Doubling down on its bet with hybrid powertrains, battery-gasoline leader Toyota is adding a new model to its Synergy Drive family: a hybrid-powered RAV4, which will be unveiled at this year’s New York International Auto Show next week. It will become the eighth model in Toyota’s hybrid portfolio (excluding Lexus models), which is one of the largest hybrid families in the industry.
For the RAV4, which competes in what has become arguably the most competitive segment in the auto industry, this new powertrain will be one more factor to help set it apart from the Nissan Rogue, the Honda CR-V, the Ford Escape, and Chevrolet Equinox, among others. Though Ford has toyed with a hybrid Escape in previous generations, it dropped the model for the latest iteration, leaving the non-luxury crossover SUV segment free of electrical augmentation, until now.
Upon the RAV4’s introduction, it will be the only hybrid in its class, giving it a leg up on models like the Subaru Forester and Mazda CX-5, which while both exceptionally capable and efficient already, don’t take advantage of a hybrid system, at least yet. This isn’t an unexpected move from Toyota, though, as the system will likely be a carry-over from the NX 300h, where it produces 194 total system horsepower and returns 33 miles per gallon combined. Currently, the RAV4 returns just 26.
Overall, major elements of the RAV4 aren’t likely to change. It’ll look vastly similar to the gasoline-chugging base model, and the latest generation still has some life left in it before Toyota’s engineers bring it back in for an overhaul. Buyers can expect the same versatility and reliability that the other seven members of Toyota’s hybrid club provide, though it will will be only the second hybrid SUV after the Highlander.
The move also demonstrates Toyota’s commitment to conventional hybridization. The company, the largest automaker in the world, has been notably resistant to the idea of full electrification of its vehicles, instead choosing to put its eggs in the hydrogen fuel-cell basket. While the idea has been derided by many, and its Mirai introductory fuel cell vehicle expected to cost nearly $60,000, the brand has been relying on its hybrids to keep it in line with increasing emissions and fuel economy standards.
Toyota’s continued progress in hybridizing its lineup could be an interesting preview of its future. If the Mirai can catch on, and Toyota succeeds in building out its hydrogen network, the gasoline hybrid models may see themselves phased out in favor of new hydrogen-powered cars in their stead.
For the more immediate future, though, Toyota is continuing its crusade to bring batteries to every driveway, and ensure that hybrid technology can be enjoyed by those who might need a bit more capability than the Camry, Prius, or Avalon have to offer (but don’t need as large a footprint as the Highlander imposes).
Details and pricing haven’t been alluded to in the least, but using the existing RAV4’s $24,565 starting price as a yardstick, it’s safe to say that the hybrid RAV4 should cost in the neighborhood of $26,000 to $30,000, depending on the trim.