News: Volkswagen I.D. R EV To Tackle Pikes Peak

News: Volkswagen I.D. R EV To Tackle Pikes Peak

The “Race to the Clouds” Is About VW’s Overall Electric Vehicle Strategy

In an effort to push the diesel scandal behind them and rebrand itself as an electric-vehicle company, Volkswagen has entered the one-off electric I.D. R Pikes Peak race car in the Unlimited class at the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb in Colorado Springs, Colorado, on June 24. The German carmaker is planning to not just win the race, known as the “Race to the Clouds,” but to claim the existing electric car record, which stands at 8:57.118 minutes.

Volkswagen I.D. R

VW races for the clouds on electricity

VW board member Dr. Frank Welsch said, “The hill climb on Pikes Peak will definitely be a real acid test for the electric drive. Customers have always benefited from the findings made in motorsport, and we expect to take these findings and use them as a valuable impetus for the development of future I.D. models.”

The I.D. in the racecar’s name comes from Volkswagen’s forthcoming lineup of all-electric vehicles—the I.D. Buzz minibus and the I.D. The Crozz crossover SUV. The “R” is synonymous with performance cars; VW currently uses it on its Golf R performance model..

Two Electric Motors and One Really Big Rear Wing

The I.D. R’s proportions are typical for a car specifically built for racing. It’s 204.7 inches long, 92.5 inches wide, and 47.2 inches tall, with a 112.2-inch wheelbase. Under its carbon fiber body are a pair of electric motors that put out 680 horsepower and 479 pounds-feet of torque.  Power will be sent to all four wheels, but thanks to its electric power supply, torque will be fed to the wheels that need it most, for active torque vectoring.

With a curb weight under 2,500 pounds, Volkswagen estimates that the I.D. R will hit 60 mph in just 2.25 seconds, which is quicker than the quickest hypercars. To get its EV racer to finish the 12.42-mile race, Volkswagen went with an air-cooled 40 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack, which they tucked both behind and beside the driver. The I.D. R will rely on energy recovery to keep its batteries fed during the race. VW claims that 20 percent of the energy needed to finish the race will be generated while the car is racing.

The oversized wing is there to provide sufficient downforce (despite the thin air at high altitudes) without increasing drag. The rest of the extreme aero package is aided by the ultra-low ride height, taking advantage of the lack of rules in the Unlimited class at Pikes Peak.

The Ultimate Hill Climb Race

Volkswagen I.D. R

A big electric boost is needed to get up the hill

The Race to the Clouds involves a 4,720 vertical-foot climb, 156 corners and just one single attempt. It is not unheard of for finish-line temperatures at the 14,115-foot summit of Pikes Peak to be below freezing with snow still on the ground at the end of June.

Romain Dumas will be the driver responsible for shoving the I.D. R up the mountain as fast as possible. He’s a good choice for the job, with three Pikes Peak and two Le Mans victories under his belt.

Volkswagen’s participation in the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb could be another step to getting the company out from under the cloud caused by its diesel emissions scandal.

Related Stories You Might Enjoy: VW’s Electric Drive

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Road Test: 2018 Chevrolet Equinox Diesel

Road Test: 2018 Chevrolet Equinox Diesel

Compact Crossover Fuel Economy Leader

While the world was distracted by Volkswagen’s diesel woes (resulting in them dropping the wonderful TDI engine from their line-up), Chevrolet snuck in with a very nice turbodiesel that quietly has earned them top fuel economy numbers in the two models where it is available. Clean Fleet Report drove the 2018 Chevrolet Equinox FWD Premier Diesel, and became an instant fan of this versatile, fuel-sipping compact crossover.

