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Toyota debuts its eighth hybrid, the 2016 RAV4, in New York

Today at the New York International Auto Show, Toyota took another step in its race to become the first automaker with hybrid versions of all of its products as it debuted the 2016 RAV4 Hybrid. This development makes so much sense that is almost surprising that it hasn’t happened already.

The new hybrid RAV4 will come as part of a general refresh of Toyota’s compact crossover, and it looks to take its place as the top of the Rav4 range. To take on that challenge Toyota says that the hybrid version will boast the most horsepower and the quickest acceleration of any RAV4. Toyota also claims that this won’t come at the cost of fuel economy. For now we have to take it at its word, as the Japanese automaker hasn’t revealed any mpg figures.

As predicted, the Rav4 hybrids power and economy will come courtesy of the same powertrain that propels the Lexus NX 300h: a 2.5-liter four-cylinder gas engine mated to two electric motors, a nickel-hydride battery pack and a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT). In the Lexus this combination is good for a combined power rating of 194 horsepower. Thanks to brand differentiation, this number may come down a bit as the RAV4 is detuned. Whether or not that will translate to better or worse fuel economy than the Lexus’s 33 mpg rating is anyone’s guess.

Fortunately, the RAV4 hybrid is getting more attention than just the powertrain. All RAV4’s will be getting a much needed styling update. The front end gets the most work, with a more aerodynamic look, and some cues from the recent refresh of the Toyota 4Runner. Elsewhere the RAV4 gets a new bumper, LED lighting, lower rocker panels, and silvered skid plates.

On the interior it appears that Toyota listened to our complaints about the outgoing RAV4, replacing the shifter bezel with stronger material, replacing the frustrating 6.2-inch touchscreen with a better 7.0-inch model, and adding more soft touch materials. These changes should go a long way towards giving the RAV4 a more luxurious feel.

Toyota also proudly announces the introduction of a Bird’s Eye View Monitor which can show drivers a 360-degree view of the car for parking in tight spaces. Toyota says this is an industry first, but except for the ability to rotate the display this would appear to be the exact same system already available from Nissan, Audi, Mercedes, and a few others.

For drivers who want a little of the driving magic of the V6 powered third generation RAV4, Toyota will be offering a sport trim, dubbed the SE. The big changes are larger 18-inch alloy wheels, paddle shifters, and a sport tuned suspension.

Overall the update to the RAV4 appears to be very well done indeed. The addition of a hybrid makes the RAV4 a far more appealing option for economy and environmentally minded buyers, and the other changes go a long way towards improving the car for everyone.

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Peter Braun
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Peter is a freelance contributor to Digital Trends and almost a lawyer. He has loved thinking, writing and talking about cars…
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