2023 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid Review and Test Drive

Sensible shoes in a popular size.

Ron Sessions | 
Aug 16, 2023 | 10 min read

2023 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid Woodland Edition in Cavalry BlueRon Sessions

Last redesigned for the 2019 model year, the 2023 Toyota RAV4 is in the fifth year of the model's fifth generation. This compact crossover forms the core of the brand's extensive SUV lineup and has become Toyota's best-selling model.

In 2022, the RAV4 outsold the brand's best-selling car, the Camry, its best-selling truck, the Tacoma, and its next best-selling SUV, the Highlander. Its 2022 calendar-year sales also topped those of prominent competing compact SUVs, such as the Chevrolet Equinox, Ford Escape, Honda CR-V, Hyundai Tucson, Mazda CX-5, and Nissan Rogue.

To ensure the 2023 RAV4 remains at the top of the sales charts, this year Toyota installed the automaker's new Audio Multimedia infotainment system, which includes a larger touchscreen display and enhanced voice control. The RAV4 also upgrades its safety features from Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 (TSS 2.0) to Toyota Safety Sense 2.5 (TSS 2.5). A new Woodland Edition trim level is added to the 2023 RAV4 Hybrid lineup, combining the SUV's fuel-saving hybrid powertrain with a modest amount of enhanced off-pavement ability and more rugged looks.

2023 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid Woodland Edition in Cavalry Blue parked on streetRon Sessions

The 2023 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid comes in LE, XLE, SE, Woodland Edition, XLE Premium, XSE, and Limited trim levels, and base prices range from the low $30,000s to the low $40,000s, including the destination charge to ship the SUV from the Woodstock, Ontario, Canada factory that builds it to your local dealership.

For this 2023 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid review, I test-drove the Woodland Edition in Western Pennsylvania. It came with no options, and the manufacturer's suggested retail price (MSRP) was $35,360, including the $1,335 destination charge. Toyota provided the vehicle for this review.

2023 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid Woodland Edition interior and steering wheelRon Sessions

2023 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid Review: The Design

The 2023 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid Woodland Edition combines a hybrid drivetrain and electronic all-wheel drive with rugged-looking bits and pieces from the gas-only RAV4 TRD Off-Road model. The highlights include bronze-finish alloy wheels, off-road-oriented all-terrain tires, and the TRD Off-Road's recalibrated springs, dampers, and suspension bump stops. Other exterior cues that differentiate the Woodland Edition from more pedestrian RAV4 Hybrid models include a beefier-looking roof rack with cross bars, mud flaps for all four wheel openings, black badges, and black chrome-tipped dual exhaust outlets.

Inside, the Woodland Edition comes with upgraded, tray-type rubber floor mats that are designed to contain the mud, dirt, tree droppings, vegetation, and small stones dragged inside the cabin on your shoes. Another sturdy tray-type mat protects the Woodland Edition's cargo floor from wear and tear. Also, you'll find a 120-volt/100-watt AC power outlet in the Woodland Edition's cargo bay.

2023 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid Woodland Edition second row seatsRon Sessions

Priced between the Hybrid SE and Hybrid XLE Premium trims, the Hybrid Woodland Edition has cloth-covered seats and a urethane steering wheel, neither of which is heated. The driver's seat is power-operated, but the front passenger's seat is not. Woodland Edition niceties include dual-zone automatic climate control and push-button engine start, but a wireless smartphone charger is unavailable.

Now in its fifth model year, the current-generation RAV4's spacious cabin is aging gracefully. On a road trip, its front bucket seats are all-day comfortable, and the 60/40-split folding rear bench seat can accommodate two full-grown adults (or three if necessary). Logically arrayed switchgear is easy to use and tactile in response to inputs. Outward visibility is excellent.

Although the shifter and drive mode selector occupy some console space, the RAV4 squeezes in a pair of front cup holders. You will find additional storage in a deep bin under the center armrest and on an open shelf ahead of the shifter. Toyota also adds a pair of handy trays on the dashboard, one above the glovebox for the front passenger and a second, smaller one for the driver to the left of the steering wheel. Those trays are great for road-trip items you might want to keep close at hand. All four doors have map pockets and bottle holders.