Drivetrain

2018 Chevrolet Equinox Diesel

The diesel Equinox has it all–crossover room and utility, an AWD option and the best fuel economy in its class

All-new for 2018, the Equinox 1.6-liter turbodiesel engine puts out 137 horsepower and 240 pounds-feet of torque. The six-speed Hydramatic automatic transmission did what it does best by maximizing shifts and efficiency for excellent fuel economy. The EPA’s rating is 28 city/39 highway/32 combined mpg. But our real-world experience with diesels is that the EPA numbers are conservative—and were they ever this time! In 381 miles of 80-percent highway/20-percent city driving throughout Southern California, Clean Fleet Report achieved an average of 38.2 mpg. But in a 109-mile freeway run using cruise control and not exceeding 65 mph, we achieved an impressive 43.6 mpg. These numbers rival, if not exceed, those of hybrids. We are confident you will get similar numbers on your road trips.

It is important to note that fuel economy reported by Clean Fleet Report are non-scientific, and represent the reviewer’s driving experience in our reviewer’s city. If you live in cold weather, high in the mountains or spend time in the city or stuck in rush hour traffic, then your numbers may differ.

Driving Experience: On the Road

The front-wheel drive 2018 Chevrolet Equinox diesel handled well, with confidence and good road feel on the highway. Maneuvering in town, including parking, was easy in what is a well-balanced crossover. The smooth and stable ride was aided by front MacPherson struts with a stabilizer bar and the rear multi-link suspension. Cornering was level even during quick direction changes, and never felt top heavy. The Michelin Premium LTX all-season tires, riding on 18-inch aluminum wheels, were quiet and sure-footed. Wind noise was not noticeable and the engine was quiet.

2018 Chevrolet Equinox Diesel

Near silent running

Now, about that engine noise. Since it is a diesel, there is a real expectation of hearing a rattle-rattle-rattle coming from under the hood. The only time this is evident, if only the slightest volume, is when first starting the engine. Otherwise, the engine noise is muffled inside the cabin so there is no indication the Equinox is being powered by a diesel, as opposed to either the gasoline 1.5L or 2.0L turbo engine options.

There was plenty of power on the open road where the Equinox diesel would cruise all day at 70+ mph. Getting up to that speed was nothing to brag about, with zero–to-60 times right around 10 seconds to move the 3,327-pound crossover. When the torque kicks-in at 2,000 rpm and the horsepower at 3,750 rpm, the pull is stout and there are no second thoughts for maneuvers such as freeway onramps and passing big rigs on the open highway. So, when merging with highway traffic, it will be necessary to tromp on the accelerator for what seems like a long time before getting in line with the masses, who are most likely exceeding the posted speed limit.

Stopping felt a bit long, but the pedal feel was firm with no fade. The suspension and the stability control were tuned nicely, so the four-wheel disc brakes with ABS and brake assist made for straight and true stops.

Designed to Impress

The redesigned 2018 Chevrolet Equinox is recognizable by its smooth design. It does not have unnecessary scoops and cladding. The pointed front end, with a tasteful chrome grill and swept-back LED headlights, is topped by a clamshell hood. The roof, with chrome rack rails, barely finds a flat spot. Once it rises from the windshield it begins sloping to the rear hatch, which is topped with a shark fin antenna and a built-in spoiler and rear wiper. The power, hands-free hatch is bordered by LED taillights, and has a subtle blue Eco badge designating this Equinox as diesel-powered.

Inviting Interior

2018 Chevrolet Equinox Diesel

Inviting you to stay a while

Clean Fleet Report tested the 2018 Chevrolet Equinox with the Premier trim line, which pretty much included everything you would want or need for an accommodating driving experience. Everything in the interior is within easy reach, with leather seats front and rear. The leather quality is a notch below what we usually see in a top-of-the-line crossover, but it was functional, including the perforated and heated power front seats. The leather rear seats, which include a folding armrest with cup holders, split 60/40 and are best suited for two adults, or three children.

The center dash in our Equinox Premier housed an 8.0-inch color touchscreen housing the rear vision camera and Chevrolet’s MyLink infotainment system, which included Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. The six-speaker sound system plays AM/FM/CD/MP3/AUX and Sirius/XM (with a 90-day introductory subscription). The Bluetooth worked very well for voice recognition. Most of the entertainment is controlled by switches on the leather-covered steering wheel. We would have liked knobs and wheels to control the radio, but the touch system worked well after a short learning period.

