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Toyota's hugely-popular SUV now comes with a plug-in hybrid option and it's amazing

The new Rav4's tweak will put it among the top sellers

The new Rav4's tweak will put it among the top sellers

The RAV4's interior

The RAV4's interior

The RAV4's boot isn't hugely affected by the battery

The RAV4's boot isn't hugely affected by the battery

The Rear of the RAV4 is very sexy

The Rear of the RAV4 is very sexy

Daragh Keany

This is my third time in a RAV4 over the past four years and this is the first time I have been wowed.

I've always loved the look, the size, the shape and the comfort of the drive. But only now in its all-new plug-in hybrid powertrain do I fully appreciate the car for what it's worth.

This tweak to the popular SUV may well go unnoticed in the greater scheme of things. As car manufacturers finally get to release their new models after two years of cancellations and rethinks, the fact that the RAV4 now has a PHEV version may go under the radar. But I really hope it doesn't.

This is a shift change for the car giant who have always opted for regular hybrids and were first out of the stalls to commit to ending the production of diesel cars in March 2018.

And while we wait for the highly-anticipated bZ4X, due here in 2023, for now we should appreciate what the Japanese giant has done here. Not content with being a solid Top 10 seller with the Rav4, the new powertrain is surely going to catapult the beast into the Top 5.

The Rear of the RAV4 is very sexy

The Rear of the RAV4 is very sexy

Ironically, standing in its way are the stable mates CH-R, Corolla and Yaris as well as the always-reliable Hyundai Tucson.

But today is all about this beauty…a powertrain change on their fifth-gen RAV4. I cannot stress how big a deal this new version is for car drivers like myself who want to make the electrification move but are too nervous about jumping right into a full EV.

One of the biggest stumbling blocks of PHEV sales is the seemingly-limited range, and to be fair to most potential car buyers, that is a justified concern. But Toyota has somehow managed to wedge in enough battery power to offer lucky drivers a whopping 75km driving range before it seamlessly kicks into combustion mode.

The powerful electric motor sits up front in the form of a large lithium-ion battery and features the same 2.5-litre petrol engine and twin electric motor set-up seen in four-wheel-drive versions of the RAV4.

The RAV4's interior

The RAV4's interior

Where the PHEV differs from the hybrid is that there's an obvious improvement in power. The engine and electric motor have 185hp and 182hp outputs respectively, while the rear motor adds another 54hp. They don't all operate at the same time, though, and the best-selling car company in Ireland quotes a total system output of 306hp for the car.

As with the other two RAV4s I've roadtested in recent years, the cabin is very impressive. It may not be up to the same standards as the premium rivals but I say that as a back handed compliment. This car has to be compared to the likes of the Q5 or the X3 and definitely the XC60. It's that good. Too many people are quick to lob it into the Kuga, 3008 or even Outlander.

I want to put this in the higher bracket where it belongs and while it beats them all on price it does fall down slightly on the interior finish. But as I said, that's OK.

A slight gripe I've always had with them is the infotainment system's interface, which isn't the most user-friendly set-up. But it has never been a deal breaker for me as I tend to opt for Apple CarPlay.

The RAV4's boot isn't hugely affected by the battery

The RAV4's boot isn't hugely affected by the battery

As you can imagine there is loads of space inside here with (easily) room for three in the rear with two ISOFIX points. The boot still has a 500 litre capacity, which means it loses around 50 litres compared to the hybrid version. The high floor in the boot means there's space for both charging cables underneath, and there's even a space-saver spare wheel under there - few plug-in models of any size include one of those. Unlike a lot of plug-in hybrid models, the RAV4 drives like an EV. I highly recommend you think of it as an EV and consider the petrol engine as merely a wingman to the main event.

With a full charge (don't forget it is 75km), the car is very quiet as it cruises around on battery power alone and if you do run out of battery it shifts easily without a huge increase in noise levels.

As with any PHEV, the all-important fuel economy will entirely depend upon how often you charge the battery. Keep it topped up as often as possible, just do short journeys and it could be months between visits to a petrol station.

Irish pricing for the regular RAV4 starts at €40,145, but the Plug-in Hybrid starts from €50,775. It won't be available in the entry-level Luna trim, meaning you get a lot more for your extra €10k than first seems. Also, if you want the four-wheel drive in the RAV4 hybrid, you have to go for the high-spec Platinum version, which is actually around €3,000 more (and less powerful) than the entry point to the Plug-in Hybrid line-up. So don't be put off by the €50k asking price.

I love this. I really do.


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