Toyota Keeps Rolling with 2018 RAV4 Hybrid

DETROIT — Toyota continued to hold sway in the hybrid market. It introduced the 2018 RAV4 Hybrid during the last model year. For 2018, with the addition of the Adventure grade, RAV4 now comes in six grades: LE, XLE, Adventure, SE, Limited, and Platinum.

The RAV4 Hybrid is now available in four grades for the 2018 model year: LE, XLE, SE, and Limited. In terms of standard features, RAV4 LE hybrid grade builds on the LE gas grade but adds standard features such as roof rails, smart key system, dual-zone automatic climate control, 17-inch alloy wheels, and more.

The Adventure grade combines the feature content of the XLE with the sporty exterior accents of the SE and then adds unique features that outdoor enthusiasts will be sure to appreciate. Larger over-fender flares and 18-inch five-spoke black alloy wheels with big 235/55R18 tires give the RAV4 a kinship with tough Toyota off-road trucks. Raised ground clearance on the Adventure grade (now 6.5 inches vs. 6.1 inches), adds off-pavement and all-weather functions.

The Adventure identity continues inside, with such unique and exclusive features as carbon-fiber-like trim panels, leather-wrapped shift knob, “RAV4 Adventure” logoed door sill protectors, and all-weather floor and cargo mats with “RAV4 Adventure” badging. A 120V/100W power outlet in the cargo area is convenient for operating a portable air compressor or other equipment.

I had the Toyota RAV4 XLE all-wheel-drive. It was powered by a 2.5-liter Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder engine and a small high-torque electric motor. The propulsion system made a combined 194 horsepower and it was mated to a continuously variable transmission. Toyota said the RAV4 could get from a standstill to 60 mph in 8.1 seconds.

I did not have a stopwatch to run my own zero to 60 mph time trials but I did note that this RAV4 was pretty quick, for a hybrid. A couple of times I got on the accelerator and the crossover moved with authority.

All trim lines of the RAV4 Hybrid come with what Toyota brands as an Electric On-Demand All-Wheel-Drive System with intelligence. A second independent electric motor drives the rear wheels when needed for optimum traction.

In other words, the RAV4 was a front-wheel-drive vehicle during normal operation but when front wheel slippage is detected, the rear wheel mounted electric motor activates to put torque to those wheels. Fortunately, winter and the weather that comes with it were pretty much done and the pavement remained dry during the week-long test drive.

During normal operation the system sends 100 percent of the torque to the front wheels but it can send up to 50 percent of the torque to the rear wheels. My RAV4 Hybrid had an EPA fuel rating of 34 mpg in the city, 30 mpg on the highway and 32 mpg combined. Quite frankly, I and some of my colleagues who have test driven the hybrid version of the RAV4 think miles per gallon should be a little better than that. But it was considerably above what the gasoline powered RAV4’s rating was.

My RAV4 Hybrid had a drive mode selector. Eco mode optimized fuel economy. Sport-mode sharpened shift timing, throttle response and steering feel. It also altered torque distribution to enhance agility. It even matched downshifting with a blip to the throttle to match engine speed with transmission speed. And the RAV4 could be put into full electric mode. In EV mode, the RAV4 Hybrid, under certain conditions, will run solely on the electric motor for up to 0.6 miles at speeds below 25 mph.

As with most hybrids, a system indicator and fuel consumption indicator, located next to the 4.2-inch TFT screen, helps coach the driver to operate the vehicle as economically as possible. But it is not wise to watch that gauge rather than the road.

The interior of the RAV4 was nicely done. It was a horizontal layout with all the instruments and controls on the upper half of the dashboard. Most of the controls framed the infotainment touch screen, app, navigation, phone connect, etc. The climate controls rimmed the bottom of the rectangle.

Handling was great. The RAV4 had an independent MacPherson strut front suspension with stabilizer bar and hydraulic shock absorbers. There was a double wishbone multilink rear suspension with coil spring, stabilizer bar and hydraulic shock absorbers. The setup provided a smooth firm ride.

My RAV4 also had a premium version of Entune. It had an integrated navigation and App Suite that included the Entune Multimedia Bundle; a 7 in. high resolution touch-‐screen with split screen display, AM/FM, MP3/WMA playback capability, 6 speakers, auxiliary audio jack, USB 2.0 port with iPod® connectivity and control, advanced voice recognition, hands-‐free phone capability, phone book access and music streaming via Bluetooth® wireless technology, Siri® Eyes Free, Entune® App Suite, HD Radio™, HD™ predictive traffic and Doppler weather overlay, AM/FM cache radio, SiriusXM® Satellite Radio with 3-‐month Complimentary Sirius All Access Trial, and Gracenote® album cover art and integrated backup camera display.

That’s a mouthful. It is easier to say or to write that the audio system was outstanding, informative, provided great sound and was easy to use. Five people could get into the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid and be comfortable, especially the three riding in the back seats. What’s more, there was 38.4 sq. ft. of cargo space behind the second row seats. Fold them and that almost doubles to 73.4 sq. ft. of cargo space.

There was 37.2 inches of rear legroom and, behind the rear seat. The 60/40 split rear seatbacks recline several degrees for added passenger comfort, and rear privacy glass is standard on all RAV4 models.

Now standard was the Toyota Safety Sense P or TSS-P. It included pre-collision warning with pedestrian detection function featuring forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking, lane departure alert with steering assist function, automatic high beams and dynamic radar cruise control.

All in all, the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid was a well-equipped crossover with a sticker of 31,965.

Frank S. Washington is editor of AboutThatCar.com

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