The Equinox Premier is well-equipped with convenience features including: wireless phone charging, a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hot spot, remote keyless entry with remote start, power door locks, cruise control, dual zone automatic climate control, tire pressure monitor, keyless push button on and off, and three years of OnStar.

A note regarding OnStar: a simple push of a button connects you with a friendly General Motors representative to handle emergencies, directions and general assistance to make your driving experience safer and more enjoyable. This is one area where GM is the industry leader and after the three-year service plan expires it is well worth renewing.

Safety, Pricing and Warranties

The 2018 Chevrolet Equinox comes with an extensive list of standard and optional safety features. Since some of the features are available on higher trim levels and through packages, we advise getting your car with as many advanced driver technology and safety features as possible.

2018 Chevrolet Equinox Diesel

The crossover story starts & ends with space

Features available on the Equinox include 10 airbags, a theft deterrent system, forward emergency braking and collision warning, stability control, cruise control, rear cross traffic alert, rear park assist, vehicle stability management, traction control, lane change and side blind zone alert.

The 2018 Equinox comes in three trim levels with three engine options. Clean Fleet Report’s Equinox FWD Premier Diesel, with no options, had an MSRP of $32,985, excluding the $945 destination charge. Diesel model prices start at $31,695 while the entry-level gas model (L 1.5L Turbo) is $24,575. All-wheel drive adds about $3,700 to the base price.

The 2018 Equinox comes with these warranties:

  • Bumper To Bumper    Three years/36,000 miles
  • Powertrain                  Five years/60,000 miles
  • Roadside Assistance  Five years/60,000 miles
  • Corrosion                    Six years/100,000 miles

Observations: 2018 Chevrolet Equinox FWD Premier Diesel

The Equinox is Chevrolet’s second best-selling vehicle in its line-up, only trailing the Silverado pickup. As such an important part of Chevrolet’s quiver, they are not only protective of the Equinox with the gasoline engine options, but by adding the turbodiesel engine have taken the lead in fuel economy for the compact crossover segment.

2018 Chevrolet Equinox Diesel

Enough style; abundant fuel economy

The design is clean and contemporary, but not jerk-your-head-in-awe styling, which most likely is what Chevrolet was going for. The Equinox has to

remain popular with small families and empty nesters; being the trendiest small crossover in the crowd isn’t necessary.

The 2018 Chevrolet Equinox diesel holds its own with competitors regarding fit and finish, technology, safety features and styling. If you are in the market for a small crossover that gets excellent fuel economy, then visiting your Chevrolet dealer and taking a lengthy test drive should be on your To Do list.

Whatever you buy, Happy Driving!

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Road Test: 2018 Chevrolet Equinox (gas)

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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.

Event: Acterra Shows How to Go EV

Event: Acterra Shows How to Go EV

Earth Day Event Makes Personal Electric Vehicle Connections

On a beautiful Spring day in Palo Alto, Saturday, April 14, EV owners offered test drives and showcased their vehicles to attendees of the 2018 Earth Day Festival in Palo Alto. The event was put on by Acterra, a Palo Alto-based group that brings people together to create local solutions for a healthy planet. As an Acterra EV Ambassador, I brought my Kinetic Blue Bolt EV, and was joined by owners of Nissan Leafs, Volkswagen e-Golfs, BMW i3s, Fiat 500es, Teslas and other popular electric vehicles.

Acterra EV Event

The chance to drive an EV before you buy

I was one of the folks who left their car parked and had many interesting conversations, answering questions and demonstrating features of the car, while helping people understand how much fun it is to drive an EV, and how we deal with their few shortcomings.

My car was first in line of the staged vehicles, next to a VW e-Golf and Nissan Leaf–two direct competitors. We owners had fun chatting when no visitors were around. Everyone has a story. The VW e-Golf next to my car was a late ’16, so the lease deal was amazing; after a significant down payment, just $75/month! The white ’16 Leaf behind it, owned by my friend Greg, was purchased used, at a significant cost saving over a new one. That’s a good example of how to get into EV driving without a huge initial outlay.

