There can’t be an awful lot wrong with the performance of a near two-tonne SUV that’ll knock over the 0-60mph dash in less than six seconds, but that also stands ready to really impress you for its real-world running efficiency – whether you charge it regularly or not.
Broadly speaking, that’s the prospect that the RAV4 PHEV offers. It has commendable refinement and isolation too, and mostly good drivability and flexibility as it accelerates. Under wide throttle applications you’re aware of just a little bit of the ‘rubber band effect’ of hybrid Toyotas of old – but mostly you’ll be too busy marveling at a car of this size that can mix it with hot hatchbacks as it zips away from rest. The characteristics of the car’s electric motors and transmission make it feel punchier when pulling away from town speeds than when overtaking around the national speed limit, but there’s still plenty of urgency left under your foot for assertive motorway driving.
Making brisk progress isn’t really what this car feels best suited to once you’re used to its outright capabilities, however. You can sharpen its pedal calibration by selecting the sportier driving modes; but you still have to get quite a long way into the accelerator, and make the engine do its impression of either an (admittedly distant) outboard motor or a hard-working three-speed food mixer, to get the car really moving. Driving it more reservedly and responsibly is generally more satisfying.