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Viva Las Vegas

Published on Sun, Jul 15, 2018

By: Reed Berry

Reed Berry takes the Toyota’s 2018 RAV4 Hybrid Limited AWD for real-world MPG test from LA to the Strip and back, saves money for $2.99 prime rib.

For Californians such as myself, one of the most popular destinations for both business and pleasure is Las Vegas. The excitement of Vegas is only about a four-hour drive from Los Angeles and, in good weather and under normal traffic conditions, it makes for a fairly quick and reasonably trouble-free road trip. Sure, you can fly to Vegas on any one of hundreds of daily flights, but I prefer to drive and, on this trip, I’m doing it very economically in a 2018 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid.

RAV4 is the best selling passenger vehicle in the country and, given the fuel economy estimates of this particular hybrid version, it appears that I will use less gas thereby leaving me extra money to drop right into the nearest slot machine upon my arrival. This vehicle is rated at 34 mpg city and 30 on the highway so, if these figures prove to be accurate, this vehicle will check a lot of boxes for me. I really enjoy a vehicle that is roomy, comfortable, technologically advanced and, perhaps most importantly, fuel efficient.

Photo by Toyota. SE Hybrid trim pictured.
Photo by Toyota. SE Hybrid trim pictured.

The 2018 RAV4 is both sleek and stylish. At least, now it is. Honestly, I haven’t been a fan of the RAV4’s exterior styling over the years but, like anything else, vehicles evolve over time and this one has evolved in a big way. This is no ugly duckling. The body styling is bold and sculpted, enhanced by big 18-inch alloy wheels and a contoured roof rack that blends smartly and subtly into the exterior design.

While the RAV4 looks great on the outside, designers seem to have nailed it on the inside, as well. The interior is quite spacious which, I guess, is not that surprising for an SUV, but it seems as though everything is very intelligently positioned to be both driver and passenger friendly. One of my pet peeves in any vehicle is a bulky center console that my right leg rests against or rubs on while driving. Not a problem in RAV4. There is a wide, functional center console but it is intelligently spaced to avoid crowding the driver and front seat passenger.

Photo by Toyota
Photo by Toyota

Seating is very comfortable and seems to provide just the right amount of support. Every time I road test a new vehicle, I think about so many cars I’ve driven that had me squirming in my seat or rubbing my legs to regain the feeling in them just one or two hours into a drive. Not the case in RAV4. Three hours into the drive and I’m still as comfortable as when I left L.A. The front seats are heated but, being a rather warm summer day, I will not be utilizing that feature today. The rear seats recline and fold flat, if needed.

Photo by Toyota.
Photo by Toyota.

Yes, it is a warm day and as I’ve been driving I’ve seen the outdoor temperature go from 103 to 99, then up to 107. Without those temperature readings, my passenger and I would have no idea how hot it is outside because the highly efficient dual-zone climate control is keeping the interior cool and comfortable. Unlike some vehicles that require adjustment every so often to maintain the desired temperature, once the controls are set the RAV4 does an excellent job of maintaining the desired temperature. When the temperature cools a bit later, I will avail myself of the power moonroof, standard on the RAV4 Hybrid Limited.

Photo by Toyota.
Photo by Toyota.

This is not the first hybrid vehicle I’ve driven but, based on my experience thus far, the RAV4 may prove to be one of my favorites. It has plenty of power generated by its Hybrid Synergy Drive system and 2.5-liter DOHC 4-cylinder engine producing 194 net horsepower. That’s a bit more than the non-hybrid RAV4 models which produce 176 horsepower. Aside from a little hesitation on acceleration at times, this all-wheel drive vehicle performs quite well.

Photo by Toyota.
Photo by Toyota.

As we make our way along Interstate 15 crossing the Nevada state line, I still don’t feel as though I’m driving an SUV. The ride is smooth but provides a good feel of the road. RAV4 handles well and is surprisingly agile. Exiting the freeway to grab a quick bite, the vehicle corners confidently and I barely notice any difference in the ride or handling as we traverse a variety of road surfaces.