A Chance to Get Behind the Wheel

Acterra EV Event

This event answered all of the questions

Not only were cars on display, but a number of them were also available for test drives, as seen by the orange Bolt, black BMW i3 and silver 2018 Leaf driving through the area in the photo. This gave attendees a chance to get behind the wheel and viscerally sense the smooth, quick, quiet EV benefits. There were three Bolts available, as well as the two stationary ones, so we were well-represented.

There were information booths, including Acterra, charger manufacturer ChargePoint and the City of Palo Alto. I spoke with Hiromi Kelty, City of Palo Alto utility program manager, who told me that 20 percent of Palo Altans drive EVs compared to three percent statewide. She also told me about the EV charger rebate that organizations in Palo Alto can receive when they install EV chargers–up to $30,000. For more information, go to cityofpaloalto.org/electricvehicle or call (650) 329-2241.

Toys Allowed

Some folks brought their toys

I showed my car to dozens of people and had some interesting conversations. I allowed one 6-foot-5 man to adjust my seat, steering wheel, and mirrors to see if he fit in the car and could see if he was driving. The good news is that he did fit! The bad news is that it took a while to get my driving position back to normal. But I was glad to do it.

One man, who was sharing rides in his new Tesla Model 3, brought along a battery-powered skateboard. At $1,500, it’s an expensive toy, but could be useful for traveling between mass transit and your workplace–or for good clean fun. I declined a test ride.

When the session was over, around 1:30, we put away our signs, folded our tents, and drove our EVs home. It felt like a worthwhile experience. I only hope that someone we spoke with will decide to get their own EV.

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Road Test: 2018 Hyundai Sonata Eco

Road Test: 2018 Hyundai Sonata Eco

Hyundai’s Value Midsize Sedan

With consumers attracted to SUVs and crossovers in growing numbers, the family sedan is slowly being surpassed as America’s favorite car of choice. Hyundai is having none of it. It offers the midsize Sonata sedan in seven trim levels (that’s gas only, not counting the more expensive, but also more efficient hybrid and plug-in hybrid models). The 2018 Hyundai Sonata Eco is the smart value choice; it makes a compelling case for why the sedan’s obituary is premature. Clean Fleet Report took a look at the 2018 Hyundai Sonata Eco, with an eye out for if the word “eco” meant dollar savings or fuel savings. Turns out it is a bit of both.

Drivetrain and Performance

The Sonata Eco is powered by a 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, producing 178 horsepower and 195 pounds-feet of torque. For the “eco,” as in “economical” tag to be realized, Hyundai chose to drive the front wheels with a seven-speed EcoShift DCT (dual-clutch) automatic transmission. The engine was smooth and the transmission seamless, both in-town and in freeway driving. There are three driver-selectable drive modes of Eco, Comfort and Sport. These are fairly self-explanatory with Eco producing the best fuel economy, Sport altering the transmission shifts, throttle programming and steering response, and Comfort falling somewhere in between the two.

2018 Hyundai Sonata Eco

An argument to keep the family sedan

EPA fuel economy estimates are 28 city/37 highway/31 combined miles per gallon. In 357 miles of freeway and city driving, we averaged 33.3 mpg, but on a 200-mile open freeway run, using cruise control set to 65 mph, we averaged an impressive 34.6 mpg. This shows that Hyundai had it about right slapping the “eco” badge on this Sonata.

It is important to note that fuel economy reported by Clean Fleet Report is non-scientific and represents the reviewer’s driving experience. If you live in cold weather, high in the mountains or spend time in the city or stuck in rush hour traffic, then your numbers may differ.

In a few unscientific acceleration runs, the Sonata Eco traveled zero–to 60 in about 8.67 seconds. The time did not vary much leaving the car in automatic or opting for Shiftronic, where you can manually select gears by pushing forward to upshift and backward to downshift. During lane passes at highway speeds and climbing hills, the seven-speed automatic shifted up-and-down seamlessly and precisely.

