A bigger player in a segment of two
Toyota introduced the RAV4 Hybrid back in 2015, and although the hybrid remains a lower-volume variant, its importance in the RAV4 lineup continues to grow. Toyota brought the hybrid model back with the fifth-gen RAV4 and hopes to increase its share in a segment of two. The hybrid may only represent about 12 percent of RAV4 sales at the moment, but after our experience with the 2019 model, that number is probably going to keep increasing.
Toyota’s new hybrid SUV is powered by a 2.5-liter four-cylinder unit producing 176 hp and 163 lb-ft of torque. That engine is mated to an electric motor sending 118 hp and 149 lb-ft of torque to the front wheels and 54 hp and 89 lb-ft to the rear wheels for a combined system output of 219 hp, more than the last-gen hybrid’s 194 hp and the 2019 non-hybrid’s 203 hp. The Japanese automaker made a few changes to this system from the previous RAV4 Hybrid, including new transaxle mounts for the electric motors and improvements to the variable cooling system. The battery pack is a nickel-metal hydride unit like before, and the transmission is an electronically controlled CVT with sequential shift modes. All 2019 RAV4 Hybrids will continue to have standard all-wheel drive.
Although the new RAV4 Hybrid makes more power, it also saves more gas. Toyota estimates the 2019 model will deliver 41/37 mpg (5.7/6.4 L/100km) in city/highway; that’s much better than the 2018 model, which got 34/30. In comparison, the 2019 Nissan Rogue Hybrid AWD delivers 31/34 mpg (7.6/6.9 L/100km) (or 33/35 mpg (7.1/6.7 L/100km) with front-wheel drive), giving the RAV4 a bigger advantage over its main hybrid competitor. Non-hybrid 2019 RAV4 AWDs are EPA rated at 25-27/33-34 mpg (9.4-8.7/7.1-6.9 L/100km).
As we found out during our testing at SUV of the Year, the 2019 RAV4 Hybrid XSE went from 0 to 60 mph in 7.5 seconds, an improvement from the 7.8 seconds it took the 2016 model in our testing. The 2019 RAV4 Hybrid needed 15.6 seconds to complete the quarter mile at 90.4 mph (145.5 km/h), better than the 2016 model (16.0 seconds at 86.4 mph (139 km/h)). Where the new hybrid model underperformed was braking distance. The 2019 RAV4 XSE Hybrid stopped from 60 to 0 mph in 143 feet, compared to the 131 feet it took an AWD 2019 Adventure non-hybrid model. I mention the non-hybrid model because both SUVs were tested in the same conditions on the same day. Although the soaring temps were a crucial factor for braking distances on vehicles tested that day, the difference between the models is significant. Both models have the same brake size (12.0 inches in the front, 11.1 inches in the rear), so we think the hybrid’s regenerative braking or its additional 167 pounds (76 kg) could have led to the longer distance.
Even so, many MotorTrend staffers still liked driving the hybrid more than the non-hybrid model. Features editor Christian Seabaugh wants the powertrain expanded to all RAV4s, adding it was “much smoother and more pleasant an experience than the I-4.” Technical director Frank Markus also appreciated the powertrain but complained about the hybrid’s chassis when really pushing the car on a winding road. “Those persuaded by the great new looks of the RAV4 should save up for the hybrid model. This is the best-sorted powertrain of the bunch. Sadly its chassis still got so out of shape as to cause the stability control to generate audible and feelable clunks as it braked the various corners,” he said.
Like the previous generation, a few aesthetic cues differentiate the hybrid from the non-hybrid model. The Toyota logo has blue accents, and hybrid badges can be seen on the sides of the vehicle. Inside, we dig the blue stitching on our XSE tester’s seats, center console, and door panels, as well as the blue needles on the dashboard gauges. The 8.0-inch touchscreen can display the hybrid powertrain’s battery activity, just like we’ve seen in other Toyotas including the Prius.
Given that the hybrid’s battery pack is located underneath the back seat, the interior space isn’t compromised. Seats can still be folded flat, and just like the non-hybrid version, five people can sit inside comfortably. Cargo space remains 37.0 to 37.6 cubic feet behind the second-row seats, just like the standard models. Although senior production editor Zach Gale noticed the RAV4 Hybrid was more spacious than other non-hybrid SUVs, he missed the ability to fold the rear seats from the cargo area and the wide-opening rear doors still offered by the Subaru Forester and Honda CR-V.
Neither of those two competitors currently offers a hybrid model in the North America, however. On the RAV4 Hybrid, a sport mode changes throttle mapping and the way the transmission works, making the RAV4 feel more responsive. And just like its name suggests, an eco mode alters performance to attain the best fuel economy possible. There’s also a small button located below the rotary knob for the drive mode selector called “EV Mode,” which provides a very small all-electric range only if there’s enough juice in the battery.
Just like on non-hybrid versions, Toyota Safety Sense will be standard on all hybrid models. The package includes a pre-collision warning with pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control, lane departure alert with steering assist, automatic high-beams, lane tracing assist, and road sign assist. XLE and above will also get blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic braking as standard equipment.
Four trims will be available once the RAV4 Hybrid arrives in March 2019. The LE base model will start at $28,745 USD; the XLE will go for $30,545 USD; and XSE and Limited will start at $34,745 USD and $36,745 USD, respectively. Our XSE model was equipped with the Advanced Technology package ($640 USD), the Weather Prep Package ($375 USD, heated steering wheel and rain-sensing wipers), the Premium Audio Package with Navi & JBL ($1,620 USD), and a panoramic moonroof ($200 USD), leaving an estimated as-tested price of $38,024 USD (our tester also had a few accessories, the prices of which were not yet available). Depending on the trim, the premium for going hybrid may not be as much as you think, but like we said before, this powertrain is worth it. Plus, over time, you’ll save more money when you hit the gas station.
|2019 Toyota RAV4 XSE Hybrid|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$38,024 (est)|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV|
|ENGINE||2.5L/176-hp/163-lb-ft DOHC 16-valve I-4 plus 118-hp (front) + 54-hp (rear)/149-lb-ft (front) + 89-lb-ft (rear) electric motor; 219 hp comb|
|TRANSMISSION||Cont variable auto|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||3,825 lb (56/44%)|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||180.9 x 73.0 x 66.9 in|
|0-60 MPH||7.5 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||15.6 sec @ 90.4 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||143 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.75 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||28.4 sec @ 0.61 g (avg)|
|REAL MPG, CITY/HWY/COMB||Not tested|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||41/38/39 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY||82/89 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||0.49 lb/mile|