First Drive – 2017 Toyota Rav4 Hybrid AWD Limited

For 2017-2018 Toyota boosts its most famous CUV with a hybrid powertrain, lightweight athleticism and a stylish new interior.


The Toyota  Rav4 has come a long way to be one of the most versatile CUVs on the road. Back in the day it was seen as a teenager car. But with nine models for 2017 and 2018 including the efficient Hybrid and lux Platinum, the whip can be effective for city dwellers and even as a nice 2nd car.

The Rav4 Hybrid we reviewed boasted impressive all-wheel drive and three electric motors that combined with a 2.5 liter 4 cylinder gas engine for 194 total horsepower and 32 mpg combined EPA.

With that level of efficiency and resilience plus the luxury of the Limited trim, I had to confidence to take the whip anywhere. For the First Drive, we rolled across Chicago passing through Chinatown, Pilsen, Hayes Beach on the Southside, Montrose Beach up north and the UIC Campus near the future home of the Barak Obama Presidential Library.


Fresh Style Appeals to Many

I got a lot of compliments whipping the Rav4 Hybrid Limited around the city – mostly from young men. But the thumbs up was followed by “It looks like a ‘chick car’”. The Electric Storm Blue paint job may have a lot do with that.

Stylish cues from the Rav4 Hybrid Limited include LED headlamps, daytime running lights and taillights and 18 inch 5-spoke Superchrome alloy wheels. Chrome door handles, moonroof and height adjustable power liftgate are cool standard features with the Limited trim.

2017 Toyota Rav4 Hybrid AWD
2017 Toyota Rav4 Hybrid AWD

The Rav4 Hybrid also offers some bold paint jobs like Galactic Aqua Mica, Black Sand Pearl and Blizzard Pearl against black, ash, cinnamon and nutmeg-colored interior(s).

2017 Toyota Rav4 Hybrid AWD
2017 Toyota Rav4 Hybrid AWD

A color-keyed spoiler and shark fin antenna along with front and rear-painted bumper garnish and fog lights with chrome surround help the Rav4 Hybrid Limited style on its peers.

Inside the fresh Rav4 Hybrid Limited the driver-focused cockpit is decked out with Softex leather(ish) seats with dope contrast stitching. Heated front seats are standard as are the leather shifter and reclining fold-flat 2nd row seats.

The interior of the Rav4 Limited Hybrid is refreshing for a CUV some see as mundane. Bold colors with sporty stitching are set off by the 7 inch center touch screen with navigation and infotainment. This year’s version of the Entune audio system has even more apps and stats. The Limited Rav4 infotainment includes Sirius XM Satellite radio, Doppler weather, sports and stocks plus predicative traffic and Apps like Pandora, Yelp, and Slacker Radio– all standard.

2017 Toyota Rav4 Hybrid AWD
2017 Toyota Rav4 Hybrid AWD

Along with enhanced infotainment, cargo space is decent with drivers having 39 inches of headroom and 42 inches of legroom, and 37 inches of legroom for the 2nd row. The Rav4 Hybrid Limited offers 35 cu.ft of cargo space with the 2nd row erect and an impressive 70 cu.ft of cargo space with the 2nd row folded. Yet aside from the rear, storage space is scarce in the Rav4 Hybrid with just a small center console and tray, and small door pockets.

The stylish leather-wrapped steering wheel has controls for audio, phone, voice command and the multi information display (MID) in the driver’s dash. The MID in the Rav4 Hybrid is upgraded with a Hybrid Indicator, Eco Savings record, energy monitor and 4WD Drive Force calculator. And that’s along with useful stats like fuel economy, range, average speed and driver assistance settings.

While the layout is taking things in the right direction with a cleaner center stack, the location of some buttons is less intuitive- and sometimes more distracting, like the heated seat button next to the drive mode selector, and the start button on the center stack instead of by the steering wheel column .

