THERE’S never been a hybrid version of Australia’s favourite mid-sized SUV before, but with the arrival of the 2019 Toyota RAV4 GXL hybrid, all that has changed, and the locals can’t get enough of it.
Demand is already outstripping supply of the hybrid variant of the popular SUV, but we’ve managed to get behind the wheel of one and put the smart, intuitive, and dare we say versatile RAV4 through its paces.
Always the subject of much discussion, the hybrid concept in this case offers a self-charging effort which sees the petrol and electric motors working together seamlessly, adapting to the driving conditions, on the fly.
All the while, you can monitor the hybrid in action, the battery level, and when it is self-charging (like when it’s gliding down a hill). It will also flip back to full electric when stationary, leading to lower emissions and a greener footprint.
In motion, the GXL adjusted well to varied city driving conditions and the open road alike, with its CVT auto transmission, standard across all hybrid models that Toyota builds, working well.
We loaded it up with four adults, just to see how it would handle being full of people, and there was no noticeable change in power levels when you put your foot down. There was no lag either, an important factor in the recreational potential of the RAV4.
Smart entry and start also means that within seconds of sitting in the GXL, you can be moving, usually in full electric mode to begin with. That lack of noise can throw you, especially if you’re not used to your RAV4 being a hybrid.
It’s whisper quiet. So much so that this writer ‘may have’ grabbed the key and hopped out of the car, wondering why the lights wouldn’t turn off when the car was locked. The car was of course, still running.
The vagueness of our hybrid futures aside, the RAV4 does an excellent job of navigating its way around the inner-city, thanks in part ot its pre-collision safety system, with pedestrian and cyclist detection.
Those features are particularly handy when you’re trying to drive down very narrow lane ways while sharing the road with lycra wearing cyclists, or in our case Deliveroo riders.
The lane departure alert and reversing camera add to driver confidence too, and the moving guide markers provide an extra set of eyes when parking, saving your passengers the gig of waving their hands to get you into a tight spot.
The elevated seating position aids overall driving experience as well, with the RAV4 range backed by a 5-star ANCAP safety rating, seven airbags, and Toyota’s safety sense system, which includes lane departure and lane trace assist.
You also get active cruise control, auto high beam, and road sign assist, which shows the speed limit on the infotainment system’s navigation display, helpful in unfamiliar areas where changing conditions, school zones and shifting speed limits often amalgamate.
The interior has a real premium feel to it too, with rear seat passengers scoring cup holders, privacy glass, air vents and two fast charge USB ports. Paired with a 510-litre boot and the option to drop the back seats down, space will never be an issue.
The 8-inch infotainment system in the centre console provides a decent visual display as well. It’s good for navigation, and offers up sleek imagery to indicate what’s happening under the hood.
The various displays are worth getting familiar with to truly understand how the hybrid operates in conjunction with the petrol engine. It’s very cool to be able to watch the fusion between the power plants in real time.
There’s a futuristic feel to the clear and functional display, which supports the notion that this vehicle is progressive and captures elements that cars can be clever, intuitive and sustainable.
However, if you are an advocate for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, you will be disappointed. The wireless phone charger is a plus though and we would hope that this feature stays functional and relevant for the life if the car.
In addition, there’s two fast charging USB ports within the arm rest storage, and one at base of middle console.
It’s hard not to rave about the colour as well, at this point. Our 2019 Toyota RAV4 GXL hybrid came in Eclectic Blue. It felt like we were driving summer around with us. It’s a sassy colour.
But if your preference is for something a little more neutral, there’s also Graphite, Saturn Blue, or Crystal Pearl on offer, as well as the classic RAV4 colours of Eclipse Black and Glacier White.
The 18-inch alloy wheels give the hybrid model a lift, and a 4WD look, but that’s all they do, as our test vehicle was 2WD. That’s not a deal breaker unless you want to go off road, then you’ll need to step up to the AWD variant, so you can go and get dirty.
The low fuel consumption offered by the 2.5-litre hybrid RAV4, 4.7-litres/100km – both claimed and tested, is impressive, especially when you consider the petrol offering in the same specs claims a best of 6.5-litres/100km.
Up against the likes of the Volkswagen Tiguan and the Mazda CX-5, the RAV4 GXL comes with a 5-year warranty, which extends to seven years if you follow the Toyota servicing requirements.
In addition, an annual hybrid battery check as part of that servicing agreement will double its life to 10 years. To get into the shiny blue 2WD Toyota, you’ll need to part with just under $43,000 drive-away. For a few extra grand, you can go AWD.
Our test vehicle was provided by Toyota Australia. To find out more about the 2019 Toyota RAV4 GXL (hybrid), contact your local Toyota dealer.