2023 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid Woodland Edition cargo area with luggageRon Sessions

Cargo space is generous thanks to a small hybrid system battery. At 37.5 cubic feet, there's plenty of room behind the rear seat, and when you fold the back seat nearly flat, you get almost 70 cu-ft of volume.

2023 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid Woodland Edition infotainment screenRon Sessions

2023 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid Review: The Technology

For 2023, all RAV4 models adopt a new Toyota Audio Multimedia system. Among the tech's notable upgrades are larger infotainment screens, and in the RAV4 Hybrid lineup, an 8.0-inch display is standard in all models except the Hybrid XSE and Hybrid Limited, which have a 10.5-inch screen.

Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone connectivity are standard.

Unfortunately, the Woodland Edition does not include a complimentary trial subscription to Toyota Audio Multimedia's new Drive Connect plan. Therefore, I could not evaluate its features since Toyota had not activated the service in the test vehicle. With paid access to this service plan, you get a cloud-based navigation system and an Intelligent Assistant conversational voice control system. In other Toyotas I've driven, this technology has worked well.

Pairing my Samsung phone with the 8-inch system in the Woodland Edition took less than a minute, and the tech immediately asked me if I wanted to activate Android Auto. I agreed because I wanted to use Google Maps to find my way around Western Pennsylvania.

In this case, I pushed the onscreen microphone tab in Android Auto and subsequently made calls and got turn-by-turn navigation instructions to several point-of-interest destinations with satisfying accuracy. In addition, except for an analog volume dial and steering-wheel up/down volume and tuning buttons, there are fewer physical controls with Toyota's new infotainment system. However, there's no clearly defined back button in case one gets lost in the onscreen menus.

Turning to safety, the 2023 Toyota RAV4 upgrades from last year's TSS 2.0 to TSS 2.5. With the previous package, the RAV4 already had a pretty robust standard portfolio of safety and advanced driving assistance systems (ADAS), including:

  • Forward-collision warning with pedestrian detection
  • Automatic emergency braking
  • Adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go capability
  • Lane-departure warning
  • Lane-keeping assist
  • Lane-centering assist
  • Blind-spot monitoring
  • Rear cross-traffic alert
  • Automatic high-beam headlights
  • Traffic-sign recognition
  • Backup camera with dynamic grid lines

For 2023, TSS 2.5 ushers in a few enhancements. The forward-collision warning system gains the ability to detect a vehicle or pedestrian at an intersection when making a turn. In addition, the system can detect a pedestrian in the lane and enable emergency evasive steering to avoid the pedestrian while maintaining vehicle control.

2023 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid Woodland Edition backup cameraRon Sessions

During my time with the RAV4 Woodland Edition, the adaptive cruise control system worked well, and the backup camera earned its keep at dodging obstacles when turning around on narrow mountain dirt tracks. However, I didn't use the lane-centering system much because it messes with the otherwise precise steering feel and doesn't work well on curvy rural highways or roads with poorly maintained lane markings.

The automatic high-beam headlamps were ineffective during a sudden nighttime snow squall. I was driving the lead vehicle on a two-lane highway with no oncoming traffic. Unbeknownst to me, the headlamps had been switched to the automatic setting, so the system kept turning on the high beams even as I repeatedly tried to switch to low beams to avoid the glare of the heavy snowstorm. I didn't realize the headlamps were in the automatic setting until I pulled off the road and switched them to the manual position.

I would have liked to have had a surround-view camera or front and rear parking assist sensors with automatic braking. Unfortunately, neither is available on the RAV4 Hybrid Woodland Edition.

In National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) crash testing, the 2023 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid earns an overall rating of five out of five stars. In side-impact protection, it also gets a five-star rating. However, the frontal-impact protection rating is four stars, matching the one for the SUV's ability to resist rolling over in a lateral slide or collision.

