Our Testing Of The Toyota Rav4 Plug-In Hybrid

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While Toyota was already considered the benchmark brand for hybrids, its RAV4 plug-in, or rechargeable, version demonstrates brilliantly that the Japanese manufacturer really masters the subject at the end of the line.



Electrical autonomy
Sobriety worthy of a diesel engine


Clumsy behaviour
Traction/braking with mixed tires
High price

Hybrid…to plug in

Do you prefer your phone with or without wires? While no one asks this question in the age of the smartphone, there is nothing incongruous about it when choosing a hybrid car. Toyota, a master in the field, offers, after the Prius, both possibilities on its SUV Rav4 with, on the one hand, the wireless version and now this plug-in, a rechargeable version capable of driving much longer on electricity thanks to its large battery. And not just a little! The Japanese giant promises a range close to the symbolic bar of 100 km in town (98 to be precise) and obviously an average consumption worthy of a science fiction movie with, according to the WLTP homologation cycle, 1 l/100 km of super on average and emissions of 22 g of CO2/km.

Of course, if you’re a loyal follower of L’Automobile Magazine, you know that there’s a world between real life and official speech thanks to our measured tests whose protocol is ISO certified. Above all, you also know that Plug-in hybrids often lose their virtue when their battery is low and fuel consumption explodes. Well you know what? If the Rav4 Plug-in Hybrid doesn’t deliver all the promised prowess, it still left us stunned. Here’s how it works…

A mastered technology


Toyota’s hybrid knows it on the shelf. And for good reason: the Japanese manufacturer was the first to believe in it when it launched the very first generation of Prius twenty-three years ago (we’re not getting any younger!). In fact, between optimization of the thermal part, perfect management of the electric chapter and setting the whole thing to music, Toyota has constantly reviewed every note of its score to make it more and more perfect. For this RA4V4 plug-in, the fundamentals are the same as for the standard hybrid version with a large thermal four-cylinder (2.5 l) equipped with maximum refinement so that it consumes/pollutes as little as possible. With direct and indirect injection, Atkinson cycle, variable valve timing or optimized friction and a high compression ratio (14:1), it develops 185 hp here, slightly more than in the wireless hybrid version (176 hp). The electric part consists of a lithium ion battery with a generous capacity for a hybrid (18.1 kWh) and two electric motors. One at the front developing 134 kW and another at the rear (40 kW) allowing four-wheel drive without mechanical linkage. All together, this gives a cumulative power output of 306 hp, which is, on paper, a lot to enjoy. But its best performances, this Rav4 doesn’t get them where we imagine it to…

Tone and sobriety

Indeed, if this beautiful baby curling with the two tons (1,993 kg according to our measurements) has tonus to spare with sharp accelerations and acceleration that are as much so, making overtaking very safe, his greatest feat is at the pump that he achieves it. Thus, with a weak battery, the Japanese driver is content, according to our measurements, with an average of 6.5 l/100 km of super, which is no more than an equivalent (good) diesel SUV. Admittedly, very big drivers will have to think twice before giving up the fat fuel because this Rav4, like any hybrid, still has a slightly high appetite on the highway (7.9 l/100 km) but the overall picture is quite satisfactory. The Japanese SUV also delights with its all-electric driving range. 62 km in the city, 52 km on the highway and a ridiculous 44 km on the highway, provided you play the game by plugging it in frequently you can make your daily trips without consuming a single liter of fuel. Great job!

A pleasant drive but…

An SUV is obviously not a sports car. So even if this RAV4 delivers nice performance and offers a comfortable compromise between comfort and honest handling, you will always have to keep this in mind, especially since the tires provided on our test model (from Yokohama) are not very inviting for a manly drive. In addition to a not very convincing grip in corners, especially on wet roads, these “green and mixed” tires are probably partly responsible for the poor braking distances we found (72 m to stop from 130 km/h).

That said, since a hybrid invites you to drive cool to preserve the range and here the battery level, there’s nothing to be dramatic about it. Another often annoying subject for the Japanese manufacturer, this Rav4 annoys less than other Toyota hybrids and the famous “motor pedaling in the sauerkraut” effect due to the CVT-effect transmission. In addition to the progress of the Japanese manufacturer in this matter, this RAV4 Plug In Hybrid immediately pushes hard which invites to release the gas pedal earlier and thus to cut short the holler of the combustion engine.

Obviously if the vehicle offers several driving programs to make its driving more or less sporty, the most interesting programs are those concerning the battery management with four proposals, 100% electric, 100% hybrid, an automatic mode and a recharging mode that allows to fill up the battery while driving. But beware because the latter makes you drink a lot of 2.5 (up to 11.5 l/100 km on the road!).

A dear friend of the family


Thanks to its generous size (4.60 m long), the Rav4 loves mommy daddy and children. On board, there is space in front as well as behind and even if it loses a bit of trunk space compared to the standard version with a 3.5 cm raised floor, the rechargeable version will accept without raising an eyebrow all the junk to go on vacation with, according to our measurements, 350 dm3 (-30 compared to the standard Rav4) under the luggage cover. However, before making it the family’s best friend, you’ll have to deal with a price that is not really friendly. Even if Toyota offers an unconditional €3000 discount for its launch, an operation that won’t last long, the price of the basic finish is €49,650. A nice amount but from which you can, at least until the end of the year, subtract €2000 of ecological bonus.


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Written by senhaji

senhaji ’s obsession with cars passed the “unhealthy” mark long ago. From classics to modern performance cars, he loves anything with four wheels, especially if there’s an interesting story attached. When he’s not writing automotive news articles for High Gear Media, Stephen can often be found combing through local car shows for something he hasn’t seen before, and sharing the results with anyone on the Internet willing to pay attention. Stephen has a Master's degree in History from Clark University. He currently lives in Connecticut.

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