An Advanced Technology Package ($1,435) features a bumpin 11 speaker Entune JBL Audio System and upgrades to Sirius XM Satellite features.


Bionic Powertrain and Advanced Safety Tech

The 2017 Toyota Rav4 Hybrid has a sophisticated Synergy Drive System comprised of three electric motors. With a total output of 194 horsepower the Rav4 Hybrid has one motor to drive the front wheels, another powering the rear wheels and a third motor that starts the engine and recharges the hybrid battery. Both the front and rear electric motors aid regenerative braking.

2017 Toyota Rav4 Hybrid AWD
2017 Toyota Rav4 Hybrid AWD

The Hybrid Synergy system is one of the most harmonious hybrid layouts I’ve seen at this price point, especially in a CUV. The whip offers spunky atheism from its 2.5 liter 4-cylinder engine with dual variable valve timing and intelligence tech and super efficiency from its electric motors.

While the gas engine output tops 150 horsepower and 152 lb-ft of torque the front wheel’s electric motor has 141 horsepower and rear wheel’s motor-67 horsepower. A high EPA is achieved with this advanced hybrid system- 32 mpg combined (34 mpg city/ 30 mpg highway.)

2017 Toyota Rav4 Hybrid AWD
2017 Toyota Rav4 Hybrid AWD

The 4-cylinder is matched to an electrically controlled continuously variable transmission. And the drivetrain can be adjusted to Eco, Sport and EV mode to exploit the sport and efficiency features even more.

The Rav4 Hybrid Limited isn’t the most sporty CUV, but it’s exhibits some atheism partly because it feels super-light. The 2017 Rav4 Limited weighs 3,950 lbs. But its aerodynamic design, ultra-light electric motors and the aluminum alloy components of the gas engine make the Rav4 feel light as paper at high speeds. Sometimes that was kinda scary.

The Rav4 Hybrid is so efficient that Eco Mode felt like a standard drive mode. But in Sport mode, the Rav4 allowed for a more open throttle and tighter braking and steering. Braking was on point 99% of the time without having to put in much effort on the brakes. And electric power-assisted rack and pinion steering is fluid as always.

The suspension in the 2017 Rav4 is another welcomed advancement. The whip features Independent MacPherson strut front suspension and double wishbone rear suspension, surprisingly resilient over craters, speed humps and construction zones in Chicago. And the electronic on-demand all-wheel drive system with intelligence allows the whip to outperform some of its CUV peers in difficult road and weather conditions.


5-Star Safety

Standard Safety technology in the Limited Rav4 Hybrid includes the Star Safety System and the innovative Toyota Safety Sense System that features the Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection, Lane Departure Alert, Steering Assist, Automatic High Beams and Dynamic Radar Cruise Control.

The Rav4 Limited’s Star Safety System includes the traction control, ABS, electronic brakeforce distribution, brake assist, enhanced vehicle stability control, a blind spot monitor and rear cross traffic alert.

The 2017 Rav4 Hybrid Limited achieves a 5-star Safety Rating with an advanced airbag system plus an Emergency Locking Retractor for the driver and Automatic / Emergency Locking Retractor for the passengers.

2017 Toyota Rav4 Hybrid AWD
2017 Toyota Rav4 Hybrid AWD

Hill-Start Assist Control and Trailer Sway Control are standard safety features. While the Advanced Technology Package offers a cool Bird’s Eye View Camera with Perimeter Scan.

At $34k the 2017 Toyota Rav4 Hybrid is a fantastic buy for millennials and young professionals. It’s a very efficient, very fun –easy to drive whip ideal for the big city or the wide-open countryside. With the Rav4 Hybrid tech and AWD athleticism, it’s really a go-anywhere car.

Fully-loaded the 2017 Toyota Rav4 Hybrid with AWD is around $37k. Toyota continues to make smart moves renewing their popular whips more versatile and more stylish.


Check out more pics from our First Drive with the 2017 Toyota Rav4 Hybrid on our Facebook Page!