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2013 Toyota RAV4 EV: Test Drive Review

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If we aren’t yet past the old narrative that all electric cars are cheap and tiny egg-shaped golf carts, one trip in the 2013 Toyota RAV4 EV should put that to bed.

The new generation of the RAV4 EV is one of the best examples yet of the viability of an electric future. It combines pleasing design, build quality, driving excitement, fuel economy and – here’s the kicker – utility like no other EV has. During a ride and drive event at the Los Angeles Auto Show, we had a chance to hop behind the wheel.

The 2013 Toyota RAV4 EV boasts a strong physique that doesn’t differentiate much from the standard, gas-burning RAV4, expect for a few details that make it appear leaner and cleaner to the eye. The RAV4 EV is sprinkled with LED running lights, tail and headlights that mix technology and luxury.

The green push button start brings the RAV4 EV to life with a soft tune and warm glow. Like most modern day electrics, it’s a breeze to drive at a level that is still somewhat surprising; it will take a while for the public to grow accustomed to silence on the road. Set off in Normal mode to maximize efficiency, or Sport mode to take advantage of all the instant torque under your right foot.

A lithium-ion battery system with 129 kW powers the AC induction motor, which boasts 154 horsepower and 218 lb.-ft of torque (273 in Sport mode). A 0.30 drag coefficient – downright amazing for an SUV – helps the RAV4 EV achieve an estimated 78/74 eMPG with a 103-mile electric range. But how does it drive? With a welcoming battery whine, off you go.

In motion, the 2013 Toyota RAV4 EV moves quickly and directly. Reporters talk about the way that electric cars “dart” and “zip” all the time, but you don’t much expect that from a five-seater SUV.

And yet, the steering is direct and light – the RAV4 EV reacts instantly to your commands and feels confident on its feet. There is none of the uneasiness of past electrics, and none of the clumsiness of a typical SUV. It feels light – not the steering, the actual car. In fact, the RAV4 EV tips the scales at 4,032 lbs., about 100 lbs. lighter than the standard RAV4, which is astounding considering the li-ion batteries alone weigh 845.5 lbs.

Engineers skewed the system by using the heavy batteries to give the RAV4 EV a low center of gravity, which accounts for its impressive balance. They didn’t save weight everywhere, though – the hood is pretty heavy, bolstered to protect the batteries in case of low speed collisions.

With a new Sport mode and clever weight distribution, the 2013 Toyota RAV4 EV not only deals with the reality of driving an electric car, it uses it to its advantage. If you want more style and range, spring for the Tesla Model S. If you want the most efficiency, check out the Honda Fit EV.

But if you need utility and still like to have fun, the RAV4 EV is an electric that isn’t just good for its owner – it’s good for the future of the EV industry.

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Visit theautoMedia.comToyota Research Centerfor quick access to reviews, pricing, photos, mpg and more. Make sure to followautoMedia.comonTwitterandFacebook.

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By Ryan ZumMallen

Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV Coming to U.S. Soon

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Mitsubishi Motor Company recently disclosed details about the highly anticipated 2014 Outlander plug-in hybrid, scheduled to be released in Japan on January 24th. According to Mitsubishi, the Outlander PHEV is its “most important vehicle sold in decades.” This is a particularly bold claim coming from the car company who just last year released the i-MiEV (review here), a well-received all-electric vehicle.

The base price is ¥3,324,000 and its highest‐level factory model goes for about ¥4,297,000, approximately $38,972 to $50,380 U.S. at the current exchange rate. In Japan, the crossover qualifies for the “eco‐car” government incentives, which slashes about $5,000 off its cost, making the Outlander’s starting price as low as $33,471.

While the Outlander PHEV is an interesting, eco crossover entry, it should not be expecting an open season in the U.S. market. Probable competitors include the current Toyota Rav4 EV (review here) and the soon to be released Tesla Model X. However, these cars are both electric vehicles, making them only suitable for short trips. Tesla is attempting to overcome these shortcomings, claiming that its nationwide “supercharger network” will be finished sometime in late 2014. Considering Tesla’s reputation for sticker shock, the Model X is unlikely to be vying for Mitsubishi’s more modest market.

