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New York show: Toyota charges up RAV4 hybrid

Hybrid theory: The Toyota RAV4 hybrid has been shown off at the New York auto show, but there are no plans in place to bring the eco-friendly SUV to Australian shores.

Toyota’s RAV4 gets styling updates and new powertrain, but no hybrid for Australia

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Toyota logo6 Apr 2015

By DANIEL GARDNER and TUNG NGUYEN in NEW YORK

TOYOTA has unveiled its hybrid-powered RAV4 alongside range-wide updates to its popular compact SUV at the 2015 New York auto show.

The greenest RAV4 to be developed since Toyota partnered with Tesla Motors in 2012 to produce a limited-issue full-electric version sold only in California, the new broader-reaching hybrid combines a 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine with an electronic motor to power the front wheels, while an additional electric motor provides power to the rear wheels as required.

Speaking to GoAuto in New York, Toyota USA group vice-president and general manager William Fay said the hybrid SUV – which, as previously reported, is not on the agenda for sale in Australia – represents the perfect all-round vehicle for the environmentally concerned driver.

“(It is ideal for) a single family that’s looking for the utility and same purchase reasons of the segment but are looking for a little more fuel efficiency and economy or a little more giddy-up and go, or are a little more environmentally conscious,” he said.

“It’s really going to help us broaden the awareness of the product and the consumer interest in the product. We think it’s going to be a win-win.”

Mr Fay also said the RAV4 hybrid is the right mix of usability and efficiency for the stateside market and believes it will do well once launched.

“It delivers a real consumer proposition of efficiency and environmental benefits and there’s a part of American consumers and drivers that like that benefit,” he said.

“It’s going to have class-leading MPG, more horsepower, deliver a better ride and a more efficient cost of ownership. Those are some compelling reasons.”

Specifications including power output are still to be released for the RAV4 hybrid, which is set to hit US and European showrooms later in the year, along with range-wide updates that are expected to come to Australia in early 2016.

As GoAuto reported last month when the hybrid vehicle was previewed ahead of the show, Toyota Australia has no plans to introduce the eco variant Down Under.

“We have two petrol and one diesel RAV4 models and they are very well received and meeting customers’ requirements,” said product public relations manager Stephen Coughlan.

“We are still a strong hybrid market but we don’t have the volumes of countries like the US.”

Among the general changes made to the RAV4 range are revised styling, a higher quality interior and updated safety technologies.

The front end receives LED headlights and a redesigned bumper, new rocker panels adorn the sides and the rear carries updated tail-lights and a revised rear bumper.

Inside, Toyota says the “new combination meters, a full-colour TFT screen and soft-touch materials” raise interior quality.

Added safety features include a 360-degree panoramic view camera for easier parallel parking and adaptive cruise control, along with the existing pre-collision system, lane departure alert and automatic high beam technology.

Although power figures are yet to be confirmed for the hybrid, the Lexus NX300h – which shares similar mechanical underpinnings and a closely related 2.5-litre hybrid engine – makes a combined total of 147kW from the engine and electric motor, with an additional 50kW from the a rear-axle driving motor.

The Lexus sips fuel at a rate of 5.7 litres per 100km – mainly due to its nearly two-tonne kerb weight – and emits 133 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometre.

The Camry Hybrid – which also uses a similar 2.5-litre hybrid powertrain – returns fuel economy figures of 5.2L/100km, but power is sent exclusively to the front wheels.

Sales of hybrid vehicles have remained steady in Australia with 11,950 hybrid vehicles registered in 2014, just one unit more than the 11,949 sold in 2013.

However, this represents only one per cent of the entire new-car market.

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