~ A DriveWays Review ~
by Frank A. Aukofer
The old adage that experience is the best teacher could easily apply to the 2023 Toyota RAV4 Woodland Hybrid, especially given the milestone a few years ago when the automaker passed sales of 15 million hybrids world-wide since the introduction of the Prius in 1997.
Included were not only Prius sales but those of the company’s luxury brand, Lexus, which markets hybrid versions of its ES and LS sedans, LC Coupe and RX, NX and UX crossover sport utility vehicles. Hybrids with the Toyota brand in the U.S. include the current Prius, Prius Prime Plug-in, and versions of the Highlander, RAV4, Avalon, Camry and Corolla.
In this era, when there’s a strong movement toward all-electric vehicles but so far without the charging reliability and infrastructure to support them, a standard hybrid still is the best choice for buyers seeking decent performance, stellar fuel economy, no range anxiety and a reasonable sticker price.
Electrics and PHEVs (plug-in hybrids) are still more expensive than standard hybrids and, in the case of PHEVs, offer only small amounts of range on electric power only. There have been reports of numbers of PHEV owners who don’t bother charging their vehicles, which default to standard hybrid operation when batteries are depleted.
The tested Woodland edition represents a sort of compromise between the standard RAV4 hybrid and the more aggressive for off-roading TRD version (it stands for Toyota Racing Development). It delivers a bit of the TRD’s all-terrain features, including 18-inch alloy wheels with aggressive tires and the TRD’s springs and shock absorbers.
Even at that, the Woodland comes across mainly as a comfortable, mostly quiet and capable handling crossover for everyday duty as a family hauler in urban and country settings with paved roads.
It is popularly classified as a compact crossover (the EPA rates it as a “small” SUV) with 99 cubic feet of space for passengers and 38 cubic feet for cargo—about what you’d get for passengers in a midsize sedan and cargo space exceeding that of a large car.
It seats five. On the test car, the seats were covered in embossed cloth—with superior comfort in this opinion to any leather or faux leather. Likely because of that, the tested Woodland did not offer heated rear seats—not needed because good cloth is warm in winter and cool in summer.
The only minor drawback was the usual center-rear seating position, which featured a hard cushion, though there was enough head room for average-sized passengers and even the raised floor hump was designed as a flat surface to plant shoe soles.
Motivating the Woodland RAV4 is a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine working in concert with front and rear electric motors driving the all-wheel drive system. Together, the system makes 219 horsepower and 163 pound-feet of torque, or twisting force, enough to propel the Woodland to 60 miles an hour in about seven seconds. A 1.6 kWh battery pack supplies the juice for the electric motors.
The power makes its way to the pavement via what the company describes as a continuously variable automatic transmission, which uses a set of belts and pulleys to multiply the power at different speeds. However, other sources describe it as a planetary gear system that mimics a CVT. Either way, it moves the RAV4 smoothly without hiccups. It can be shifted manually but there are no steering-wheel paddles.
With its low profile, a length of 15 feet 1 inch and accurate steering, the RAV4 Woodland handles responsively, almost like its sedan garage mate, the Corolla. It also delivers a comfortable, long-distance ride over surfaces that have not been mutilated.
Standard equipment incorporates Toyota Safety Sense, which features automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, full-speed adaptive cruise control, rear cross-traffic alert with emergency braking, lane-departure warning and lane-keeping assist, blind-spot monitoring and automatic headlight high beams.
Other equipment included a multi-media center touch screen, dual-zone automatic climate control, Apple Car Play and Android Auto, SXM satellite radio, audio system with six speakers, four USB charge ports, power driver’s seat, roof rails with cross bars and 18-inch alloy wheels. However, the tested Woodland was not equipped with a sunroof.
Other than its built-in enrichments, the RAV4 Woodland’s strong suit is economy of operation. The EPA rates the hybrid’s city/highway/combined fuel economy at 38/35/37 miles to the gallon of regular gasoline.
- Model: 2023 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid Woodland Edition four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
- Engine/motors: 2.5-liter four-cylinder gasoline with front and rear electric motors; combined output 219-hp, 163-lb-ft torque; 1.6 kWh battery pack.
- Transmission: Continuously variable automatic with all-wheel drive.
- Overall length: 15 feet 1 inch.
- Height: 5 feet 7 inches.
- EPA/SAE passenger/cargo volume: 99/38 cubic feet.
- Weight: 3,815 pounds.
- Towing capability: 1,750 pounds.
- EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 38/35/37 mpg.
- Base price, including destination charge: $34,360.
- Price as tested: $34,360.
Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and review. Photos ©Toyota
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