What Took You So Long, Toyota?
Gee, Toyota, you introduced that little thing you called RAV4 to the U.S. in 1995. It ushered in what we now call a crossover vehicle—the combining of some of the attributes of a sport-utility
vehicle with the underpinnings of an automobile.
Of course we didn’t know then it was a crossover vehicle, so we just called it a “cute ute.” The three-door version was especially cute.
Then, four years later you brought us a not so cute, but very fuel efficient, little car called the Prius. It ushered in the gasoline-electric hybrid drivetrain that, by the way, confused a lot of folks at
Of course people aren’t confused any more. There are more than 30 hybrid models sold in 90 world markets bearing either the Toyota or Lexus names and sales have exceeded eight million globally.
What’s interesting is, none of the eight- million hybrid vehicles sold have a RAV4 badge. After all, Ford sold an Escape Hybrid crossover along with its Mercury Mariner Hybrid sibling from 2005 to 2011 with some 200,000 finding driveways.
So Toyota, have you ever wondered how many RAV4 Hybrids you might have sold if you brought it out say 10, or even five years ago?
Finally, the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid Is Here
We probably won’t find out the answer to our headline’s question, but we do know the 2016 RAV4 Hybrid has just arrived at dealer showrooms, and it looks like a good one. It was previewed when the Lexus NX 300h Hybrid hit down last year.
There are two model offerings, both with standard all-wheel drive. First is the XLE that starts at $29,270, including a $900 destination charge. The uplevel Limited is priced starting at $34,510. Both are priced just $700 more than their equivalent gasoline-powered RAV4s. That snuffs the argument that hybrids are priced thousands more than standard vehicles.
As for fuel economy, the 2016 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid receives an EPA rating of 34 mpg city/ 31 mpg highway/ 33 mpg combined for both models. That’s nearly 33 percent better than the all-wheel drive gas model’s 25 mpg combined rating.
With the average price of gasoline around $2.21 per gallon, it would only take most drivers three to four months to make up the $700 difference between the RAV4 Hybrid and the gasoline-only RAV4.
Proven, Familiar Hybrid Drivetrain
The 2016 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid uses Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive, a system similar to those in the Camry Hybrid, Lexus ES 300 and the Lexus NX 300h small luxury crossover. That means a 2.5-liter Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder gas engine is combined with a small high-torque electric motor through the powersplit transaxle. An additional rear-mounted electric motor provides all-wheel drive capability.
This provides a pretty good jolt of performance with a combined 194 system horsepower and 206 pound-feet of torque, which is good for a 0 to 60 mph run in 8.1 seconds — about a second quicker than gas-powered RAV4 models. The 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 when the brake is applied, storing it in a small nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) hybrid battery pack. Toyota says the hybrid can travel on electricity only for about a mile at a speed of 25 mph.
Updated Outside And Inside
Accompanying the arrival of the 2016 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid is a refresh for the compact crossover. The front looks sharper with a redesigned grille, thinner LED headlamps and restyled bumper. New rocker panels sharpen the sides and tie in the front and rear bumpers for a more flowing profile. Available LED taillights add a nice touch to the backside.
Inside changes are minimal: revised cupholders allow for mugs with larger handles, lower center console LED lights, a new sunglass holder and a 12-volt outlet for rear passengers. A hybrid specific display within the 4.2-inch TFT gauge-cluster screen shows fuel consumption and the status of the hybrid powertrain.
The RAV4 Hybrid is one of the first models to offer the Toyota Safety Sense (TSS) new multi-feature advanced safety package, standard on the Limited, available on the XLE. It bundles forward-collision warning, a pedestrian pre-collision system, lane-departure alert, adaptive cruise control and automatic high beams.
In addition to TSS, the XLE features a standard Blind Spot Mirror and the Limited has a standard Blind Spot Monitor with rear cross traffic alert. Optional on both trim levels is a new Perimeter Scan 360-degree camera system that uses a surround-view camera system to see potential obstacles.
Toyota’s Entune Audio system features a 6.1-inch touchscreen, AM/FM/CD, Bluetooth and iPod connectivity, a USB jack and Siri Eyes Free.
This might seem to be an inauspicious time to introduce a new hybrid. Sales of hybrid vehicles were down 14 percent in 2014, they’re down nearly 16 percent in 2015 and the national average price for gasoline is $2.21 per gallon.
But in case you haven’t noticed, that gasoline price has increased a couple of cents in the past week and is expected to edge up some more in the coming weeks. In other words, that makes the 2016 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid’s value proposition a little more enticing.
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