2023 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid Woodland Edition Review: An Efficient Exploration Companion
Equipped for light trail work, the Woodland RAV4 is a fuel-sipping jack of most trades.
Contrary to popular belief, the top love-it-or-hate-it buzzword of our era isn't found in everyday news media, doesn't revolve around any age-based disagreements, and sure as heck doesn't have anything to do with being politically correct. No, it's actually found in off-road culture: Overlanding. Whether you choose to roll your eyes at the term or throw a big chunk of your paycheck at it, you can't deny its prevalence. Plus, anything that motivates folks to take to the trails, breathe in some fresh air, and sleep under the stars is a good thing.
While larger body-on-frame truck chassis like the Toyota 4Runner, Chevy Colorado, Jeep Wrangler, or a non-leaky Land Rover (rare) are great candidates for this activity, the 2023 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid Woodland Edition with all-wheel drive as standard ought to be considered as well. At least for milder trails where the aforementioned vehicles are a bit too overkill and not worth the mid-to-high-teens fuel economy—which, let's face it, is a situation I bet more people find themselves in than they care to admit.
This muscular-looking hybrid's powertrain allows significantly higher mid-30s mpg, and therefore it has great range. It also comes standard with capable tires, above-average suspension, and is quite roomy and cargo-friendly inside. A roof rack is standard, too, though I wouldn't throw a heavy rooftop tent on there without replacing it with something more focused.
Or, it could be the top choice for someone who wants trail-ready potential but is really more concerned about reaching a local campsite or mountain bike trail. No matter the application, it's a thrifty, stilted-up crossover that's worthy of your consideration.
2023 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid Woodland Edition Specs
- Base price (Premium as tested): $33,025 ($34,360)
- Powertrain: 2.5-liter four-cylinder | permanent magnet synchronous motor | continuously variable automatic transmission | all-wheel drive
- Horsepower: 219
- Torque: 252 lb-ft
- Curb weight: 3,775 pounds
- Seating capacity: 5
- Cargo volume: 37.5 cubic feet behind second row | 69.8 cubic feet behind first row
- Tow Capacity: 1,750 lbs.
- EPA fuel economy: 38 mpg city | 35 highway | 37 combined
- Quick take: A thrifty method for traversing off the beaten path.
- Score: 8/10
The most apparent difference between the Woodland Edition and most other RAV4s are its handsome, 19-inch flow-formed bronze wheels sporting 225/60/18 all-terrain tires. They really set it apart from the rest, and when mixed with blacked-out badging, prominent mudguards, a higher-than-average ride height, and dual exhaust tips (that's right, on a hybrid), it's an all-around handsome package.
The 2023 RAV4 Hybrid Woodland Edition is a sort of TRD Off-Road-lite, meaning it has some substantial unpaved-road-ready kit, though largely mirrors the Hybrid XLE trim everywhere else. Inside, its cloth seats join together with harder plastics, faux dash stitching, and an eight-inch touchscreen to create a value-minded environment but a comfortable and well-laid-out one at that. Its infotainment is quick to get used to and includes Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto that connect wirelessly with ease. It's also a very spacious cabin that fit my six-foot-three, broad-shouldered stature quite well both up front and in the back.
Dropping the rear seats to expand cargo room was a breeze, and with the Woodland Edition, you get thick rubber floor mats for every square inch of floor space. These mats were by far my favorite interior item—they have special Woodland branding, seem quite durable, and aid in providing a grippy surface for cargo to sit on. I packed up the hatch with two big bins containing quart and gallon jugs of waste engine oil, and between not wanting to stain the upholstery, as well as ensuring nothing would potentially slide around at the wrong moment, they fulfilled this two-birds-with-one-stone duty well.
Driving the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid Woodland Edition
The RAV4 Hybrid is powered by a 2.5-liter, naturally aspirated inline-four and permanent magnet synchronous motor, which team up to provide a combined 219 horsepower and 252 lb-ft of torque. It also sports electric all-wheel drive—in between the rear wheels is where the electric motor lives, independent of the front drivetrain—and a CVT transaxle, which operated in a very smooth and gear-driven-like, non-CVT fashion. It'll haul its 3,775-pound self to 60 mph in 7.3 seconds, which isn't terrible for a crossover like this, but the powertrain quickly ran out of steam during 60-plus mph left-lane passes.
Sadly, I wasn't able to experience this RAV4's off-road-ready equipment off the beaten path. Its TRD dampers possess internal rebound springs which aid in a more comfortable-yet-controlled ride while its off-road-centric springs and bump stops ensure confidence under hard shock compression—all characteristics one wants when pitching and diving over large bumps, whoops, and washboard surfaces out on the trail.
