By Barbara & Bill Schaffer
With sales of SUVs growing at a record pace, Toyota RAV4 topped the chart at the end of 2017, just beating several tough competitors to claim the best-selling SUV title.
After spending the last week driving the 2018 RAV4 Hybrid, it was easy for us to see why Toyota sells more than 1,100 RAV4s daily in the U.S. With its distinctive lines, comfortable interior, reliable performance, extensive equipment list and excellent fuel economy the RAV4 has a strong shopper appeal.
Since its introduction more than 20 years ago the RAV4 (an acronym for Recreational Active Vehicle with 4wd) has grown by more than 21-inches in length and has expanded the original “new-concept sport utility vehicle” into a mature, solid, “soft”-roader filled with all the latest safety equipment and driver aids.
The RAV4 has a solid road feel thanks to the extensive use of high-strength steel and a sophisticated four-wheel independent suspension. It has a smooth, quiet ride, and handling is good, but not quite as precise feeling as some competitors. Towing is not recommended for the RAV4 SE Hybrid, so if that’s an important feature, shoppers will want to go for one of the other three hybrid trim levels, which are rated at a 1,750-pound towing capacity.
The 2018 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid is offered in four trim levels: LE, XLE, SE and Limited, plus the gasoline powered version is available in six trim levels including the all new Adventure trim level we saw at the Portland Auto Show in January. All hybrid versions are all-wheel drive. Prices range from $28,230 for the LE and go up to $35,125, or $36,800 with all the options.
The SE Hybrid is new for 2018 and features 18-inch alloy wheels, power liftgate, LED headlights and taillights along with an exclusive front bumper with honeycomb grill design. It also has SofTex-covered seats, sport floor mats, door sill protectors, and Gunmetal Gray trim. The SE’s instrument panel features twin dials with red illumination and red pointers, along with a standard 4.2-inch color TFT multi-information display with a multi-information display.
Debuting originally for the 2015 model year, the RAV4 Hybrid is powered by Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive System which employs a high-efficiency 150-hp 2.5-liter Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder engine along with three small high-torque electric motor generators. The electric motors use a unique transaxle coupling and combined with the gas engine to produce 194-hp. The EPA lists the RAV4 Hybrid at 34 mpg city, 30 mpg highway and 32 mpg combined. We averaged 30.4 mpg during our drive time. Acceleration is a little slower than competitors taking 8.3 seconds to make a 0 to 60 mph run, but still the time is respectable.
The electric motor generators supply power to the front and rear wheels and charge the Nickel-Hydride battery which is mounted under the rear seat. The transmission an electronically controlled CVT which simulates a six-speed automatic transmission.
The Hybrid also has a standard Dynamic Torque Control AWD system. The system reads vehicle speed, steering speed and angle, throttle angle and yaw rate, and actively spits torque distribution to the rear wheels, as needed, via an electromagnetically controlled coupling positioned in the rear differential. Front to rear torque distribution can vary from 100:0 to 50:50, with front-wheel drive automatically engaged under normal driving conditions to help reduce fuel consumption.
Once drivers are exposed to the available new safety equipment, we think most of these features will be a “must have” for most shoppers. We know they are for us.
The Toyota RAV4 Hybrid is offered with an extensive collection of the latest safety technologies including the Toyota Star Safety System™ which includes Traction Control, Electronic Brake-force Distribution, Enhanced Vehicle Stability Control, Brake Assist Anti-Lock Braking System and Smart Stop Technology.
The standard Toyota Safety Sense P driver assist system bundles cutting edge active safety technologies including Pre-Collision with Pedestrian Detection function featuring forward collision warning and Automatic Emergency Braking, Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist function, Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Automatic High Beams, and Dynamic Radar Cruise Control. When we add up all the available features, this RAV4 Hybrid looks very upscale.
There’s many good reasons this is the number one selling SUV, if you’re shopping for a compact SUV you need to spend some time behind the wheel.