Road Test: 2017 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid SE

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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Road Test: 2017 Nissan Rogue Hybrid

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Road Test: 2017 Ford C-Max Hybrid

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.

Road Test: 2017 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid XLE AWD

Road Test: 2017 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid XLE AWD

RAV4 = Recreational Active Vehicle, 4-Wheel Drive

Toyota must be doing something right with the RAV4. Making its North American debut in 1996, the RAV4 took the car world by storm and has been one of the best-selling small crossovers on the market ever since. In 2016, Toyota added its proven hybrid technology to the RAV4, making it the best-selling hybrid all-wheel drive small crossover. But two years in the fast-changing automotive landscape means working hard to stay on top of your game. For consumers, the 2017 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid plays the comparison game very well with a balanced offering of interior size, fuel economy and price. In the market for a hybrid, all-wheel drive compact crossover? The RAV4 has to be on your shopping list.

Drivetrain

The all-wheel drive 2017 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid is powered by a parallel hybrid drivetrain, which Toyota calls their Hybrid Synergy Drive. In the parallel hybrid system, the electric motor can power the car by itself, the gas engine can power the car by itself or they can power the car together.

2017 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

Toyota s hybrid SUV is a best-seller

The Hybrid Synergy Drive system comprises a 2.5-liter, 16-valve I-4 engine, that runs on unleaded regular. The internal combustion engine (ICE) produces 150 horsepower (hp) and 152 pounds-feet of torque. The hybrid portion consists of two electric motor generators (MG 1 and MG2): MG 1 starts the ICE and charges the nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) hybrid battery, while MG2 drives the wheels and regenerates during braking and coasting, producing 134 hp. Combined Hybrid Synergy Drive system horsepower is 194.

The power gets to all four wheels via a Continuously Variable Transmission, CVT, delivering 34 city/30 highway for a combined 32 mpg. In 559 miles of 65-percent highway/35-percent city driving, Clean Fleet Report achieved an average of 35.2 mpg. It is always nice topping the EPA estimate!

Driving Experience: On the Road

Our 2017 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid XLE AWD weighed in at a solid 3,925 lbs. which placed the 2.5L engine on the edge of wanting/needing just a bit more oomph. It ran smooth, quiet and was not buzzy, but when really needed, it just doesn’t deliver enough power. Driver-selectable settings of EV, Eco and Sport offer distinctly different driving opportunities.

  • EV runs solely on electricity for about a half mile at no more than 25 miles per hour.
  • Eco prioritizes fuel economy by optimizing throttle response and reducing the air conditioning output.
  • Sport sharpens the shift points, throttle response and steering feel. Selecting Sport mode will get you to 0–60 between eight and nine seconds. Respectful enough, but certainly not a speed burner.

For everyday around-town driving and once up-to-speed on the highway, the performance from Eco was fine. However, load the RAV4 hybrid with five passengers plus their gear and the need for more power will become apparent.

2016_Toyota_RAV4_Hybrid

The seats in the RAV4 make you right at home

The ride was firm, not stiff or harsh, even over bumps and road irregularities. It was smooth on the highway and around town, but the electric-assisted power steering was vague with (manageable) understeer present during hard or high-speed freeway cornering. Understeer happens when entering into a corner and the front end of the car wants to continue straight. In racing terms this is called pushing. Of course, this can be remedied by taking turns and corners slower, but, in the real world of driving, we don’t always take a corner slow enough to avoid the front end of the car wanting to go straight while the road turns. Body roll was acceptable for a small crossover, but there was a bit of floating at freeway speeds. When the road would undulate, it took a few seconds for the suspension to compensate before the RAV4 leveled off again. Wind noise was low with a respectable 0.30 coefficient of drag (Cd).

Clean Fleet Report’s RAV4’s XLE AWD came with 17-inch wheels (18-inch come on the SE and Limited trim levels) and 225/65R all-season tires, MacPherson struts up front, a double wishbone rear suspension, with stabilizer bars all the way around.

Stopping was straight without fade on repeated stops. The four-wheel, power-assisted solid disc brakes with anti-lock brake system, brake assist, electronic brake distribution, vehicle stability control and smart stop technology are all part of Toyota’s Star Safety System.

Driving Experience: Interior

With three hybrid trim levels to choose from (XLE, SE and Limited), Clean Fleet Report drove the XLE version, which featured a dash layout that was simple, with straight-forward gauges and controls, all within easy reach of the driver. We are big fans of knobs and switches for the radio and climate controls, and Toyota did not disappoint in this area. There is a combination of hard and soft plastic on the dash and door panel surfaces, with seating for five and ample rear head and leg room. We appreciated that Toyota resisted the urge to cram a third row into the RAV4 and that the rear seats recline a few inches from upright.

2017 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

Toyota ups the safety tech

Storage is ample with the rear seat up but expansive when the 60/40 rear seat is folded flat—well, almost flat. It is curious that the rear seat does not fold completely flat, something that is de rigueur for crossovers and SUVs. Access to the storage area is through a manual liftgate (power on the SE and Limited models) and a convenient low lift-over load height.