There are three drive modes: EV, Eco and Sport. EV mode is for driving on battery power alone and is perfect for short trips. Eco mode is ideal for longer trips or highway driving because it stops the battery from draining its energy when you accelerate. Sport mode, as the name implies, changes the driving dynamics to give you a sportier driving experience by adjusting the steering, shifting and throttle response characteristics. All three modes perform well.

This vehicle not only has some very impressive features, but I will hazard a guess that it will be any techie’s dream come true. My test vehicle has the Advanced Technology Package (a $1,435 add-on) that includes an Entune Premium JBL audio system with 11 speakers, music streaming via Bluetooth, voice recognition, and a Siri eyes-free feature that allows you to sync with your iPhone, not to mention a variety of other infotainment amenities, including album cover art displayed when listening to music.

Another interesting feature in the package is the Bird’s Eye View Camera with Perimeter Scan. In plain English, that means that on the 7-inch video display you can see what appears to be an overhead view of the vehicle. This is not only just plain cool, but an important safety feature, as well. It will help you get in and out of parking spaces and crowded parking lots, and the perimeter scan gives you a live 360-degree view of your surroundings.

Speaking of safety, this vehicle is truly loaded with safety features that, if used and observed properly, should keep you well out of harm’s way. A potential lifesaver for a drowsy driver, Lane Departure Alert, keeps you from accidentally drifting into another lane. The Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection, as the name implies, makes the driver aware of objects and pedestrians. And one safety feature that I hope will become standard on all future vehicles is Rear Cross Traffic Alert. Many drivers aren’t as observant as they should be, therefore safety features such as these, and several others on the vehicle I haven’t even listed, serve as a much needed and appreciated added layer of protection.

RAV4 is an SUV so its important to mention what it does best – hauling people and cargo. It seats four people comfortably and, if needed, I could squeeze in a fifth. There’s plenty of room for luggage or groceries with 35.6 cubic feet of cargo volume behind the second row seating and 70.6 cubic feet with the second row seats folded. My test vehicle is equipped with an available height-adjustable foot activated power liftgate, and there is a handy cargo net in the back, perfect for securing smaller items.

But this is a hybrid, so let’s talk mileage. I don’t have a team from the EPA accompanying me on this road trip to Vegas to monitor and calculate my exact milage but, based on real-world testing (dividing the miles driven by the number of gallons required to fill up,) my combined city/highway mileage is 32.3. Certainly impressive for a vehicle of this size and capabilities, not to mention the fact that it is approximately 300 pounds heavier than the non-hybrid RAV4 models.

RAV4 Hybrid comes in four trim levels: LE, XLE, SE and Limited, with base prices ranging from $27,235 for the LE to $34,280 for the Limited.

For additional information about Toyota products, visit

2018 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid Limited AWD

MSRP: $34,280

As Tested: $36,492

Engine type:

2.5-liter 4-cylinder DOHC 16-valve

194 net system horsepower

Transmission type:

Electronically controlled Continuously Variable Transmission (ECVT)


Electric Power Steering (EPS); power-assisted rack-and-pinion


Front: Independent MacPherson struts with stabilizer bar

Rear: Double-wishbone style multi-link with stabilizer bar


Front:Power-assisted ventilated disc brakes

Rear: Solid disc brakes

18-inch five-spoke SuperChrome alloy wheels



Overall length:

Overall width

Overall height:
67.1”  (with roof rails)

Curb weight:

RWD: 3,950

EPA Fuel Economy Estimates (City / Highway / Combined):

Fuel Capacity:

14.8 gallons

Editor’s note: If you like this RAV4, take a look at the upcoming 2019 RAV4 which has undergone a dramatic redesign. It’s more “truckish” appearance is a good thing in our opinion, and should help drive even more demand for this O.G. compact crossover.  

The forthcoming 2019 RAV4 is redesigned with a more muscular, truckish look. It will no doubt bring new buyers to the table.

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