Full 2012 Toyota RAV4 EV Review
What's New for 2012
The 2012 Toyota RAV4 EV is a new electric version of Toyota's venerable crossover SUV.
The first thing we'll tell you about the all-electric 2012 Toyota RAV4 EV is how many units Toyota plans to produce. The official number is 2,600, and that's only for the next three years combined, not just 2012.
The next thing we'll tell you is where the RAV4 EV will be sold. Ready for this one? California. That's it. So for all you EV fans in the other 49 states, well, tough tootin'. The electrified RAV4 won't be coming to your neck of the woods.
But here's the good news: If you're a Californian and your heart's set on buying an electric vehicle, consider the RAV4 EV because it has a lot going for it. Don't believe us? Fine, name another EV that can haul 73 cubic feet of your junk, cover an EPA-estimated 103 miles between charges, and zip from zero to 60 mph in about 7 seconds. The 2012 Tesla Model S has the latter two bases covered and then some, but its cargo capacity tops out at 58.1 cubic feet, and fully loaded Teslas go for more than double the RAV4 EV's retail price. As for other EVs, there's really nothing else that compares.
Of course, the RAV4 EV's $50,000-ish as-new price tag is still pretty hefty, even if government incentives and tax breaks make the real price more like $40,000. But let's face it: EVs in general are an expensive breed, and most models aren't nearly as well-rounded as this one. If you're among the lucky few EV enthusiasts in a position to buy a 2012 Toyota RAV4 EV, you'll be rewarded with one of the best electric vehicles we've driven to date.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2012 Toyota RAV4 EV is a five-passenger crossover SUV offered in a single well-equipped trim level.
Standard features include 17-inch alloy wheels, LED exterior lighting accents, a unique grille, aerodynamic mirror housings, an elongated rear spoiler, keyless entry/ignition, exclusive cloth upholstery, a height-adjustable driver seat, a leather-wrapped tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, heated front seats, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, 60/40-split-folding rear seatbacks, cruise control, full power accessories, dual-zone automatic climate control and an EV-specific instrument cluster with a 3.5-inch information display.
Also standard is Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, a rearview camera, an 8-inch touchscreen display, a navigation system, Toyota's Entune smartphone app integration and a six-speaker sound system with satellite radio, an auxiliary audio jack and an iPod/USB interface. EV-specific smartphone functionality, including charge status monitoring and charge schedule setting, is also included.
Powertrains and Performance
The RAV4 EV is powered by a 115-kW electric motor that produces the equivalent of 154 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque in Sport mode. Normal mode trims torque down to 218 lb-ft. A single-speed transmission sends all that force to the front wheels. All-wheel drive is not available.
In Edmunds track testing, the RAV4 EV sprinted from zero to 60 mph in a fleet 7.2 seconds. That was in Sport mode, however; in Normal mode, times are in the neighborhood of 8.6 seconds.
The electric motor gets its energy from a 41.8-kWh lithium-ion battery pack located underneath the floor. According to the EPA, a single charge from this pack is good for an estimated 103 miles of driving, longer than any other EV except the Tesla Model S. The RAV4 EV needs about 6 hours for a full charge on the recommended 240-volt current.
There's another metric the EPA uses to grade electric vehicles, and that's kilowatt-hours (kWh) of energy consumed per 100 miles. The RAV4 checks in at 44 kWh per 100 miles driven (remember that the lower the number here, the better). Translated, that's 78 mpg city/74 mpg highway and 76 mpg combined in miles-per-gallon equivalent (MPGe). That's not great by EV standards, as other EVs like the Nissan Leaf are more energy-efficient.
Standard safety features for the 2012 Toyota RAV4 EV include dual front airbags, front-seat-mounted side airbags, and full-length side curtain airbags. The RAV4 EV also comes with antilock disc brakes; stability control; a rearview camera; and "Safety Connect," a suite of Toyota safety services comprising emergency and roadside assistance, stolen-vehicle tracking, and automatic collision notification.
In Edmunds brake testing, the RAV4 EV stopped from 60 mph in 126 feet, a respectable distance considering the EV's extra weight and efficiency-biased tires.
Interior Design and Special Features
The RAV4 EV's basic dashboard architecture is straight out of 2006, which is when the RAV4 was last redesigned. However, there's plenty in here to make you feel as if you're driving something special. The shift lever, for example, is a stubby little joystick between the seats, and it sports the distinctive deep blue trim that Toyota reserves for its "green" (go figure) vehicles. The instrument cluster, designed expressly for the RAV4 EV, provides a dizzying array of information displays and electronic driving aids. And then there's the 8-inch touchscreen, another EV-only special that offers iPad-like scrolling functionality and even split-screen viewing for when you need to multitask. Remember, the RAV4 EV was a joint project with Tesla, and there's a good bit of Tesla's trademark cool in this Toyota's cabin.
Seat comfort is adequate in front, and crossover fans will appreciate the elevated riding position. In back, there's enough room for a couple of adults or three in a pinch, but keep in mind that the RAV4 EV lacks the regular RAV4's available third-row seat.
In terms of cargo capacity, since the battery pack is mounted low and out of the way, the RAV4 EV gives you essentially the same versatility as a regular RAV4. That means a healthy 36.4 cubic feet behind the second row, and a downright cavernous 73 cubic feet with the rear seatbacks folded forward. If you need to haul stuff with your EV, the RAV4 is in a class of one, although its maximum allowable payload (880 pounds) is lower than the gasoline RAV4's (around 1,000 pounds, depending on the drivetrain configuration).
Most electric cars are, well, cars, but the high-riding 2012 Toyota RAV4 EV crossover drives better than almost all of them. Partly, that's due to the low-mounted battery pack, which shifts the RAV4's default center of gravity downward, thus improving handling without compromising the compliant ride. Another piece is the regenerative braking system, which is notably less intrusive than expected, even when set to the stronger of the two driver-selectable modes. But above all, the RAV4 EV is distinguished by its eager power delivery, especially in Sport. It's like punching the throttle in an electric golf cart (instant, seamless torque), except you're accelerating so quickly that even the mighty V6-powered RAV4 would be hard-pressed to keep up. We didn't expect to be moved by the RAV4 EV, but shoot, this thing's pretty fun.