The Better Choice of a Best-Seller

2017 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid Limited
2017 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid Limited – All Photos by Randy Stern

A Victory & Reseda review of the 2017 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

Hell just froze over at Toyota's new North American headquarters in Plano, Texas.

They just moved onto the new campus north of Dallas when the August sales were released to the media. The report yielded confirmation of a suspicion I had in regards to the model mix and sales volumes of late. What Toyota customers were doing was following an industry trend that favored SUVs and Crossovers over Sedans.

In August of 2017, Toyota customers took delivery of more RAV4s than Camrys and Corollas. Not just by a few thousand units, mind you, While Toyota sold 37,051 Camrys that month, they also sold 43,265 RAV4s. That's over 6,000 units between the two!

Beyond following an industry-wide trend, this is simply a historic feat. No one thought that Toyota would sell that high of a volume of their beloved compact SUV. Let alone driving double-digit growth on both a year-to-year and annualized rates. And, what's driving the growth of the RAV4? Incentives? Discounts? Attractive financing and/or leasing?

It is actually two-fold. One is a hugely improved product a year removed from its mid-cycle refresh. The other is the addition of the Hybrid model to the lineup.

2017 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid Limited

We already established that Toyota is a leader in hybrid propulsion systems. The Hybrid Synergy Drive system has seen life in various products, including Lexus models. From its humble roots underneath the first-generation Prius. The Hybrid Synergy Drive system has grown to help improve fuel economy, exhaust emissions, and overall operational efficiency in every model this system is installed in.

It was a matter of time when we would see a RAV4 Hybrid. That happened two years ago. It took a while to get one to see how much it added to the transformation of Toyota's best seller into a vehicle people want to buy.

One thing to note about the RAV4 Hybrid is how much it shares its look with its non-Hybrid counterparts. If you drove a non-hybrid RAV4 next to a Hybrid, the only differences would be the specific badges for the latter. This is something we're seeing a lot from Toyota – and its highly welcomed.

The RAV4 itself is still a handsome vehicle, with the sharp nose and lower grilles up front, sculptured taillamps integrated out back, and the familiar and distinctive glass profile along the side. My tester was the Limited model, which showed off some shinier alloy wheels and some trimming to raise the luxury quotient for this popular SUV. One thing that you cannot ignore is the fact you can tell a RAV4 from afar. Not to mention that there so a lot of them on the road nowadays.

2017 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid Limited

Familiarity is a good thing. It translates in and around the vehicle. That is true for the interior. The instrumentation is very familiar to RAV4 drivers, with the exception of the Hybrid power dial replacing the tachometer. The center stack is superb with a high placement of the infotainment suite and perfect location for the climate controls. Everything falls into place, especially down in the center console. Plus, this tester came with a set of 11 JBL GreenEdge speakers that actually sounded very nice. With a couple of minor pieces, the continuity between the regular and Hybrid RAV4 is excellent.

That continuity continues in a trim level I have yet to experience – the Limited. This has to be one of the finest cabins I have been over three current generation RAV4s. The mix of Black and Cinnamon SofTex upholstery and tasteful black trim makes it inviting. The feedback I got from you was it reminded one of a Lexus than a Toyota – a heck of a compliment for the RAV4. The seats are comfortable and enjoyable over long distances. Rear seat room is superb. Cargo space is inviting with 35.6 cubic feet behind the rear seat, expandable to 70.6 cubic feet with it down. In all, this is a cabin I wouldn't mind driving in at all.

Perhaps the best part lies underneath the hood. While the standard driveline is good, the Hybrid one is better. The combination of the 2.5-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine with an electric motor puts out a net rating of 194 horsepower. This is combined with a Continuously Variable Transmission and an electronic all-wheel-drive system that operates on-demand. The result is a fantastic driveline that offers more punch than the non-hybrid one. The response is superb and the CVT acts almost as normal as its geared counterpart when it comes to throttle response.

As for fuel economy, how about an average of 30.8 MPG in my care? I saw a high spike of 34.5 MPG. If there is a huge reason to get the RAV4 Hybrid than the other models – it should the way it sips fuel. One thing to note is that you lose a bit more than a gallon in fuel tank capacity over the non-Hybrid model. Would it be nice to have at least another 30 miles to your driving range?

2017 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid Limited

For RAV4 drivers, you will find that there is no difference between a Hybrid and non-Hybrid in terms of driving character and dynamics. Just like they did to the Camry Hybrid, Toyota left everything else engineering-wise well alone. The ride quality is good, as is the handling and cornering. Brakes are fine, without the regenerative dealy found on a lot of hybrids. Pedal action is good, as well as stops in normal and panic situations. The steering is fine, even with a numb wheel response, but a solid turning radius.

Regular RAV4s are priced from $24,410 with the LE model and front-wheel drive. Hybrid models start at $29,030 for an XLE trim and all-wheel drive. My all-wheel-drive Hybrid Limited tester came with a sticker price of $37,057.

For being the best-selling non-pickup truck in the USA, the RAV4 offers a solid package that customers have been buying and leasing in droves over. The Hybrid is not exactly the icing on the cake, but a layer of baked goodness inside of it translated into a powerful, economical, practical and capable machine for families of four-to-five. It is also great for active sustainable lifestyles.

2017 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid Limited

What makes the RAV4 a tempting buy is the choice of eight trim levels, including three Hybrids. This is why Toyota has been a leader in Hybrid vehicles because you can't simply offer just one hybrid gas-electric model. The driveline inside of the RAV4 is the best of all four offered by the brand. You are indeed the winner as a consumer of sustainable goods at Toyota because you absolutely have the power of choice across the lineup. This makes Toyota hotter than anything around its new Plano, Texas headquarters.

DISCLAIMER: Vehicle provided by Toyota Motor Sales USA

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