Driving the RAV4 Hybrid is hardly a revelation, which is a bit of a back-handed compliment: the powertrain behaves much like that in any of Toyota’s hybrids, in that it mostly does its work in the transparent way Toyotas tend to go down the road. The one exception we noticed on the short drive route Toyota laid out for us was the way the gas engine roared to maintain our speed on steep uphill stretches of the secondary highways we drove into the Gatineau hills north of Ottawa.
On the plus side, it felt like the engineers behind this car have done good work to eliminate some of the artificial brake pedal feel once so common in hybrid vehicles, Toyota and otherwise.
If the engine seemed particularly vocal in the hybrid we drove, a back-to-back drive with a gas-only model revealed the dual-power model as the quieter in terms of road noise. Toyota engineer Terrence Chu said all 2016 RAV4s benefit from extra sound deadening targeted specifically at quieting that aspect of the car’s soundtrack. Elsewhere, Toyota says it improved ride comfort and high-speed stability with stiffer rear suspension mounting points.
Gas-only models get a revised AWD system that proactively engages the rear axle in corners, a function that previously only worked with the transmission set to ‘Sport’ mode.
The rest of the notable changes made for 2016 are found inside. Hybrid models give up 80 litres of cargo space with the rear seat folded (2,000 litres, versus the standard model’s 2,080), owing to the battery’s home under the floor; the available power tailgate can be set to open to six different heights; and there’s a new cargo net that can be hung from a variety of attachment points behind the rear seats.
Between the front seats, there’s a new cupholder designed to better accommodate big travel mugs, and a new SE trim gets red accent stitching and other unique interior appointments. Uplevel models with leather seats can be optioned with a sharp-looking “cinnamon” upholstery colour, and all trims but the basic LE model get a new gauge cluster.
New available technology includes a bird’s-eye view camera system (standard in Limited, and optional in Hybrid Limited) that uses lenses on the front and rear of the car and in each side mirror housing to provide a 360-degree view of what’s around the car when parking.