Toyota RAV4 – Make no apologies

Ian Lamming speeds to praise the latest plug-in hybrid Toyota RAV4.

APOLOGIES all round then but mainly to the man in the Cupra filling my interior view mirror.

Thing is, we are in roadworks with those nasty can’t-cheat-the-law average speed cameras, you know the ones I mean, on yellow poles, that emerge from the asphalt like something from the War of the Worlds.

I’m fine with that and set the RAV4’s cruise control to the limit of 40mph. It comes up on the dash ‘40’ to confirm and there’s another readout telling me the limit. It looks like a road sign, circular red surround with 40 on a white background. And relax…except, the next time I glance at the clocks it is telling me it should be 30mph. What? Why? How long have I been speeding?

For some reason, just before the end of the roadworks, the powers that be have decided to drop the 40mph to 30mph, just before the derestriction, back to 70mph sign. Naughty. Nasty even, revenue generating, perhaps.

So I now have to make sure my average speed isn’t over 30mph and I drop to 25mph, to the chagrin of Mr Cupra behind me, who, not understanding why, starts to honk his horn – hence the first set of apologies.

He’s an angry man and I’m expecting, at the very least, him to pull alongside mouthing obscenities, perhaps even offering me the vees and I don’t want that. So, as we switch from single carriageway to dual and the gloves come off, I hit the throttle thinking I can at least delay the inevitable abuse.

I’ve driven the RAV4 many times and that 2.5 litre petrol/hybrid arrangement is a potent combo, so this is going to be no easy overtake Mr Cupra. But it’s the first time I’ve driven the Plug-in Hybrid and flooring the throttle sees the peripheral view become a blur and Mr Cupra shrink to a dot on the horizon. Wow this thing is ballistic.

That’s because, from somewhere deep in the technology of the RAV4, this Toyota SUV blasts out an incredible 306HP. Stick and electric motor on each axle then plant the accelerator and it buries all four tyres spitting you out of the other side. It’s incredible. The 222HP self-charging hybrid is impressive enough but the PHEV really is something else.

Its uber cleverness also means that you don’t really need to plug it in. If you do and get the full charge in the bank it will run for more than 46 miles on EV alone at speeds of up to 86mph – though not at the same time. If  you can’t be bothered then the electric gauge always seems to hover between a quarter and a third full by harvesting the power generated when you lift off the throttle, even more if you brake. Brilliant. Like its self-charging cousin the RAV4 seems to switch from petrol to electric at will and works out what the driver needs even before he needs it. The result is potent performance, supreme cruising ability and 50+mpg economy. I’m in love.

Sharp handling, sticky grip and the perfect ride make RAV the perfect mate for long tiring drives or blasts along your favourite roads.

Looks-wise it still breaks the family mould with its blunt profile and angular lines. It is also sensitive to colour-combinations and two tone still looks the best.

The cabin shares the Toyota range’s high quality feel, with precise build, soft-touch surfaces, interesting textures, colours and ambient lighting.

Switchgear is pleasingly tactile with buttons and dials for primary controls while the dash is home to the obligatory touchscreen.

RAV is a good old size too accommodating passengers and luggage galore. The cabin is large and airy, comfortable and quiet and the massive boot even has two levels.

All in all I’m staggered how good this PHEV variant of the RAV4 is as it improves considerably an already cracking car – and I make no apologies for that.

Fact file

Toyota RAV4 Plug-in Hybrid AWD

Engine: 2.5 petrol plus electric

Power: 306BHP

0-62mph: 6.0secs

Top speed: 112mph

Combined: 282.5MPG

Transmission: CVT

CO2 g/km: 22

Price: £50,895.00