Nevertheless, Southern California's terrible roads that are peppered with brutal drainage channeling and steep driveways proved to be a great on-road method for feeling out this level of suspension tuning. The above-average pitch and dive that cars undergo all over Los Angeles County is easy to spot—just look for the numerous bits of scraped concrete as warning markers. The RAV4 Woodland Edition rolled over all of it without a care in the world. Whether I was approaching a random drainage channel on Los Angeles' west side, or Long Beach's own Baja 1000 stage, Loynes Drive, I never had to adjust my speed or braking much while rolling across these features. Its suspension was quite good in that I got an idea of the bump's degree of harshness, but not much of it reached the cabin. The car stayed planted and sure-footed, and no bit of bodywork ever scraped.
What's especially cool about the Woodland Edition is that it packs Falken Wildpeak tires, an all-terrain that I have a lot of familiarity with from my old 1997 Land Rover Discovery. They're very quiet on the street and highway yet have excellent grip on the trail. This stilted RAV4 might not be ready for double-black-diamond fare, but its tires, combined with TRD suspension, torquey hybrid propulsion at low speed, and all-wheel drive would make it a great out-of-the-box option for reaching distant campsites.
The Highs and Lows
The 2023 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid Woodland Edition is a well-appointed and spacious crossover with unique styling cues and trail-ready appeal. It also sits right in the middle of the RAV4’s trim roster and price range.
One particular aspect that stuck out to me was how good its hybrid system is. I struggled to get below 35 mpg over 400 miles of driving, comprising of a solid mix of city, dense traffic, and highway. The RAV4 was happy to crawl along at low speed in the neighborhood summoning EV power exclusively, yet still sipped fuel while getting up to speed on the highway as quickly as possible. It was fun getting into the hypermiling mindset to see what kind of average fuel economy I could achieve.
Though, unlike its smaller Prius cousin, it still felt a bit underpowered. The added torque from hybridization often lets consumers have the best of both worlds with good economy and a nice bump in performance, but that was absent from this RAV4. It still felt (and sounded) like a wheezy, gutless four-cylinder. Its power was barely enough—I was hoping for more.
To be especially particular, the digital gauge cluster was a bit washed out while driving around in the bright, midday sun, which made configuring advanced driver assistance and making the most of its hypermiling abilities a little more of a chore than usual.
Toyota RAV4 Hybrid Features, Options, and Competition
There are as many as nine RAV4 trims to choose from in 2023—they really make one for just about every prospective Toyota crossover buyer. But even the base, front-wheel drive LE that starts at $28,910 comes standard with an eight-inch infotainment screen, rear-seat reminder, and automatic high-beams. Toyota's Safety Sense 2.5 is standard as well, which includes a pre-collision alert, pedestrian detection, lane departure alert, radar cruise control, as well as a lane tracing alert. All of which operate in a smooth and largely flawless manner.
Above the LE sit the XLE, XLE Premium, Adventure, TRD Off-Road, Limited, Prime, and Woodland, with just the first three available with front-wheel drive. The Woodland is in a unique spot—it's like a hybridized TRD Off-Road-lite, though starts a whole $4,000 cheaper at $34,360.
The Toyota RAV4 Hybrid's main competitor is the Honda CR-V Hybrid, and having driven both, I'd opt for the Honda if I were more concerned with overall athleticism. The Honda felt just about as quick and very composed for a crossover of its stature on a fun canyon road. Though, again, the Woodland is more geared towards putting up with unpaved roads, so it might come down to which surface you're more concerned with. The CR-V in a comparable spec starts at $34,675, a mere few hundred more than the RAV4's $34,360. Though, the less-well-equipped RAV4 Hybrid LE starts at just $32,560. Other considerations for any economy-conscious consumer ought to be the Kia Sportage Hybrid which starts much lower at $28,815—albeit less well-equipped—and the non-turbo, non-hybrid Mazda CX-50 starts at $28,925.
In spite of frequently revving out the RAV4 Hybrid to reach adequate highway speeds, I still averaged 35 mpg, right on the money for its EPA-rated economy figure. Compared to the competition, it mirrors the CR-V Hybrid's combined rating and is only slightly bested by the competing Kia. This is on the Woodland's very un-economical all-terrain tires, too.
I should mention: The gas-only Mazda CX-50 AWD is in the same class size-wise but shows how good hybridization has gotten. While nobody would call its 24 mpg city, 30 highway, and 27 combined thirsty, it's substantially thirstier than its semi-electrical counterparts.
The 2023 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid Woodland Edition is a nice mix of on- and off-road sensibilities and doesn't sacrifice much fuel economy for increased capability. A comparable non-Woodland, all-wheel-drive hybrid model gets as much as 40 combined mpg—a 3-mpg deficit ain't bad all things considered.
The Woodland Edition's great suspension, chunkier tires, handsome wheels, and thick rubber floor mats make it a sturdier option that's ready to take on any environment, even if it's a bit slow. Not only that, but you get a well-equipped-as-standard crossover in its fifth generation. It adds a dash of panache to this versatile, well-loved-by-all-consumers lineup. Even if it won't see regular trail duty, it's a great daily all-rounder for anyone who wants excellent economy during the work week and more potential for outdoor fun on the weekend.
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