and the introduction of the RAV4 hybrid means there are eight different hybrid models in Toyota’s stable.

Though there are four different RAV4 trim levels, only the top two have been graced with a hybrid engine. The XLE and Limited hybrids have a non-turbocharged, 2.5-liter 4-cylinder that, when paired to the electric motor, has combined horsepower of 194 with 206 lb-ft of torque. It moves the popular crossover along very nicely although you won’t be winning any races.


There is a Sport mode, but it made the engine unreasonably loud. Yes, it was slightly more responsive, but it simply wasn’t worth the droning engine noise. Handling is good no matter the mode with the RAV4 hybrid easily taking twisting, narrow roads. Steering is tight and on-center and the brakes were smooth and responsive.

People aren’t generally seeking a sports car when they purchase a hybrid, especially one that’s a crossover, and are more likely to be focused on fuel economy. If that’s your priority, then there’s an EV button that will keep the car in electric mode. It’s only good at speeds up to 25 mph for .6 miles at a time, but it’s there just the same.

Official numbers have not been released, but Toyota expects EPA fuel economy ratings of 34 mpg city/31 mpg highway/33 mpg combined for both hybrid trims. There’s also regenerative braking so you’ll be recharging your battery every time you hit the brakes.


Hybrids have a reputation for being, well, bland. They aren’t the kinds of cars people buy when they’re looking for a thrilling driving experience. This is no sports car, but its 0-60 time of 8.1 seconds is actually faster than the pure gas model.

The interior is not luxurious, but it is very quiet and comfortable. The engine noise is muted, except in the Sport mode we mentioned, and road and wind noise were also minimal. Hitting the accelerator hard from a dead stop did not produce the annoying whine many hybrids and especially CVTs have when they’re pushed to their limits.

Since only the top two trims are available as hybrids, you’re getting a well-equipped car no matter which you choose to purchase. The XLE includes halogen projector-beam headlights with auto off, halogen daytime running lights, fog lights, and a power tilt and slide moonroof with sunshade. Step up to the Limited and changes include LED projector beam headlights with auto on/off, LED daytime running lights, and LED tail lamps.


Infotainment comes from Toyota’s Entune system with a a 6.1-inch touch screen. It includes AM/FM/CD, HD Radio, SirisuXM satellite radio, and navigation. Siri Eyes Free is new for this year and there is also voice recognition to keep your attention on the road. Optional on the XLE and standard on the Limited is a 7.0-inch touchscreen. The Limited also comes with an available JBL audio system with 576 watts of sound sent through 11 JBL GreenEdge speakers along with a subwoofer and JBL amplifier.

The RAV4 also boasts updated available safety features with the new Toyota Safety Sense package. This includes forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, lane departure alert, automatic high beams, pedestrian pre-collision system, and dynamic radar cruise control. Blind spot mirror with rear cross traffic alert is also available.


Another new safety feature is the bird’s eye view camera with perimeter scan, which uses 4 cameras to provide a complete view around the car. There’s a panoramic view and a 360-degree bird’s eye view to reveal any obstacles.

The RAV4 hybrid starts at $28,370 for the XLE and $33,610 for the Limited giving families an affordable option for a hybrid crossover. Great fuel economy and a comfortable ride with room for the family and cargo make it a strong contender in the hybrid marketplace.

Nicole Wakelin

Nicole Wakelin