Toyota planning a hybrid version of the Rav4 crossover

Article by Christian A., on December 4, 2012

The Los Angeles Auto Show just concluded but Toyota is already thinking about upgrading the 2013 Toyota RAV4. According to an Auto Express report, Toyota may introduce a hybrid version of the new RAV4 crossover. Toyota RAV4 engineer Yoshikazu Saeki told AE that the company is closely monitoring the market.

He explained that an assessment will be made after the introduction of the new RAV4 and that it’s possible that a hybrid RAV4 will be launched.

Toyota has two other hybrid SUVs already available: the Highlander and Lexus RX. Since the new RAV4 is related to the European Toyota Auris, the task of converting it to hybrid propulsion should be simple. As the Auris Hybrid is available in Europe, it proves that Toyota is already adept at installing a battery pack and electrical parts to that chassis architecture.

The European Toyota Auris Hybrid is powered by a 1.8-liter inline-four gasoline engine with a rating for 98 hp and a 60-kW electric motor, and has a fuel economy rating of 59 mpg. But then, the powertrain would likely be too slow to be used in the bigger and heavier 2013 Toyota RAV4. The Auris Hybrid can accelerate from zero to 60mph in 11.4 seconds.

A hybrid RAV4 may be powered by a beefier engine and motor, like the 156-hp, 2.5-liter gas engine and 105-kW electric motor that the Toyota Camry hybrid already used. In spite of that that, Toyota can’t be expected to hurry the release of a hybrid RAV4 into the market.

The new crossover’s economy ratings are already better than those of most compact crossovers, with the 2013 model being rated at 24/31 mpg (city/highway) with front-wheel drive. A hybrid version will have to achieve a significantly better fuel economy. Development of this version is likely to take many months.

Toyota RAV4 features a design with strong proportions and, at the same time, conveys a fun and agile character. Its exterior is sophisticated and dynamic, featuring a progressive silhouette, an aggressive character line, and a sleek-sloping roofline. Meanwhile, the new RAV4's interior boasts a sophisticated and premium look with driver-centric controls and soft-touch accents.

RAV4 achieves the design goals that were defined by Akio Toyoda, Toyota president, thanks to its aggressively sculpted fenders at the front and rear as well as its boldly proportioned taillights. These features also lend an athletic presence to the vehicle.

In a significant departure from its heritage, the new RAV4 switches from side-hinged rear doors to the more convenient roof-hinged liftgate. Its space-saver spare tire is stored under its cargo floor. Also, a single-touch power rear liftgate will come standard on the Limited version, plus driver-selectable memory height settings.

Additionally, engineers paid particular attention to the RAV4’s aerodynamics, just as they did with other recently introduced Toyotas. The most obvious detail is the small vortex generators that were molded near the A-pillars’ bases and into the taillight cases. Meanwhile, the aerodynamic undertrays under the passenger cabin that help control and smoothen the airflow, are less obvious details.

What’s more, the new RAV4’s body structure is both strong and light, and follows body-engineering principles that were debuted in the 2012 Toyota Camry and the 2013 Avalon. It will include high-strength steel so as to help meet several significant goals such as a stiff and robust platform that enhances handling and steering precision.

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