The FREE Complete Bay Area Auto Enthusiast Guide

Since it debuted in the United States in 1996, the RAV4 has stood the test of time. This year, it faces a new test with a hybrid version under the hood, a first for the compact crossover. 
The 2.5-liter DOHC inline-4 cylinder gas engine develops 150 horsepower @ 5700 rpm and 152 pounds-feet of torque @ 4400 rpm. But two electric motors boast hp up to 194. A 244.8-volt nickel-metal hydride battery is recharged by energy captured as the driver applies the brakes or coasts. Also, the electronically controlled Continuous Variable Transmission-equipped sedan boasts a regenerative braking system. When the car is coasting or the brakes are applied, the electric motor functions as a generator, capturing kinetic energy that would normally be lost as heat through the brakes. Instead, it converts the energy into useable electricity for recharging the battery pack. It operates in three modes: EV, which is electric at lower speeds of up to 25 mph; ECO, an efficient mode where the driver can control the throttle opening; and sport for some feisty driving. The rounded instrument display showing charge, power and eco readings will come in handy for drivers who like to eke out every gallon of gas.
Dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag and front knee airbags are standard along with side-impact door beams, four-wheel antilock brakes, Electronic Brake Distribution and Brake Assist, Traction Control, Vehicle Stability Control, rearview camera and front and rear crumple zones.
Projector-beam halogen headlights flank a smoked chrome upper grille hosting a blue-tinted Toyota emblem. Metallic silver accents deck up the interior with its center stack, and 4.2-inch TFT screen between the hybrid system power meter and the speedometer. Standard goodies include six-way driver and four-way front-passenger seats, dual auto climate control, tilt/telescopic steering column, and a 6.1-inch touchscreen for navigation, audio, phone controls.
The Toyota hybrid vehicle lineup just keeps getting better. The addition of the spacious RAV4 SUV with its generous passenger/cargo room should entice families with little ones to sign on the dotted line. Besides, the fuel-sipper comes with the Japanese carmaker solid reputation for reliability and durability.

Wheelbase: 104.7 inches
Length: 181.1 inches
Suspension: independent MacPherson strut front; double-wishbone rear
Steering: electric power rack and pinion
Tires: P225/65R17
Mileage: city 34, highway 31
Fuel capacity: 14.8 gallons
Weight: 3,925 pounds
Base price: $28,370
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