Driving Experience: On the Road

2018 Hyundai Sonata Eco

Smooth lines; smooth ride

Weighing in at 3,247 lbs., the 2018 Hyundai Sonata Eco performed well in all driving situations, which isn’t always the case when a car is shod with 16-inch tires. The suspension was stiff enough to produce good handling while not sacrificing ride comfort. Handling was aided by stability and traction control systems, resulting in little body roll until pushed past its limits when cornering. Stopping was consistent from the four-wheel disc, ABS system with brake assist.

Driving Experience: Exterior

Redesigned for 2018, Hyundai says the Sonata is “all about making an impact…and to deliver an exciting expressive car.” Coming from Hyundai’s California Design Studio, the Sonata, aiming for an “American aesthetic,” features a clean design that will hold-up well over the years. Beginning with what Hyundai calls their front cascading grille, the projector headlights wrap far back onto the fenders. Except for the shark fin antenna set just above the rear solar control glass window, the line from the front fascia to the rear built-in deck spoiler is unobstructed. There are tasteful chrome accents around the tail lights and the logo badge, and on the single chrome exhaust tip.

Driving Experience: Interior

2018 Hyundai Sonata Eco

A dash that works

Also redesigned for 2018, the Sonata’s interior is an easy place to spend your time. Easy, as in the high mounted touchscreen is easy to read and the wide-spread radio and climate knobs are easy to reach and control. The Eco model has cloth seats with manual adjustments and comes nicely equipped with tilt and telescoping steering wheel, power windows, A/C and a 60/40 split folding rear seat back.

The steering wheel has controls for the cruise control, audio, Bluetooth streaming and hands-free telephone. The 7.0-inch full-color display is home for the AM/FM with MP3, iPod and USB ports, plus Aux-in jacks.

Rear seat head, shoulder and leg room was ample for six-foot passengers, with two being the optimum number of adults for a road trip of any length.

Pricing, Safety and Warranties

The 2018 Hyundai Sonata comes in seven models with three gasoline-only engines. It also comes as a hybrid or a hybrid plug-in. Base prices range from $19,300 to $33,100. Clean Fleet Report’s Sonata Eco, with the optional carpeted floor mats at $125, had a MSRP of $22,775. All prices do not include the $885 freight and handling charge.

Hyundai has equipped the Sonata Eco with active and passive safety features, including nine air bags, driver’s blind spot detection with rear cross traffic alert and a rear-view camera. Other features are an energy absorbing steering column, automatic headlights, remote keyless entry, tire pressure monitoring system and a theft-deterrent alarm.

The 2018 Hyundai Sonata Eco has an overall 5-Star rating by the National Highway Transportation Safety Association (NHTSA), and a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), both of which are their highest rankings for safety.

The Eco comes with these warranties:

  • Powertrain                    10 years/100,000 miles
  • New vehicle                  Five years/60,000 miles
  • Roadside Assistance    Five years/Unlimited miles
  • Anti-Perforation            Seven years/Unlimited miles

Observations: 2018 Hyundai Sonata Eco

2018 Hyundai Sonata Eco

Eco-nomical Hyundai

Hyundai has a lot riding on the success of the Sonata. With so many trim levels and engine options, the company is making a statement in the midsize sedan market. Even with the shift to SUVs, it remains one of the biggest segments. The Sonata should be taken seriously; Clean Fleet Report takes the Sonata seriously, and you should too.

Starting with the price point, the Sonata line-up has a compelling story to tell. When you consider the design, interior roominess, standard equipment and fuel economy, the most you will pay for a 2018 Sonata is somewhere around $33,000, and this is only if you opt for the plug-in hybrid. But for the top of the line gasoline-powered Sonata 2.0T Limited, the price is about $29,700. With the average sales price of a car hovering right around $35,000, driving home in a fully optioned midsize sedan for less than the average is saying something.

How a sedan fits your lifestyle will be the key question. If your driving pattern is around town or freeway commuting, and then the occasional vacation, then the Sonata would work just fine. For a family of four, your needs would easily be met.

