The Toyota RAV4 that emerged an all-new generation SUV in 2013 features a stylish refresh this year with a bolder front fascia, restyled bumpers, and sharper rocker panels. That’s not the big news for 2016, though, because the RAV4 now features an important new addition – the first-ever hybrid powertrain in the RAV4.
While an all-electric RAV4 variant developed with Tesla had previously been offered in limited numbers and markets beginning in 2012 and an earlier generation RAV4 EV was offered in small numbers in the late 1990s, this is a very different scenario. Toyota has priced the RAV4 Hybrid base price aggressively at $28,370 and expects it to represent about 10 to 15 percent of all 2016 RAV4 models sold.
Toyota's two-motor Hybrid Synergy Drive system is used in the 2016 RAV4 Hybrid, the same as in the Lexus NX 300h hybrid crossover. In this application the RAV4 Hybrid comes with Electronic On-Demand AWD-I, making all-wheel-drive standard in the model. Fuel efficiency is rated at 34 mpg in the city and 31 mpg on the highway. Driving range is just over 480 miles.
The RAV4 Hybrid integrates a 2.5-liter Atkinson-cycle 4-cylinder gasoline engine and 141 horsepower electric motor to drive the front wheels. A 67 horsepower electric motor provides torque to the rear wheels when the vehicle’s control system senses power is needed. Electrical energy is provided by a nickel-metal-hydride battery pack. An electronically controlled continuously variable transmission is used. Several operating modes are provided. ECO mode favors fuel economy by optimizing throttle response and air conditioning output. EV mode allows the RAV4 Hybrid to run solely on battery power for about a half-mile while traveling below 25 mph.
Inside, more premium features are used this year including soft-touch materials on the dash and door panels and a leather steering wheel. A 4.2-inch TFT multi-information display is included in a revised gauge cluster. The five passenger crossover offers ample room for five adults plus 38.4 cubic feet of cargo capacity behind the rear seats, expanding to 73.4 cubic feet with the 60/40 split rear seats folded. Rear-passenger knee room is enhanced with front seats that feature a slim seat back. The rear seatbacks also recline several degrees for added passenger comfort.
The RAV4 Hybrid is one of the first U.S. models to offer Toyota Safety Sense (TSS), a new multi-feature safety system that includes forward collision warning and automatic pre-collision braking. There is also lane-departure alert, radar-based adaptive cruise control, pedestrian pre-collision warning, and automatic high beams. A new Bird's Eye View Monitor with Perimeter Scan provides a live rotating 360-degree view of the surroundings on a 7-inch touchscreen using four cameras mounted on the front, side mirrors, and rear of the car. Limited models include blind-spot monitors with cross-traffic alerts as well.
Subaru is somewhat late to the game when it comes to hybrids, with its first entry – the XV Crosstrek Hybrid – making its appearance in dealer showrooms in recent months. It is based on the automaker’s conventional XV Crosstrek crossover model that debuted late last year.
Like all Subaru models except for the rear-drive BRZ sports car, the XV Crosstrek Hybrid features all-wheel drive, in this case the Active Torque Split version of Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive like that used in the non-hybrid XV Crosstrek. The system sends torque to the four wheels all the time and adjusts torque distribution in response to acceleration, cornering, and road conditions.
Likewise, the same 2.0-liter, four-cylinder BOXER engine is installed. The engine is rated at 148 horsepower and 145 lb-ft torque. For its in-house-developed parallel hybrid, Subaru adds an electric motor that’s integrated with the automaker’s Lineartronic continuously variable transmission. The motor supplies an additional 13.4 horsepower and 48 lb-ft torque, mainly to augment power for acceleration and hill climbing. It can also provide a brief period of all-electric driving.
Surprisingly, the Subaru hybrid uses a nickel-metal hydride battery pack rather than the more advanced (and costlier) lithium-ion batteries favored by many of the latest competitive hybrid models. The battery is kept charged via regenerative braking and fuel economy is helped by a stop-start system. This adds up to an estimated 28 mpg in the city and 34 mpg on the highway. This is an improvement of 5 mpg city and 4 mpg highway fuel economy compared to the standard XV Crosstrek.
The XV Crosstrek Hybrid retains the all-terrain capability expected in a Subaru. This includes 8.7-inches of ground clearance, four-wheel independent suspension, and special chassis tuning for more agile handling. The NiMH battery is located beneath the rear seats where it only slightly reduces passenger and cargo capacity.
Subaru’s standard XV Crosstrek Hybrid is available at an MSRP of $25,995. It features a 4.3-inch multi-function color display, exclusive to the XV Crosstrek Hybrid, that shows energy flow according to driving conditions. By switching screens, it displays driving information, entertainment content, and images from its standard rear vision camera. A Touring version is priced at $29,295 that comes with a touch-screen navigation system, leather-trimmed seating, power moon roof, and other upscale features.