Toyota describes the RAV4 interior as a “cavernous cabin”—maybe a bit of hyperbole—but a statement we can mostly get behind. Our RAV4 interior was two-toned black and gray, with sturdy fabric seat coverings. The manual six-way adjustable driver’s seat and four-way adjustable passenger seat were confortable. We also liked the center armrest’s correct height and large storage area and the eight cup holders scattered throughout the cabin.

There was no challenge finding a correct seating position with the tilt-and-telescopic steering column. Audio controls for the Entune Multimedia Bundle ($525 option) were mounted on the leather-wrapped steering wheel. The bundle includes a seven-inch touchscreen color display that handled navigation, the backup camera, SiriusXM (three-month trial subscription), AM/FM/HD/CD/MP3 driving six-speakers, USB port with iPod connectivity, Aux-in jacks, advanced voice recognition, Bluetooth streaming audio and hands-free telephone. The Entune bundle also includes a wide array of apps and other audio features.

Other nice interior highlights are A/C, power windows and door locks, power and heated outside mirrors, power moonroof, carpeted floor mats, rear shelf cover, exterior temperature display, remote keyless entry system, day/night rearview mirror and 12-volt accessory outlets.

Driving Experience: Exterior

The 2017 RAV4 Hybrid design cues continue a sharp edge look. Toyota says the redesigned front bumper has a more “rugged look,” where chrome accent pieces are kept to a minimum. Halogen projector beam headlights, daytime running lights and integrated fog lights complete a tasteful front end. The hood sweeps up-to the laid-back windshield, which leads to a rail-equipped roof with a shark fin antenna. It all ends with a built-in spoiler over the rear hatch glass. The shelf-like rear tail light design is an acquired taste, but is another RAV4 design cue.

Safety and Convenience

The 2017 RAV4 Hybrid AWD has a 5 Star government safety rating and comes with safety and convenience features including six air bags, remote keyless entry, a tire pressure monitoring system and the previously mentioned vehicle stability assist, traction control and four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes with brake assist. Clean Fleet Report was impressed that Toyota’s pre-collision system with pedestrian detection was standard on the base XLE. Also standard were lane departure alert and dynamic radar cruise control.

Pricing and Warranties

2017 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid AWD pricing:

XLE              $29,030

SE                 $32,185

Limited        $34,030

2017 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

The RAV4’s highway road manners come up short

Clean Fleet Report was driving the 2017 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid XLE AWD with the optional Entune Premium Audio package that added $525. Our car’s MSRP was $29,555. All listed prices exclude the $940 delivery, processing and handling fee.

The 2017 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid comes with these warranties.

  • Comprehensive               36 months/36,000 miles
  • Powertrain                        60 months/60,000 miles
  • Corrosion/Perforation   60 months/Unlimited miles
  • Hybrid Components       96 months/100,000 miles
  • Complimentary Service 24 months/25,000 miles

Observations: 2017 Toyota RAV4 XLE Hybrid AWD

Good for the environment, high level of standard features on the base model, and excellent fuel economy—not a bad way to start describing the best-selling hybrid compact crossover. However, with the hybrid technology, the base price is almost $30,000. The most recent (Sept. 2017) breakout of RAV4 non-hybrid and hybrid sales put the numbers at:

  • August: Hybrid, 5,128; Total RAV4, 43,265 (12 percent)
  • Nine months: Hybrid, 30,593; Total RAV4, 269,835 (11 percent)
2016_Toyota_RAV4_Hybrid

Toyota continues to push its hybrid technology into more models

The 2017 Toyota RAV4 is in possibly the most competitive category (compact crossover/SUV) with some very stout competition. With Honda CR-V, Chevrolet Equinox, Ford Escape, Kia Niro and Sportage, Nissan Rogue, Mazda CX-5, Jeep Cherokee, Subaru Forester – and many more making-up a dizzying array of brands and models – how does Toyota make the RAV4 Hybrid stand out?

The RAV4 Hybrid offers impressive interior room, good driving pleasure, safety and, of course, hybrid technology that delivers high fuel economy at a good price and value. Do you need to seat five adults or a couple of kids in the rear seat? Does 30+ mpg excite you? Hint: it should! If so, the RAV4 Hybrid should be on your shopping list.

Since there are so many very good vehicles in this segment your consideration list will be and should be quite long. Have confidence though that after all your diligent research, shopping and test drives, you will end-up with a compact crossover that meets your needs.

Whatever you buy, Happy Driving!

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Road Test: 2017 Kia Niro Hybrid (John’s view)

First Drive: 2017 Mazda CX-5

Road Test: 2017 Nissan Rogue Hybrid (John’s view)

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Road Test: 2016 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

Road Test: 2015 Honda CR-V

Road Test: 2014 Subaru Forester

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. We also feature those 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.