• 2017 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid
  • 2017 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

Road Test: 2017 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid XLE AWD

RAV4 = Recreational Active Vehicle, 4-Wheel Drive

Toyota must be doing something right with the RAV4. Making its North American debut in 1996, the RAV4 took the car world by storm and has been one of the best-selling small crossovers on the market ever since. In 2016, Toyota added its proven hybrid technology to the RAV4, making it the best-selling hybrid all-wheel drive small crossover. But two years in the fast-changing automotive landscape means working hard to stay on top of your game. For consumers, the 2017 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid plays the comparison game very well with a balanced offering of interior size, fuel economy and price. In the market for a hybrid, all-wheel drive compact crossover? The RAV4 has to be on your shopping list.


The all-wheel drive 2017 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid is powered by a parallel hybrid drivetrain, which Toyota calls their Hybrid Synergy Drive. In the parallel hybrid system, the electric motor can power the car by itself, the gas engine can power the car by itself or they can power the car together.

2017 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

Toyota s hybrid SUV is a best-seller

The Hybrid Synergy Drive system comprises a 2.5-liter, 16-valve I-4 engine, that runs on unleaded regular. The internal combustion engine (ICE) produces 150 horsepower (hp) and 152 pounds-feet of torque. The hybrid portion consists of two electric motor generators (MG 1 and MG2): MG 1 starts the ICE and charges the nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) hybrid battery, while MG2 drives the wheels and regenerates during braking and coasting, producing 134 hp. Combined Hybrid Synergy Drive system horsepower is 194.

The power gets to all four wheels via a Continuously Variable Transmission, CVT, delivering 34 city/30 highway for a combined 32 mpg. In 559 miles of 65-percent highway/35-percent city driving, Smarticd achieved an average of 35.2 mpg. It is always nice topping the EPA estimate!

Driving Experience: On the Road

Our 2017 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid XLE AWD weighed in at a solid 3,925 lbs. which placed the 2.5L engine on the edge of wanting/needing just a bit more oomph. It ran smooth, quiet and was not buzzy, but when really needed, it just doesn’t deliver enough power. Driver-selectable settings of EV, Eco and Sport offer distinctly different driving opportunities.

  • EV runs solely on electricity for about a half mile at no more than 25 miles per hour.
  • Eco prioritizes fuel economy by optimizing throttle response and reducing the air conditioning output.
  • Sport sharpens the shift points, throttle response and steering feel. Selecting Sport mode will get you to 0–60 between eight and nine seconds. Respectful enough, but certainly not a speed burner.

For everyday around-town driving and once up-to-speed on the highway, the performance from Eco was fine. However, load the RAV4 hybrid with five passengers their gear and the need for more power will become apparent.


The seats in the RAV4 make you right at home

The ride was firm, not stiff or harsh, even over bumps and road irregularities. It was smooth on the highway and around town, but the electric-assisted power steering was vague with (manageable) understeer present during hard or high-speed freeway cornering. Understeer happens when entering into a corner and the front end of the car wants to continue straight. In racing terms this is called pushing. Of course, this can be remedied by taking turns and corners slower, but, in the real world of driving, we don’t always take a corner slow enough to avoid the front end of the car wanting to go straight while the road turns. Body roll was acceptable for a small crossover, but there was a bit of floating at freeway speeds. When the road would undulate, it took a few seconds for the suspension to compensate before the RAV4 leveled off again. Wind noise was low with a respectable 0.30 coefficient of drag (Cd).

Clean Fleet Report’s RAV4’s XLE AWD came with 17-inch wheels (18-inch come on the SE and Limited trim levels) and 225/65R all-season tires, MacPherson struts up front, a double wishbone rear suspension, with stabilizer bars all the way around.

Stopping was straight without fade on repeated stops. The four-wheel, power-assisted solid disc brakes with anti-lock brake system, brake assist, electronic brake distribution, vehicle stability control and smart stop technology are all part of Toyota’s Star Safety System.

Driving Experience: Interior

With three hybrid trim levels to choose from (XLE, SE and Limited), Smarticd drove the XLE version, which featured a dash layout that was simple, with straight-forward gauges and controls, all within easy reach of the driver. We are big fans of knobs and switches for the radio and climate controls, and Toyota did not disappoint in this area. There is a combination of hard and soft plastic on the dash and door panel surfaces, with seating for five and ample rear head and leg room. We appreciated that Toyota resisted the urge to cram a third row into the RAV4 and that the rear seats recline a few inches from upright.

2017 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

Toyota ups the safety tech

Storage is ample with the rear seat up but expansive when the 60/40 rear seat is folded flat—well, almost flat. It is curious that the rear seat does not fold completely flat, something that is de rigueur for crossovers and SUVs. Access to the storage area is through a manual liftgate (power on the SE and Limited models) and a convenient low lift-over load height.

