Was the 2016 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid Worth the Wait?

Written By: EightySix

2016 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid at the 2015 New York Auto Show

This week at the New York International Auto Show, Toyota finally revealed a hybrid version of its popular RAV4 compact SUV. Toyota made the Prius the best selling green car on the planet then applied their Hybrid Synergy Drive to the Camry, Avalon, Highlander and multiple Lexus vehicles. Somewhere at that party you'd expect to find a hybrid RAV4, but not until April of 2015 did one appear.

Is it a 4x4 Prius?

Fortunately, it's not. It's so much more. A 2.5 liter inline four-cylinder Atkinson cycle engine works together with an electric motor to provide Electric On-Demand all-wheel drive. Toyota hasn't revealed all the stats, but promises better performance than the 176 horsepower and 8-something zero-to-sixty of the 2015 version. Performance could be similar to the 2015 2.5 liter Lexus NX300h, which has 194 horsepower with an EPA combined 30 mpg. Presumably gas will power the front and battery power the rear, giving the driver various power and economy options.

The word "hybrid" brings different images to different people. Most car shoppers equate the term to tame, practical, responsible transportation that saves fuel but delivers little fun. The Formula One crowd knows a hybrid car can use a Kinetic Energy Recovery System to store otherwise wasted energy to be used later for a burst of extra power. The Volvo XC90 T8 PHEV gets the best from gasoline and electricity to achieve a 5.9 second zero-to-sixty, which is a full second faster than the quickest gas-only version of the vehicle.

Hybrids can be fast. When Toyota stopped putting V6 engines in the RAV4, mediocre performance became a common complaint. Hopefully this is no longer the case. This could be the most fun to drive RAV4 yet.

An Emphasis on Safety

The new RAV4 includes new collection of optional safety features, called Toyota Safety Sense. A series of cameras provide Bird's Eye View Monitoring for easier parking and 360-degree awareness. Cameras also assist the Pre-Collision System and Lane Departure Alert. The vehicle can detect both pedestrians and other cars. It can brake and warn the driver of impending collisions.

Automatic High Beams dim themselves for approaching traffic. The Dynamic Radar Cruise Control maintains a safe following distance when traffic speeds up or slows down. It will brake when another driver cuts you off.

Sharper Inside and Out

The lines are more crisp overall. The headlights are more squinty and are now all LED. The front and rear skid-plates include a touch of chrome. The grille is narrower and all around it's a bit less boxy.

Interior cloth is softer and more durable. Toyota added another USB port and 12 volt outlet. Optional tech includes a 4.2" screen in the instrument cluster and a 7" touch-screen in the center of the dash. Front and rear sonar, keyless operation, Homelink garage door opener and a cell phone based navigation system are available.

When Can You Get One?

Autumn, barring any delays. How much? Still not released, but the 2015 Lexus NX300h sells for around $40,000. A 2015 RAV4 AWD Limited goes for just under $30,000. Expect the new hybrid to sell for just between those two numbers.

Do you buy it for the environment? To save money on fuel? Will you buy it just because a gas engine plus an electric motor equals more thrust? Wait and see. The numbers and reviews are yet to come, but more tech, power and economy in an SUV many people already like should surely be a good thing

Give us an affordable PHEV version with more range than the 11 miles of the plug-in Prius and this compact SUV will become a true gem.