By Mike Torpey on 2016-06-26 - Driving Force news editor and responsible for organising our daily output. He was staff motoring editor of the Liverpool Echo for 20 years.
Toyota RAV4 Hybrid
Excel AWD 2.5 CVT
TIME may fly, but the march of technology doesn't exactly happen at a snail's pace either.
We need only glance at our all singing all dancing state of the art, and swiftly obsolete, mobile phones to appreciate that.
It was back in 1994 that Toyota laid claim to creating the compact SUV market with the launch of its RAV4 model.
Originally just a three-door model, its name stood for Recreational Active Vehicle four-wheel drive and power was via a small 2.0-litre petrol engine.
These days the SUV scene is fast expanding with around 20 different models vying for sales - and with its latest RAV4 the Japanese giant has a car that's light years ahead of its predecessors.
To add some perspective to just how successful the RAV4 has proven, its four generations have together notched over six million sales - and more than 90 per cent of them are still on the road.
Now we have the 2016 line-up, which includes a full hybrid model, available with both front and all-wheel drive, for the first time.
Toyota's experience in developing alternative automotive technologies has been focused very much on hybrid vehicles, and together with sister brand Lexus, accounts for 60 per cent of the world hybrid market.
And the new Hybrid is the most powerful version of RAV4 yet to be sold in Europe, bringing together tuned driving dynamics, a sequential Shiftmatic gearchange and Sport driving mode that makes it a rewarding car to drive.
There's also the potential for 55mpg along with low CO2 emissions, making it attractive to company car users, plus the advantage of a 1,650kg towing capacity.
The full hybrid powertrain comprises a 2.5-litre petrol engine, a powerful electric motor/generator, a 204-cell battery, a power control unit and a power split device.
In combination the system has a power output of 194bhp, giving a 0-62mph acceleration time of 8.4 seconds.
Longer and wider, yet lower than before, the RAV4 affords the driver a cockpit-like position at the wheel and a wide field of vision, while there's plenty of interior space.
The upshot is that loading a family of five and associated clobber into the RAV4 for a weekend's camping is the not the logistics problem it can prove in so many cars.
The combination of large boot and extra interior room, including comfort for three in the rear, allows for that little extra breathing space that makes all the difference.
Five trim grades of Active, Business Edition, new Business Edition Plus, Icon and Excel make up the range and even base level includes stuff like Toyota Touch 2 multimedia system, six-speaker audio with DAB radio, reversing camera, cruise control, 17-inch alloys, LED daytime running lights, air con, rear privacy glass and electric door mirrors.
Prices are from Â£23,695 and safety features like anti-whiplash seats and seven airbags - including a driver's knee airbag and front seat side airbags - are on every car.
Toyota RAV4 Hybrid Excel AWD 2.5 CVT
Mechanical: 150bhp, 2,494cc, 4cyl petrol engine and 650v electric motor driving four wheels via automatic gearbox
Max Speed: 112mph
0-62mph: 8.4 seconds
Combined MPG: 55.4
Insurance Group: 29
C02 emissions: 118g/km
Bik rating: 20%
Warranty: 5yrs/100,000 miles
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