Toyota describes the RAV4 interior as a “cavernous cabin”—maybe a bit of hyperbole—but a statement we can mostly get behind. Our RAV4 interior was two-toned black and gray, with sturdy fabric seat coverings. The manual six-way adjustable driver’s seat and four-way adjustable passenger seat were confortable. We also liked the center armrest’s correct height and large storage area and the eight cup holders scattered throughout the cabin.

There was no challenge finding a correct seating position with the tilt-and-telescopic steering column. Audio controls for the Entune Multimedia Bundle ($525 option) were mounted on the leather-wrapped steering wheel. The bundle includes a seven-inch touchscreen color display that handled navigation, the backup camera, SiriusXM (three-month trial subscription), AM/FM/HD/CD/MP3 driving six-speakers, USB port with iPod connectivity, Aux-in jacks, advanced voice recognition, Bluetooth streaming audio and hands-free telephone. The Entune bundle also includes a wide array of apps and other audio features.

Other nice interior highlights are A/C, power windows and door locks, power and heated outside mirrors, power moonroof, carpeted floor mats, rear shelf cover, exterior temperature display, remote keyless entry system, day/night rearview mirror and 12-volt accessory outlets.

Driving Experience: Exterior

The 2017 RAV4 Hybrid design cues continue a sharp edge look. Toyota says the redesigned front bumper has a more “rugged look,” where chrome accent pieces are kept to a minimum. Halogen projector beam headlights, daytime running lights and integrated fog lights complete a tasteful front end. The hood sweeps up-to the laid-back windshield, which leads to a rail-equipped roof with a shark fin antenna. It all ends with a built-in spoiler over the rear hatch glass. The shelf-like rear tail light design is an acquired taste, but is another RAV4 design cue.

Safety and Convenience

The 2017 RAV4 Hybrid AWD has a and comes with safety and convenience features including six air bags, remote keyless entry, a tire pressure monitoring system and the previously mentioned vehicle stability assist, traction control and four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes with brake assist. Smarticd was impressed that Toyota’s pre-collision system with pedestrian detection was standard on the base XLE. Also standard were lane departure alert and dynamic radar cruise control.

Pricing and Warranties

2017 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid AWD pricing:

XLE              $29,030

SE                 $32,185

Limited        $34,030

2017 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

The RAV4’s highway road manners come up short

Smarticd was driving the 2017 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid XLE AWD with the optional Entune Premium Audio package that added $525. Our car’s MSRP was $29,555. All listed prices exclude the $940 delivery, processing and handling fee.

The 2017 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid comes with these warranties.

  • Comprehensive               36 months/36,000 miles
  • Powertrain                        60 months/60,000 miles
  • Corrosion/Perforation   60 months/Unlimited miles
  • Hybrid Components       96 months/100,000 miles
  • Complimentary Service 24 months/25,000 miles

Observations: 2017 Toyota RAV4 XLE Hybrid AWD

Good for the environment, high level of standard features on the base model, and excellent fuel economy—not a bad way to start describing the best-selling hybrid compact crossover. However, with the hybrid technology, the base price is almost $30,000. The most recent (Sept. 2017) breakout of RAV4 non-hybrid and hybrid sales put the numbers at:

  • August: Hybrid, 5,128; Total RAV4, 43,265 (12 percent)
  • Nine months: Hybrid, 30,593; Total RAV4, 269,835 (11 percent)

Toyota continues to push its hybrid technology into more models

The 2017 Toyota RAV4 is in possibly the most competitive category (compact crossover/SUV) with some very stout competition. With Honda CR-V, Chevrolet Equinox, Ford Escape, Kia Niro and Sportage, Nissan Rogue, Mazda CX-5, Jeep Cherokee, Subaru Forester – and many more making-up a dizzying array of brands and models – how does Toyota make the RAV4 Hybrid stand out?

The RAV4 Hybrid offers impressive interior room, good driving pleasure, safety and, of course, hybrid technology that delivers high fuel economy at a good price and value. Do you need to seat five adults or a couple of kids in the rear seat? Does 30+ mpg excite you? Hint: it should! If so, the RAV4 Hybrid should be on your shopping list.

Since there are so many very good vehicles in this segment your consideration list will be and should be quite long. Have confidence though that after all your diligent research, shopping and test drives, you will end-up with a compact crossover that meets your needs.

Whatever you buy, Happy Driving!

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Smarticd 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. We also feature those 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 [email protected].

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About Author:

John Faulkner is an automotive marketing professional with more than 30 years experience branding, launching and marketing automobiles. He has worked with General Motors (all Divisions), Chrysler (Dodge, Jeep, Eagle), Ford and Lincoln-Mercury, Honda, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan and Toyota on consumer events and sales training programs. His interest in automobiles is broad and deep, beginning as a child riding in the back seat of his parent's 1950 Studebaker. He has a keen appreciation of Art Deco design, no bias for domestic versus foreign makes and loves competition - whether that be F1, IndyCar, Sports Cars, NASCAR or participating in Track Days at places such as Laguna Seca, Thunderhill or Willow Springs. John lives in Dana Point, CA, and enjoys a top-down drive on PCH on an early Sunday morning.

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