By NITISH S. RELE – motoringtampabay@gmail.com

And now you can go off the beaten path in an RAV4. That’s right. Toyota has introduced the all-wheel-drive Woodland Edition – its first hybrid off-road special edition SUV! With coil springs and twin-tube shocks borrowed from a TRD-tuned (Toyota Racing Development) suspension to back it up, this is another winner for the innovative Japanese carmaker.

A 2.5-liter DOHC inline-4 cylinder gas engine cranks out 176 horsepower @ 5700 rpm and 163 pounds-feet of torque @ 5200 rpm. Two electric motors boast hp up to 219 hp. A 244.8-volt lithium-ion 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. The TRD-inspired independent MacPherson strut front and multilink rear suspension with stabilizer bars does a particularly good job of soaking bumps and potholes. And the all-wheel-drive crossover also is equipped with a rack-mounted electric power steering for ease at higher speeds or pulling into a parking lot.

The RAV4 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.

Projector-beam LED headlights flank a dark gray, metallic-colored hexagonal grille hosting a blue-tinted Toyota emblem. Badges, mudguards and roof rails/crossbars, all in black, are unmistakable. There is plenty of room in the cabin and the 60/40-split second row seat can be folded to obtain 37.6 cubic feet of cargo space. Storage areas are scattered throughout the cabin, including an open bin atop the glovebox, center console box, eight cup/bottle holders, five USB ports and overhead sunglass holder. Other perks are a power driver seat and tilt/slide moon roof, dual auto a/c, leather tilt/telescopic steering column and shifter, 8-inch infotainment touchscreen and a hands-free lift gate.

Standard safety features include dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag and driver knee airbag, blind-spot monitor, rear-cross traffic alert, side-impact door beams, four-wheel antilock brakes, electronic brake distribution and brake assist, vehicle stability and traction control, backup camera and front/rear crumple zones. Toyota Safety Sense 2.5 brings in a pre-collision system that detects pedestrians, lane departure/tracing assists and dynamic cruise control.

The Woodland version, which will appeal to the off-road buffs, further enhances the varied lineup of this No. 1 seller for Toyota. Plus, the hybrid SUV boasts sizable passenger/cargo room. And as the stop at the pump continues to hurt the wallet, who doesn’t want a gas sipper for a ride? (we earned a combined 39 mpg).


Tires: P225/60R19

Wheelbase: 105.9 inches

Length: 180.9 inches

Height: 67 inches

Width: 73 inches

Fuel capacity: 14.5 gallons

Mileage: city 38, highway 35

Weight: 3,775 pounds

Base price: $33,025

Price as tested: $34,360

Web site: www.toyota.com