• Toyota’s RAV4 E-Four makes hybrid drive worth getting used to

Toyota has embarked on a major hybrid push in South Africa. This new RAV4 E-Four Hybrid is central to that effort alongside kid brother Corolla Cross Hybrid. But this one takes a few more steps forward over its reinvented font wheel drive Prius sibling.

This all-new petrol-and-electric all-wheel-drive RAV4 E-Four Hybrid GX-R brings newfound hybrid sophistication while also broadening that fast-growing Hybrid range in this market. It also brings buyers a choice between different models and variants of Toyota Hybrids.

An entry-level surprise

This, surprisingly enough, is the R665K entry-level GX-R model that Toyota now sells alongside an upmarket VX version and three petrol variants. I say surprising for good reason. At the price it’s a proper bargain versus some executive mid-SUV rivals.

It’s set apart by a large trapezoidal grille and wide-set fog lamps framing its Hybrid blue- Toyota gong. There are LED daytime running headlights, fog lamps, roof rails, a rear spoiler and cool smoky 18″ alloys that reminded us a bit of those Karoo windmills we passed on our way.

Step aboard and RAV 4 E-Four Hybrid GX-R packs heated and ventilated seats with power adjustment for the driver. Orange stitched black leather trim spreads all the way to the steering wheel and gear knob. And there’s striking orange detailing console surround areas and seat backs too.

Practical Infotainment

The E-Four Hybrid’s digital dials have a multifunction display witha dedicated Hybrid window. A CarPlay, Auto and button-rich touchscreen infotainment dominates the central dash. It has real knobs too and features five USB and two 12-volt ports, a wireless charger A convenient reversing camera supplements rear park distance control too.

Packing cruise control, climate control, rain-sensing wipers, smart-entry, and anti-theft, RAV4 E-Four Hybrid has a comprehensive safety specification too. There’s a full complement of airbags that includes side and curtain protection. This GX-R also comes with ABS, EBD, Brake Assist, Vehicle Stability, Trailer Sway, Hill Start and Downhill Assist Controls.

RAV4 E-Four Hybrid combines a punchy fourth generation 131 kW 221 Nm Atkinson cycle 2.5-litre petrol 4-cylinder with an 88 kW and 202 Nm e-motor to drive the front axle via a CVT transmission. That’s aided and abetted by a second, 40 kW 121 Nm electric motor driving a two-stage reduction gear transaxle at the rear.

E-Four Seamlessly blends drive

E-Four responsively and automatically optimises torque distribution between the front and rear axles according to driving conditions. The split varies between 100% front, to a 20/80 front-rear output. Distribution is rear-oriented on cornering. To inspire driver confidence and enhance steering feel. Maximum combined output is a staunch 163 kW.

An Auto LSD Trail Assist mode improves traction on the dirt. The driver can further tailor vehicle dynamics via Drive Mode Select. And while we never got round to it, our E-Four was rated to tug up to a 1,000 kg braked trailer on that rugged hitch.

Against our satellite stopwatch, the RAV4 E-Four Hybrid GX-R proved almost a second quicker than the petrol-only AWD 2.5-litre VX we tested last year. Never mind considerably more flexible.

E-Four GX-R is a bargain

Considering that car costs an extra sixty grand and sucks an 3 more litres per hundred, it soon becomes clear why we reckon this one is a bargain. That said, an E-Four VX does carry a R20K premium on the petrol one.

We took our appropriately Urban Khaki GX-R on a fine Karoo safari. Pleasing to drive, take your time to exploit this E-Four Hybrid system’s potential and you soon start to understand its earth saving potential. Super smooth on the freeway, it’s at its best in and around town.

Just as impressive off the beaten track, E-Four Hybrid GX-R smooths out long dirt road corrugations as if they’re not there. It will oblige well on a drive to the trout pond or mountain cabin. Don’t expect it to do proper four-by-four work though. It scrapes on the floor and its pretty plastics will soon become consumed if challenged too far.

E-FOUR consumption is impressive

Toyota claims that the RAV4 E-Four Hybrid sips a combined 4.8 l/100 km. Expect to use about 6 litres per hundred every day. That’s still impressive in this neck of the woods. Understand that your hybrid is happiest in city or in slower driving and you’ll soon master it.

Driven frugally you should get close to 1,000 km on the 55-litre petrol tank. Best of all, we really enjoyed challenging the infotainment’s knob-activated trip readout kilometre by kilometre.

RAV4 comes with Toyota’s 3-year 100,000 km warranty, a six-service or 90,000 km service plan at 15,000 km intervals. Add an 8-year or 195,000 km Hybrid battery warranty. Toyota’s 220 South African dealers will sell you service and warranty plan extensions.

Hybrid has a big future

Toyota will soon start offering EVs in this market. That will however remain a dubious option for some time to come. Which is why Toyota on a mission to hybridise all its cars in markets like ours.

If this RAV4 E-Four GX-R is anything to go by, there’s nothing to worry about. The hybrid may well be a crucial to our driving future, but this car makes that all the more worth looking forward to. – Michele Lupini

ROAD TESTED: Toyota RAV4 E-Four Hybrid GX-R
Engine: 131 kW 221 Nm 2.5-litre petrol I4
Motors: Front 88 kW 202 Nm, Rear: 40 kW 121 Nm
Combined Max Output: 163 kW
Drive: CVT AWD
0-60 km/h:        3.58 sec
0-100 km/h:       7.42 sec
0-120 km/h:       10.00 sec
0-160 km/h:       17.46 sec
400m:             15.5 sec @ 149 km/h
80-120 km/h:      4.96 sec
120-160 km/h:     7.17 sec
VMax:             180 km/h
Fuel:             4.8 l/100 km
CO2:              110 g/km
Warranty/Service: 3y 100K/6 service 90K km
LIST PRICE:       R663K
RATED:            9
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