First Drive: Toyota RAV4 Plug-in
The flagship RAV4 model is now a plug-in hybrid. Martyn Collins finds the result expensive but likeable.
Created to sit at the pinnacle of both the Toyota RAV4 range and the carmaker’s Hybrid technology, the new Plug-in hybrid model is designed to build on the success of the fifth-generation RAV4 Hybrid; some 228,000 units of the latter have been sold since launched in 2019.
Re-using the proven technology from two generations of Prius Plug-in versions, the RAV4 combines a conventional 2.5-litre VVTi petrol engine seen in the RAV4 Hybrid, but with a more powerful 180hp electric motor and a larger 18.1kWh battery with inverter, giving an electric-only range of 46 miles. Total power is 302hp, which is higher than rivals such as the Peugeot 3008 and Ford Kuga.
Type 2 and 3 charge cables are included with this RAV4; use a domestic plug and it will take seven and a half hours to a full charge. Use a 32A wall box and this drops to two and a half hours.
With 282.4mpg combined fuel consumption and BiK of just 6%, Toyota believes this model will be justifiably popular with fleet when the first UK buyers get their hands on them in April.
There are four plug-in operating modes: EV Mode, which is the default and what the RAV4 starts driving in; EV/HW Mode where the car moves between drivetrains, HV Mode or Hybrid mode, and Charging Mode, which, as it would suggest, restores the battery’s charge. If that’s not enough, there are a further three driving modes: Eco, Normal and Sport, which adjust the throttle sensitivity.
In EV Mode, the RAV4 Plug-in starts and drives in eerie silence. With over 300hp on tap, the Toyota does feel eager from the start, with speed building quickly on the move. However, we didn’t notice much difference between ‘Normal’ and ‘Sport’ driving modes.
This RAV4 is a keen handler too, the result of stiff suspension and the battery pack situated under the floor. Sadly, there is a trade-off, as that same hard suspension and the standard 19-inch wheels make for an unsettled low-speed ride.
We achieved 30 miles of electric-only power on the mixed test route, in cold and wet conditions. The RAV4 then moved to EV/HW Mode where the plug-in feels a lot like the standard RAV4 Hybrid. Refinement certainly takes a dip, with the CVT transmission making the engine thrashy – seeming to rev forever, to perform. The brakes are generally good, but a bit snatchy at low speed.
Outside, the RAV4 Hybrid is distinguished by the dark grille mesh and frame, metallic bumper mouldings and bespoke 19-inch alloy wheels. Inside, Dynamic models have a nine-inch touchscreen, multimedia package with smartphone integration (Apple CarPlay and Android Auto), six-speaker audio with DAB and Bluetooth, reversing camera, heated front and outer rear seats, power-adjustable driver’s seat, auto-folding door mirrors with puddle lights, LED dual-beam projector headlights, smart entry and push-button start, dual-zone air conditioning with remote operation, wireless smartphone charger and front and rear parking sensors – all for £47,395.
Dynamic Premium, the higher trim of the two on offer, adds black leather seat upholstery, Skyview panoramic roof, JBL nine-speaker premium sound system, head-up display, ventilated front seats, memory setting and a power-adjustable front passenger seat. It’s priced at £50,895.
It’s fair to say that with prices approaching £50,000, the RAV4 is not a cheap option. Also, it’s not as refined to drive once the EV power runs out and lacks a more premium feel of some rivals. However, its uncompromised versatility, with the added flexibility of its plug-in capacity, are sure to bring welcome cost savings that will really appeal to fleet drivers.
The RAV-4 Plug-in is a welcome addition to the rapidly growing plug-in SUV sector. Powerful, good to drive and offering welcome BiK savings.
Key Fleet Model: RAV4 Plug-in Dynamic
Strengths: Good to drive, well-equipped
Weaknesses: Hybrid mode disappoints, expensive
Fleet World Star Rating