Curiously, the Across was permitted to beat the RAV4 into European showrooms, offering Toyota’s new- generation 302bhp four-wheel-drive PHEV powertrain several months before its doppelganger went on sale with precisely the same set-up.
That set-up consists of a 182bhp front-mounted 2.5-litre Atkinson- cycle engine and two electric drive motors: one of 180bhp for the front axle and a more compact, 54bhp unit for the rear. What makes the system unusual, in traditional SUV engineering terms at least, is that thanks to the electric element, there is no physical connection between the axles for the transfer of drive – but plenty of plug-in SUVs now deliver four-wheel drive in the same way.
The efforts of the car’s combustion engine and front electric motor are combined via the planetary gears of Toyota’s unique transaxle. The set-up includes a clutch pack that allows the engine to be disengaged and shut off either intermittently in Hybrid mode or for pure electric running in EV mode. Equally, when the motor and engine are operational together, the epicyclic e-CVT transmission modulates the speed of the crankshaft to keep the car running at its most efficient.
The important point is that there is no output shaft to the rear, and so when the car is in soft-roading Trail mode, for example, the four-wheel drive system and the efforts of the rear motor are wholly dependent on the sensors that inform the ESP and traction control.