Toyota joins the new crop of electric vehicle makers with its RAV4 EV, using a driveline sourced from partner Tesla Motors. Toyota's is the first SUV among the new crop of electric vehicles, although it's the second time Toyota has put an electric drive system in the RAV4 model.
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The view under the hood consists of an inverter and power control electronics. Deeper down is a 154-horsepower electric motor driving the front wheels, connected to a 41.5-kilowatt-hour lithium ion battery pack.
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The battery and other electric drive components do not intrude on the cabin space, keeping the RAV4 EV as a five-passenger SUV.
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One perk of the RAV4 EV for Californians is access to High Occupancy Vehicle lanes, a particular benefit in the heavy traffic of Los Angeles.
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The RAV4 EV boasts more cargo space than most of the new electric vehicles on the market, but that probably won't be a big factor for most buyers.
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The cabin, with surfaces covered in hard plastics, feels somewhat less than luxurious.
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The rear seats fold down to maximize cargo space, and offer plenty of legroom when in the up position.
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The electric power steering has a very neutral feeling, while the extra 800 pounds from the battery, slung low, making cornering an adventure.
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Toyota uses an LCD for the instrument cluster, displaying vehicle speed in a digital format. A gauge on the left shows power usage and remaining range.
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The center LCD in the dashboard can show a split view, with navigation on the left and power usage on the right, in this configuration.
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Toyota programmed some electric-vehicle-specific screens into the RAV4 EV, such as this energy usage monitor.
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As in other Toyota vehicles, the RAV4 EV gets Entune, Toyota's connected vehicle technology. Entune depends on the driver having a smartphone running the Entune app, and uses its data connection to power apps in the dashboard. For the RAV4 EV, Toyota adds some electric-vehicle-specific functions.
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Entune's charging station map is really more of a list, and displays 24 results near the vehicle or centered on another location.
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Entune also includes Bing search, making it possible to search for local businesses, then feed an entry to the navigation system.
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On a smartphone, owners can use Entune to remotely check the RAV4 EV's charging status.
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The app also shows charging stations in a map format, making it easy to find concentrations of stations in a particular area.
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Of course, the RAV4 EV has typical cabin technologies, such as a Bluetooth hands-free phone system.
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The car uses its satellite radio connection to bring in traffic, weather, stocks, and sports information.
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HD Radio is included standard in the RAV4 EV.
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The audio system supports iOS integration, USB drives, and Bluetooth audio streaming. In addition, Entune includes Pandora and iHeartRadio.
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The RAV4 EV comes with a rather mediocre six-speaker audio system.
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The only driver assistance feature is a backup camera, which is useful considering the SUV style of the vehicle.
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