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Toyota’s flagship PHEV version of its RAV4 promising best-in-class electric range

The new RAV4 PHEV is both the first plug-in version of the car and now the flagship in the RAV4 range. It takes lessons learned from Toyota’s two-decade experience in hybrid drive technology as well as experience gained through two generations of the Prius Plug-in Hybrid. If the Prius’s ability to eek out hugely impressive efficiency and real-world electric-only range without too much effort is anything to go by, Toyota may be onto a real winner here.

Powertrain and performance

Toyota has gone for both power and EV-only range with the RAV4 PHEV’s powertrain and, in its very niche ‘D-segment PHEV all-wheel drive SUV’ segment, beats off all the competition – albeit its final WLTP figures are still to be confirmed. It’s also based on the new GA-K platform which has been designed with both normal hybrid and plug-in hybrid applications in mind.

The petrol part of the equation comes in the form of the 2.5-litre, 173bhp motor found in the regular hybrid RAV4 with some minor adaptions for the PHEV application. Bringing the total system power up to a heady 302bhp is the electric motor, which is powered by a lithium-ion battery as yet of undisclosed size (though our hunch is somewhere in the region of 15kWh). This is located beneath the boot floor and is managed by the same world-first heating and cooling system as the Prius PHEV, which provides extremely efficient heat control for the battery, petrol engine and cabin.

That combination of power and decent battery capacity means the new RAV4 PHEV combines swift performance with real-world EV usability, delivering low emissions and fuel consumption too. Zero to 62mph takes just 6.2 seconds – helped along by the brand’s AWD-i all-wheel drive system – yet in pre-homologation testing it achieved best-in-class emissions of 29g/km and fuel economy to match (though we haven’t been given that figure just yet).

The RAV4’s electric range is going to be a strong selling point. It can achieve up to 38 miles on battery power alone at speeds of up to 84mph. Thanks to the electric motor’s considerable poke, you can pin the throttle of the RAV4 and, up to that 84mph mark, it won’t need to bring the petrol engine into play.

Internal and external design and tech

Toyota calls the RAV4’s interior and exterior “refined sport” – which we assume is like a footballer in a tailored suit and top hat. It’s actually quite a handsome car which has done a lot of growing up over the years and now strikes a purposeful, composed stance.

At the front there is dark plating for the grille mesh and frame and headlight extensions, together with a new metallic finish on the lower bumper which is said to emphasise the car’s stance. New 18 and 19 inch wheel designs combine bright machined and grey or black finishes, while at the rear there is a metal-like treatment for the area beneath the screen and black plating for the under-run. Depending on the spec level, the boot comes with a kick sensor for those times when you just don’t have a hand spare to operate the hatch.

In the cabin the focus is on new upholstery, featuring ribbed patterns and contrasting red detailing, continuing that sporty feel. Black leather will also be available. Cabin space isn’t affected by the PHEV powertrain and load space is a generous 520 litres with the seats up. The centre console features a nine inch multimedia touchscreen display – the largest in any RAV4 model and a multimedia package brings with it full smartphone integration with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and there’s even a head-up display and a 230v power outlet.

Price and availability

With the RAV4 hybrid starting at just shy of £30,000 we’d expect the PHEV version to come in at around £38,000 to put it on par with rival cars. We’ll get UK-specific details in due course, and Toyota will start selling it in the second half of 2020.

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