Whatever you buy, Happy Driving!

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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.

Road Test: 2018 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid SE

Road Test: 2018 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid SE

Great Versatility and Exceptional Fuel Economy

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 a passenger car. 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.

2018 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

Hybrid MPG and AWD=Sales

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 first. Of course, people aren’t confused any more. There were more than 30 hybrid models sold in 90 world markets bearing either the Toyota or Lexus names and sales tallied more than eight million globally before you came to your senses and placed a gasoline-electric powertrain in the RAV4 in 2016.

What’s interesting is, none of those more than eight million hybrid vehicles sold had 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 5 years ago?

Green Car Buyers Love the RAV4 Hybrid

Would’ve, could’ve, should’ve is over. Now in its third year, the RAV4 Hybrid is, gasp, threating to unseat the Prius as Toyota’s best selling hybrid. Through March of this year, the 2018 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid trails the number of Prius’s sold by less than 700 units.

2018 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

The crossover appeal–open up and fill

For 2018, Toyota ushered in a more affordable trim with the introduction of the RAV4 Hybrid LE. At $28,230, including destination charges, the new Hybrid LE is just $1,325 more than an equivalent gas-powered RAV4 LE. That snuffs the argument that hybrids are priced thousands more than standard vehicles and reduces the time it will take to recoop the higher initial costs through fuel savings..

The balance of the lineup includes the XLE ($30.129), SE ($33,284) and the top end Limited ($35,129). All models come standard with all-wheel drive (AWD).

As for fuel economy, the 2018 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid receives an EPA rating of 34 mpg city/ 30 highway/32 combined for all models. That’s nearly 25 percent better than the all-wheel drive gas model’s 26 mpg combined rating. And of course, those EPA numbers earn the RAV4 Hybrid a membership in Clean Fleet Report’s All-Wheel Drive 30 mpg Club.

AAA is forecasting that the national gas price average will be as much as $2.70 per gallon this spring and summer. At that price, it will only take most drivers less than a year to make up the $1,325 difference between the RAV4 Hybrid and the gasoline-only RAV4.

Proven, Familiar Hybrid Drivetrain

The 2018 RAV4 Hybrid uses Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive, a system similar to those in the Toyota Highlander Hybrid SUV, Lexus ES 300 sedan and the Lexus NX 300h small luxury crossover. That means a 150-horsepower, 2.5-liter Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder gas engine is combined with a 141-horsepower small high-torque, permanent-magnet electric motor through the powersplit transaxle. This combination powers the front wheels.

2018 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

More model choices–one engine choice

The rear wheels are powered by a 67-horsepower electric motor that has no mechanical connection to the front wheels. This system is called AWD-i. It allows a great degree of flexibility in the front-to-rear power split. As in most such systems, the RAV4 Hybrid drives its front wheels most of the time.

This provides a pretty good jolt of performance with a combined 194 system horsepower and 206 pounds-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.

The hybrid all-wheel-drive system also allows greater regenerative braking. The system captures electrical energy through all four wheels rather than just the two driven ones as in most hybrids and recharges the nickel metal-hydride battery pack.

A 2016 Refresh

Accompanying the arrival of the 2016 RAV4 Hybrid was a refresh for the compact crossover, which carries over to 2018. The front is more angular with a redesigned grille, thinner LED headlamps and restyled bumper. New rocker panels sharpened 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. 

2018 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

A dash you would expect in a Toyota

The RAV4 Hybrid is a visual departure from a crowded highway of look-alike small crossovers. The sheetmetal forming its wide body dips downward at the side windows, giving it a muscular, ready-for-action look. This is strenghtened by an agressively styled grille and front facia, a sloping hood and kicked-up rear quarter panels. Overall, the RAV4 Hybrid is very much an SUV-looking vehicle.

