For those of you who have read our recent reports on the 2017 Toyota Camry Hybrid and first drive impressions of the 2018 Camry Hybrid – it should be no surprise that we see the 2017 RAV4 Hybrid AWD SUV as the pick of the litter for both the RAV4 line up and compact SUV segment.

We recently did a week long local ride and drive test of the sporty new SE trim level of the 2018 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid in the Austin, Texas environs to confirm what we already knew.  Yep…. The 2017 RAV4 Hybrid AWD SUV starting with the Toyota Hybrid Energy Drive System is easily the best of the RAV4 model lineup and a standout in the segment.

Toyota Hybrid Synergy Drive

The Toyota Hybrid Synergy Drive system is the platinum standard for seamless hybrid performance says Toyota and we agree.  It is highly efficient, dependable and quick, able to deliver its combined 194 horsepower (18 more than the gas version) with high efficiency, able to run 0-60 mph in about 8 seconds.

The path to the impressive performance of the RAV4 Hybrid is in that system.  It starts with their 2.5L Atkinson Cycle four-cylinder engine integrated with the Toyota Electronically Controlled Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT-i) that is mated to the Electronic On-Demand AWD System with Intelligence (AWD-i).  Pretty good right there, but couple it to a second independent electric motor that drives the rear wheels to deliver optimal traction as needed – in our opinion – it enables the hybrid to run circles around its gasoline powered sibling.

The system varies power between the gas engine and electric motor, or combines both as needed for optimal efficiency.  Regenerative braking changes the electric motor to a generator that captures the kinetic energy of the still-turning wheels when braking – storing it in the nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) hybrid battery pack.

A Drive Mode selector enables the driver to moderate fuel economy as desired. ECO mode optimizes throttle response and air conditioning output to help prioritize fuel economy. In EV mode, the RAV4 Hybrid, under certain conditions, can run solely on the electric motor for short periods at low speed.

A Hybrid System Indicator and fuel consumption indicator, located in a 4.2-inch TFT screen, helps the driver to operate the vehicle as economically as possible.

The 2017 RAV4 Hybrid is fuel economy rated at 34/30 mpg city/highway and 32 mpg combined.  With its 14.8-gallon fuel tank, the RAV4 Hybrid has a combined estimated range of just under 475 miles.

Oh yes, the RAV4 Hybrid AWD tows too – up to 1,750 pounds when properly equipped

Sporty RAV4 SE Hybrid AWD

Already a seriously capable performer, Toyota added the sporty SE grade to the Hybrid for 2017.

The distinctive SE amenities in the RAV4 Hybrid SE include a sportier bumper cover with honeycomb grill design, LED headlights and taillights and unique 18-inch alloy wheels mounted with P235/55R18 All-season tires.

Inside are unique SofTex-covered seats for five with contrast stitching in a choice of two colors: all Black or Black and Cinnamon (great contrast by the way) plus a Black headliner, Black A&B-pillar covers, SE sport floor mats, door sill protectors – all accented with Gunmetal Gray trim.

The SE Hybrid’s instrument panel features twin dials with red illumination and red pointers, along with a standard 4.2-inch color TFT multi-information display complimented by a Hybrid Gauge Cluster.


2017 RAV4 Hybrid SE AWD – as tested

The SE Hybrid AWD is loaded with plenty of standard features and elements that you often have to buy as add-ons or in packages on competing vehicles with a base MSRP of $32,185.

Standard for that price are:  the Toyota Hybrid Synergy Drive System, 18-inch Alloy Wheels, LED exterior lighting, Power Moonroof, Roof Rails, Adjustable Power Liftgate, Dual Zone Climate Control with air filters, Leather Wrapped Steering Wheel w/audio and Bluetooth controls, 8-way Power Driver Seat, Heated Front Seating, Smart Key w/Push Button Start, three 12-volt power outlets and USB Port and more.

Adding just one package – Advanced Technology ($2,460) – plus an array of optional functional and convenience items, our Electric Storm Blue RAV4 SE Hybrid priced at $36,872 delivered.

The Advanced Technology Package on the SE added more technology/infotainment features and convenience items we think a well-equipped compact SUV should have.  They include the (very well done) Bird’s Eye View Camera with 360-degree perimeter scan, Front and Rear Parking Sonar and the upgraded Entune Premium JBL 11-Speaker Audio with Integrated Navigation and App Suite managed through a 7-inch High Res Touch-Screen with Split Screen Display.  Some features of note are Siri Eyes Free, SiriusXM programs, USB ports, Voice Recognition, Hands-Free Phone Capability, Bluetooth Wireless and Integrated Back-up Camera display.

Optional items included things like Roof Rack Cross Bars, Interior Lighting Kit, Mud Guards, Universal Tablet Holder, Paint Protection Film and Rear Bumper Applique.

Safety –  IIHS Top Safety Pick +

The 2017 RAV4 SE is loaded up with the full suite of standard and optional safety features.  It has earned the IIHS Top Safety Pick designation with a ‘Superior’ rating in Front Crash Avoidance Mitigation and a ‘Good’ in all five elements of Crashworthiness testing.  Equipped with LED Projector headlights with Auto High Beam Assist adds the plus (+) top honor to the designation.

The RAV4 is also equipped with Toyota Safety Sense (TSS-P) that includes Pre-collision w/Pedestrian Detection, Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist, Automatic High Beams and Dynamic Radar Cruise Control standard.   Other standard safety and driver assistance features include Enhanced Stability Control, Traction Control, Electronic Brake Assist with Brake Force Distribution and Smart Stop Technology, Blind Spot Monitor and Rear Cross Traffic Alert.

RAV4 Hybrid AWD Lineup

The 2017 RAV4 Hybrid AWD lineup now includes three models:  base level XLE (MSRP $29,030), our ride/drive test car, the new mid-level sportier trim SE (MSRP $32,185) and the premium Limited (MSRP $34,030).  All are equipped with the same power and drive train including the Electronic On-Demand AWD with Intelligence system.

RAV4 Compact SUV is 2017 Segment Leader

Consumers are loving the 2017 RAV4 and especially the RAV4 Hybrid from Toyota which was named by U.S. News and World Report as the Best Hybrid SUV for the Money in 2017.

July was a record month for the RAV4 with 43,265 sold – up 30.4% from same month a year ago.  After seven months, it rests solidly at the top of the compact SUV segment with sales of 269,835 units YTD in the U.S. – up 16.8 percent from the prior year.

The Hybrid version (introduced in 2015) has become a key driver for the RAV4 producing record sales in July – its 8th consecutive best ever sales month.  Sales for the month were 5,128 units (11.8% of total).  For the year, RAV4 Hybrid sales are 30,593 units – 11.3% of total sales.  You can learn more about all three trim levels of the 2017 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid by going to  https://www.toyota.com/rav4hybrid.

If we have not convinced you that the RAV4 Hybrid is the compact SUV from Toyota for you, feel free to check out the five trim levels of the gasoline RAV4 (including a new premium Platinum) by clicking on  https://www.toyota.com/rav4/ for more details.

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