• 2017 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid
  • 2017 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid
  • 2017 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

Road Test: 2017 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid SE

Clean Choice in Compact Crossovers

The 2017 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid combines two automotive trends—the utility and style of a crossover with the improved fuel economy of a hybrid. The RAV4 has enjoyed well deserved popularity as a gasoline-only car for 20 years.

2017 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

The 2017 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid combines hybrid technology with crossover room

The car’s Toyota Hybrid Synergy Drive System uses a 2.5-liter inline four-cylinder gas engine that puts out 150 horsepower and 152 pounds-feet of torque. Two front- and rear-mounted electric motors generate 141 and 67 horsepower respectively. The combined 194 total vehicle horsepower pulls the nearly two-ton vehicle from zero to sixty in 8.1 seconds.

EPA economy numbers shows the 2017 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid at 34 mpg city/30 highway/32 combined. The comparable gas version earns 23/29/25, giving the hybrid a 28 percent improvement (using the combined scores). The Green ratings are 8 for Smog and 7 for Greenhouse gas.

I averaged 32.6 mpg over my week-long test. That’s an average, but I noticed that on certain trips, such as on the way home from my bandmate Ed’s place, where I enjoyed lots of EV driving, I averaged 49.5 mpg. One commute day, I averaged 39.9 mpg for an hour-long drive to my office. So, as they say, “your mileage may vary.”

The MPG Hardware & Software

Toyota’s hybrids use sophisticated software to nearly imperceptibly blend the gas and electric energy power sources. Driving through parking lots and in 25 mph in-town traffic, you’ll often enjoy silent, pure EV motoring. At greater speeds or strong acceleration, the engine kicks in.

Vehicles that employ batteries for propulsion use regenerative braking. Here, it fills the RAV4’s nickel-metal hydride 204-cell battery pack when you slow or brake. As this is not a plug-in vehicle, that’s where all the electricity comes from, so how you drive affects how quickly the battery charges and therefore how often you can cruise along petroleum-free. An instrument panel display shows you not only the flow of where the energy is currently coming from and going, but also helps you manage acceleration and braking for optimum fuel economy.

2017 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

The gauges tell the mpg story

You can choose from different operating modes to conserve more fuel. The Eco setting dulls the throttle response and uses the air conditioning less. In EV mode you can drive the car like a pure electric vehicle for about half a mile at under 25 miles per hour.

Three Levels of RAV4

The 2017 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid is available in three trim levels: XLE, SE, and Limited; all come with all-wheel-drive standard. My test car, in appropriately-named Electric Storm Blue, was an SE, which is new for 2017.

2017 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

Leather (artificial) and technology (all real) await inside

The XLE arrives well equipped, and the SE adds extra features. Outside, the bumper wears a sportier design. The wheels grow from 17- to 18-inch alloys, you get a power liftgate, and the mirrors are powered and color-keyed. LEDs glow in the headlamps, daytime running lights and taillights. Inside, eight-way power adjustable seats are covered in SofTex artificial leather; the front buckets are heated. The SE proudly wears a label on the shift lever, door sill protectors and floor mats.  

The RAV4 is a good size for commuting, around town errands and longer trips, too. Drop the seats and haul a generous load of your stuff. There’s 35.6 cubic feet of space with the rear seat up. With it down it doubles to 70.6 cubic feet. This is the kind of vehicle that’s eating midsize sedan’s lunch these days, and you can see why.

Safety Tech

Safety features these days keep you alive and uninjured in a crash and are also designed to prevent a crash in the first place. The Toyota Safety Sense Driver Assist System includes active safety technologies such as ”Pre-Collision with Pedestrian Detection” function, which combines forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking. The lane departure alert gives a visual and audible warning if the car isn’t staying in the lane, and steering assist function moves the wheels to keep you in the lane. Automatic high beams ensure you have sufficient light to detect hazards as soon as possible while preventing your headlamps from blinding oncoming cars. Dynamic Radar Cruise Control (DRCC) automatically maintains a distance from the car ahead, accelerating and decelerating without having to reset the cruise control.

2017 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

A crossover like the RAV4 thrives on versatility

The RAV4 Hybrid starts at $29,970 for the XLE and tops out at $34,970 for the Limited. My SE, in the middle, had a base price of $33,155, but came to $36.833 with several options, including the Advanced Technology Package ($2,460). This package adds a handy bird’s eye view camera, the premium Entune sound system, and a ton of apps. The SE hybrid costs only $1,995 more than the regular SE gas-only version. All prices include shipping.

The RAV4 joins seven other hybrids in Toyota’s vast product line. It’s a great all-around family car. Let’s hope they offer us plug-in and pure electric versions in the future.

In order to give you, the reader, the best perspective on the many vehicles available, Clean Fleet Report has a variety of contributors. When possible, we will offer you multiple perspectives on a given vehicle. This comes under SRO-Second Road Test Opinion. We hope you’ll enjoy these diverse views–some are just below—and let us know what you think in comments below or at publisher@cleanfleetreport.com.

Another perspective on this vehicle:

Road Test: 2017 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid (John’s view)

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Disclosure:

Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition, we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.

Our focus is on vehicles that offer the best fuel economy in their class, which leads us to emphasize electric cars, plug-in hybrids, hybrids and diesels. We also feature those efficient gas-powered vehicles that are among the top mpg vehicles in their class. In addition, we aim to offer reviews and news on advanced technology and the alternative fuel vehicle market. We welcome any feedback from vehicle owners and are dedicated to providing a forum for alternative viewpoints. Please let us know your views at publisher@cleanfleetreport.com.

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About Author: Steve Schaefer

Steve Schaefer has written a weekly automotive column for 25 years, testing more than 1,100 cars. Now, he’s focusing on EVs and hybrids. Steve remembers the joy of riding in his father’s Austin-Healey. After discovering the August, 1963 issue of Motor Trend, he became entranced with the annual model change, and began stalking dealers’ back lots to catch the new models as they rolled off the transporter. Coming from a family that owned three Corvairs, Steve was one of the first Saturn buyers, earning him a prominent spot in their 1994 product catalogue. To continue the GM tradition, Steve now has a Chevrolet Bolt EV. Steve is a founding member of the Western Automotive Journalists. Read his EV/hybrid blog at stevegoesgreen.com.

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