Inside changes for 2018 were 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 cabin is typical Toyota, with comfortable contoured front seats, well-located controls and gauges and a three-spoke sterring wheel. All-around visibility is quite good, thanks to the sloping hood, tall driving position and generously sized windows. A low step-in height makes it easy to get in and out. In real-world usage, the RAV4 Hybrid is a bit tighter in the back seat than several of its competitors, but luggage volume is decent at 36 cubic feet behind the back row and 71 cubic feet with it folded. That’s only about three cubic feet less than the non-hybrid model. And the lift over height in the rear cargo area is impressively low.

Standard in-cabin tech includes a 4.2-inch instrument panel display and an Entune Audio Plus infotainment system with a 6.1-inch touch screen. Audio is provided by a six-speaker audio system with CD/AM/FM/satellite radio, a USB port with iPod controls, an aux-in jack and Bluetooth. You will notice that Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are missing. Also standard is the Toyota Safety Sense suite of driver assists that includes forward collision warning with pedestrian detection and automatic emergency braking, lane keeping assist, adaptive cruise control and automatic high beams.

Stepping up through the lineup you will find standard, depending on trim levels, a moonroof, a backup camera, HD radio with traffic and weather info, Siri Eyes Free voice recognition and a navigation system. There’s also blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, automatic LED headlights, a height-adjustable power lift gate, an eight-way power driver seat and heated front seats. A $2,785 Advanced Technology Package option includes a surround-view camera, front and rear parking sensors, and an 11-speaker 576-watt JBL Audio system and a slightly larger touch screen.

Not “Fun-To-Drive,” But Competent

Our Ruby Flare Pearl RAV4 Hybrid had a sticker price of $32,185. Add the Advanced Technology Package, a $90 tonneau cover, $95 for the special paint color and a $995 destination chargeand the price tag was $38,450.

2018 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

More pep than the gas-only version, but far from fun-to-drive

Around town it was easy to see why small crosovers have become a huge chunk of the U.S. vehicle market. The RAV4 Hybrid sprinted easily through urban traffic disregarding rough road surfaces and small pot holes with ease. Parking, whether parallel or angle, was as easy as it gets.

The little SUV accelerated quickly from a stop using battery power. Like any hybrid, accelerating to 35 mph using the gas engine, and then lifting slightly, brings electric power into play. I found it easy to run around on battery juice with the gas engine helping out when confronting a hill. The transition between battery power and gasoline power was almost always seamless.

The RAV4 Hybrid accelerated to highway speeds with reasonable enthusiasm. The engine felt peppy and would happily cruise at 80 mph. For a crossover that weighs nearly 4,000 pounds, the RAV4 handled decently around curves at highway speeds, but tight corners reveled ample body roll and a lack of grip from the green-minded tires. Otherwise, the RAV4 Hybrid is comfortable and capable, albeit not at all sporting.

The different drive modes, which include Sport, Eco, and EV, all functioned as advertised. Sport mode livened the Hybrid up and changed the shift logic, making it more eager to drop a few “gears” and make the most of the hybrid powertrain. Eco, which I used in town and cruising on the highway, slowed the throttle response from the normal mode and adjusted the air-conditioning settings, all in the name of improving efficiency. EV mode functions below 25 mph and was most useful in parking garages.

I give a big applause to the engineers who worked on the RAV4 Hybrid’s brakes. The transition between regenerative and mechanical braking was imperceptible. As I have noted many times in my reviews, the EPA rating system needs upgrading. We drove the RAV4 Hybrid fairly hard for 311 miles and ended up with a combined fuel economy of 35.2 mpg, two mpgs better than the EPA’s estimate.

Final Word

The 2018 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid is comfortable for car-pooling, commuting, collecting groceries and dropping kids off for soccer practice. It is also ideal for light off-road action in the backcountry, While there are plenty of competitors—Honda CR-V, Chevrolet Equinox, Mazda CX-5 and Ford Escape to name a few—none can match the RAV4 Hybrid’s fuel economy except for the Nissan Rogue Hybrid. And as mentioned, gasoline prices are heading upwards. In other words, that makes the 2018 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid’s value proposition a little more enticing.

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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.