The Outlander PHEV is powered by Mitsubishi’s Plug-in Hybrid EV System, a multi-mode drivetrain, which combines two independent electric motors, a 12kWH lithium–ion battery pack, and a 2.0L four-cylinder MIVEC gas-powered engine. The gas engine is rated at 117 hp and 137 lb.-ft of torque. This “motor à trois” gives the Outlander PHEV an estimated 37 mile range on electric only, hybrid mpg of 44, and a combined fuel efficiency of 175 mpg.

Mitsubishi added that quick-charging will be an available option. This feature allows the Outlander PHEV to charge the battery up to 80 percent in 30 minutes, undoubtedly a useful element when charging the crossover away from home. Also available is a plug‐in system that allows the vehicle to power other sources at 100 volts AC and up to 1,500 watts.

The Outlander PHEV will come in five trim levels. Four “G levels,” which include the barebones G, the G Safety Package featuring the “e-Assist” advanced safety technology system, the G Navi Package with an on-board navigation system, and the G Premium Package, which boasts a Rockford Fosgate Premium Sound System and leather-upholstered seats. The fifth trim level is the prestigious E, which is made-to‐order to the customer’s specifications.

Design wise, the 2014 Outlander was given a moderate facelift. The headlights have been narrowed and swept back further. The front has been squared off, giving the crossover a more robust, yet streamlined appearance. It is unknown whether or not this Japanese market design (as well as its price tag) will carry over to its later international release.

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Visit theautoMedia.comMitsubishi Research Centerfor quick access to reviews, pricing, photos, mpg and more. Make sure to followautoMedia.comonTwitterandFacebook.

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By Jessica Matsumoto

RAV4 EV: Toyota and Tesla Partner To Make User-Friendly Electric

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The Toyota RAV4 EV – a joint partnership between Toyota and Tesla – will be available for eco-minded customers in California this summer, fully loaded with up to 100 miles of electric range and a starting price of $49,800.

The project aimed to provide a more user-friendly experience for EV owners, and also further the relationship between Toyota and Tesla. In less than two years, Tesla produced specialized battery and electric powertrain to fit the existing RAV4, and Toyota says the RAV4 EV will equal or best its gas-powered brother in nearly all performance tests. In Sport mode, Toyota expects it to reach 0-60mph in 7.0 seconds.

The RAV4 EV can charge in Standard or Extended mode, the former yielding 92 miles of range and the latter providing more than 113. Leviton offers a standard 120V charging cable or an optional 240V for a six-hour charge. Toyota and Tesla developed ECO LO and ECO HI driving modes, pre-cooling and pre-heating systems under charging and a unique regenerative braking technique to make the RAV4 EV easier to own than other electric vehicles.

What’s certainly not user-friendly is that price. Nearly $50 grand is quite steep for a small SUV that carries a Toyota badge instead of Lexus. Federal and state rebates could combine for up to $10,000 in savings, but the cost is enough to keep out everyone but the hardcore EV enthusiasts. Toyota expects to sell about 2,600 models through 2014.

Then again, sales of the RAV4 EV aren’t really what the project is about. It’s about developing and innovating electric technology, in order to bring it to market and eventually make it mass-produced and more affordable. In that respect, partnering with Tesla is proving to be the best move Toyota could have made; the two can share technology costs and existing vehicle platforms to keep costs down.

So don’t think of the RAV4 EV as a $50,000 electric SUV. Think of it as the father of a future generation of affordable technology.

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Visit theautoMedia.comToyota Research Centerfor quick access to reviews, pricing, photos, mpg and more. Make sure to followautoMedia.comonTwitterandFacebook.

Toyota RAV4 EV – Official Website

Build Your Own Toyota RAV4 EV

Find Your Local Toyota Dealer

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By Ryan ZumMallen