Toyota’s hybrid electric technology reaches an unprecedented level of performance in the new RAV4 Plug-in, due for UK launch in 2021. Not only is this model the most powerful version of the world’s best-selling SUV yet, it also more efficient than any rival in its class.

Equipped with a new plug-in hybrid system that sets electric power as the vehicle’s default running mode, it takes its place as the new flagship of Toyota’s hybrid vehicle range.

It’s another significant achievement for RAV4, the model that launched the global market for recreational SUVs and which to date has amassed more than 10 million worldwide sales since the arrival of the first generation in 1994.

Performance and technology

With the new RAV4 Plug-in, Toyota has created a vehicle with dual qualities: one that has strong and genuine EV capabilities, but which can also operate with highly efficient hybrid electric power.

It has added a higher performance dimension to the technology it developed for two generations of Prius Plug-in. In that model, the focus was on using a larger high-voltage battery in conjunction with the standard hybrid vehicle’s electric motor, to achieve a longer all-electric EV driving range. By contrast, RAV4 Plug-in uses a more powerful motor and a larger battery to gain extra drive power, as well as the ability to cover greater distances and run at higher speeds in EV mode.

Maximum output for the full powertrain, including the 2.5-litre petrol engine (with higher output), is 302bhp/225kW – 38 per cent more than the standard RAV4 Hybrid – enabling 0-62mph acceleration in six seconds (2.1 seconds faster than the hybrid). More accessible power makes for better drivability, with 50 per cent more power available at 37mph (60km/h).

At the same time, fuel consumption and CO2 emissions are sharply improved. Homologated WLTP data indicates 282.5mpg and 22g/km respectively.

Moreover, RAV4 Plug-in operates as an authentic electric vehicle: EV running is its default mode, even with hard use of the accelerator pedal. In this mode it can cover 46.6 miles (75km, WLTP cycle), with no fuel consumption and no tailpipe emissions. That distance increases to up to around 60 miles (98km) in urban driving (City WLTP cycle) on a full battery charge – comfortably more than the average European daily commuting distance.

When battery charge level permits, it can also reach 84mph (135km/h, where speed limits allow), with no intervention from the petrol engine, giving EV performance suitable for the motorway.

When the limit of EV driving range is reached, RAV4 Plug-in automatically switches to its hybrid vehicle (HV) mode. The choice of driving modes means the driver can use HV mode to start their journey, then switch to EV mode to maximise efficiency, for example when reaching an urban area.

In Auto EV/HV mode, the hybrid system will automatically come into play when extra power is needed, for example under sharp, sudden acceleration, then returning to EV mode immediately afterwards.

Toyota has developed a more powerful hybrid system for RAV4 Plug-in, making detailed changes to the compact, lightweight components in the fourth-generation hybrid technology featured in the current RAV4 Hybrid model.

It uses a new lithium-ion battery, with energy capacity increased to 18kW/h and voltage rated at 355.2V, giving significantly higher output. The power control unit has also been adjusted with the addition of a boost converter to that more power can be drawn from the battery. The front electric motor’s output is also increased, by 46kW to 134kW.

Battery charging is simple and safe and can be accomplished in 2.5 hours using a 230V/32A connection.

More UK technical information, specifications and pricing for the new RAV4 Plug-in will be published later and the new model will arrive in showrooms in spring 2021.