- - Sunday, November 22, 2015

On Wednesday, the folks at Toyota lifted the embargo and now I get to talk all about the just unveiled 2016 Toyota RAV4, which will be the eighth hybrid offered in the Toyota lineup. New on the RAV4 for 2016 is a refreshed exterior and updated interior across all of the trim levels. For example, the new SE trim will give you Sport-Tuned Suspension and sportier styling and while driving the RAV4 earlier this week in Southern California came to mind of an entry level Lexus feel on this new Toyota offering.

A small crossover, the competition for the RAV4 remains the Honda CR-V, Mazda CX-5, Ford Escape and the Jeep Cherokee, each with its own standouts. On this one, remember Toyota can point to the first RAV4 as the pioneering model two decades ago. Fast forward to 2016 and Toyota is offering the introduction of the first RAV4 Hybrid as part of a refreshed RAV4 lineup that also includes a sporty new SE grade. This 2016 RAV4 Hybrid brings the number of Toyota hybrid models to eight, and after a day of driving, it is clear that the RAV4 Hybrid is a “no compromise vehicle” that makes fuel economy a big priority.

The RAV4 Hybrid comes in two trims — the XLE and Limited — while the RAV4 gas version comes in LE, XLE, Limited and the new SE.

Features are generous on the trims across the board with goodies like steering wheel mounted paddle shifters, sport-trimmed shift lever with contrasting stitching, SofTex-trimmed 8-way power adjustable driver’s seat with memory function, power lumbar support, sport bolsters and seatback pocket; 4-way adjustable front passenger seat with sport bolsters and seatback pocket, covered sliding center armrest with console storage box, driver and front passenger heated seats, 60/40 split, reclining, fold-flat second-row seat with center armres and the Smart Key System with Push Button Start and remote power liftgate function. On the Limited, you also get frameless auto-dimming rearview mirror with Homelink®, Driver Seat memory, leather-trimmed shift lever with silver accents and the standard audio includes Entune Audio with a Multimedia Bundle and plenty of connectivity and control with advanced voice recognition, hands-free phone capability, phone book access and music streaming via Bluetooth® wireless technology as well.

The 2016 RAV4 SE boasts a sporty new look with sport tuned suspension, 18-inch alloy wheels and paddle shifters for the six-speed automatic transmission. While providing a more dynamic and responsive driving experience, the RAV4 SE shows off its sporty attitude with LED headlights and taillights and exclusive bumper and lower grill design. Take note of its one very standout feature the S-Code paint design, which combines one of the three available upper colors (Super White, Black Sand Pearl and Electric Storm Blue) over Classic Silver Metallic on the vehicle’s lower trim. The SE also has the sportier seats with a power driver’s seat and contrast stitching giving you a choice of two interior colors; black or black/cinnamon.

On the XLE, you get Halogen projector-beam headlights with auto off feature and daytime Running Lights, color-keyed rear spoiler, integrated fog lights with chrome surrounds, 17-inch Hybrid Unique alloy wheels, roof-mounted sharkfin antenna, color-keyed outside door handles, front and rear silver painted skid plate garnish, color-keyed power heated outside mirrors with turn signal indicators with folding feature and blind spot mirror, washer-linked variable intermittent windshield wiper and intermittent rear window wiper, rear window defogger with timer, power tilt/slide moonroof with sunshade, height-adjustable power liftgate with jam protection, privacy glass on rear side, quarter and liftgate windows, acoustic noise-reducing front windshield and roof rails.

Under the hood, the 2016 RAV4 is all-weather capable and the Hybrid grades come equipped with an Electronic On-Demand All-Wheel-Drive System with intelligence (AWD-i) as standard. A second, independent electric motor drives the rear wheels when needed to help maintain optimal traction. The 2016 RAV4 Hybrid has a 2.5-liter Atkinson cycle four-cylinder engine and a small high-torque electric motor with 194 horsepower combined. Regenerative braking changes the electric motor to a generator that captures the kinetic energy of the still-turning wheels when the brake is applied, storing it in the nickelmetal hydride (NiMH) hybrid battery pack. Even better, as you drive the RAV4 Hybrid, you can be sure you are saving fuel by selecting one of the several operating modes from ECO mode (on Hybrid and Gas models) that optimizes throttle response and air conditioning output to help prioritize fuel economy. In EV mode, the RAV4 Hybrid, under certain conditions, will run solely on the electric motor for up to 0.6 miles at lower speeds.

Otherwise, it is a 2.5-liter direct-injection four-cylinder engine with 176 horsepower and 172 pound feet of torque with a six-speed automatic transmission.

Safety is everywhere on this new RAV4 with the 2016 model being one of the first in the United States to offer Toyota Safety Sense (TSS), a new multi-feature advanced safety package anchored by automated pre-collision braking. You get this on the Limited or XLE trim gas or Hybrid and there is also a Pre-Collision System with Forward Collision Warning and automatic emergency brake, Lane Departure Alert, Pedestrian PreCollision System and Dynamic Radar Cruise Control. There is also a Blind Spot Mirror on some trims and a new Bird’s Eye View Camera with Perimeter Scan. This Toyota-first technology employs four cameras that are mounted on the front, the side mirrors and rear of the vehicle to project a panoramic view of the vehicle’s surroundings on the central touch display.

Inside the cabin is large and easily fits five passengers. There is a seven-inch touch-sensitive display audio touch screen available and a LED illumination on the lower center console. Add to that a 12V power outlet in the backset and redesigned cup holder for taller mugs with handles and a sunglasses holder as well.

Space is plenty for hauling not only five passengers, but 37.2 inches of legroom in the back and behind the rear seat there is 38.4 cubic feet of cargo capacity or 35.6 cubic feet on the Hybrid. When you fold the seat down that goes up to 73.4 cubic feet or 70.6 cubic feet on the Hybrid and the backseats even recline for ultimate comfort no matter where you are sitting.

Comfortable inside, but will it take you there? The 2016 RAV4 whether Hybrid or otherwise has the power to make all the moves that you need and then some, intuitive and ready to go.

Should You Need to Know: Take note of the warranties offered, Toyota’s 36-month/36,000 mile basic new-vehicle warranty applies to all components other than normal wear and maintenance items. Additional 60-month warranties cover the powertrain for 60,000 miles and against corrosion with no mileage limitation. The hybrid-related components, including the HV battery, battery control module, hybrid control module and inverter with converter, are covered for eight years/100,000 miles.

Miles Per Gallon: On the 2016 RAV4, it’s 24 miles per gallon in the city and 31 miles per gallon on the highway. If you are driving the Hybrid, expect 34 miles per gallon in the city and 31 miles per gallon on the highway.

Cost: The manufacturer’s suggested retail price for the 2016 RAV4 gas models will range from $24,350 for the LE 2WD to $32,910 for the AWD Limited. The price tag for the RAV4 Hybrid will start at $28,370 up to $33,610 for the AWD Limited.

For more auto tips and information, follow Rita @RitaCook13.

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