The 2023 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid is an Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) Top Safety Pick. It receives Good ratings in most assessments, but in updated moderate-overlap frontal impact and side impact tests, the RAV4 slips to merely Acceptable ratings.

2023 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid Woodland Edition engine bayRon Sessions

2023 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid Review: The Drive

As with all other 2023 Toyota RAV4 Hybrids (but not the Prime plug-in hybrid model), the Woodland Edition employs a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine working in conjunction with a small, 1.6-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery and an electronic all-wheel-drive system that uses an electric motor to power the rear wheels when necessary. There is no mechanical driveshaft connecting the rear axle to the engine. The total system output is 219 horsepower.

In real-world use, the RAV4 Hybrid feels significantly more powerful and responsive than the standard gas-only, non-hybrid RAV4, which has a 203-hp engine. According to Toyota, the RAV4 Hybrid is nearly half a second quicker when accelerating to 60 mph than its gas-powered sibling, accomplishing the task in a claimed 7.8 seconds.

2023 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid Woodland Edition in Cavalry Blue parkedRon Sessions

But more than the numbers, the seamless integration of the electric motors and the gas engine makes the RAV4 Hybrid so satisfying to drive. The motors deliver sufficient torque to fill the engine's power curve valleys, minimizing the need for heavier accelerator pedal application in both in-town and on-highway driving. As a result, this improves fuel economy.

The official EPA fuel economy estimate for the Woodland Edition is 37 mpg in combined driving, down from 40 mpg in other RAV4 Hybrid models due mainly to the all-terrain tires. However, the good news is that while traveling 250 miles in hilly Western Pennsylvania, the Woodland Edition's trip computer said the SUV was getting 37 mpg. So, the rating is accurate instead of merely optimistic. Still, that gives the Woodland Edition an impressive cruising range of 536 miles, far above anything a battery-electric SUV in this price range is capable of.

2023 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid Woodland Edition in Cavalry Blue rear angle parked in grassRon Sessions

Despite the aggressive, open tread pattern of the Woodland Edition's 225/60R18 Falken Wildpeak A/T Trail tires, the aggressively shod RAV4 didn't suffer from the expected whirring tread sounds and the road sizzle you often experience in other off-road-oriented trucks and SUVs. Another surprise was how well the TRD-enhanced springs and shocks handled ruts, bumps, potholes, and other road impacts, making them non-events inside the cabin.

I appreciated the RAV4 Hybrid's nicely weighted and accurate steering on the twisty, narrow mountain roads. In addition, the linear and predictable brake pedal response is notable for a regenerative braking system and was helpful when negotiating surprise curves in the road and steep downhill sections.

Also helping the cause, the Woodland Edition gets an added Trail drive mode setting in addition to the usual RAV4 Hybrid Normal, Eco, Sport, and EV modes. Trail mode helps control the unwanted spinning of the drive wheels by using the all-wheel drive, anti-lock brakes, and traction control systems to mimic the functions of limited-slip front, center, and rear differentials.

2023 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid Woodland Edition in Cavalry Blue by mural covered wallRon Sessions

Is the 2023 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid a Good SUV?

The Toyota RAV4 Hybrid is absolutely a good SUV. With nearly 400,000 sold in 2022, RAV4 sales numbers should speak for themselves. And Toyota is a recognized leader in hybrid sales in a wide range of vehicle segments. So the RAV4 Hybrid represents sensible shoes for a large swath of compact SUV buyers.

But beyond the numbers, the RAV4 is a no-nonsense entry in the industry's largest and still growing compact SUV segment, offering good value and a strong reputation for reliability and durability. In addition, since most RAV4 Hybrids boast a 40-mpg EPA rating in combined driving, it provides a practical way for buyers to lower their carbon footprint without breaking the bank or worrying about where the next charging opportunity will be.

As for the new-for-2023 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid Woodland Edition, while it's not ready to tackle Baja, it does let the crossover venture a bit further off-pavement while staying well-suited for daily use. In addition, it aligns with other recently introduced soft roaders with slightly upgraded dirt-trail capability and off-road styling. They include rivals like the Ford Bronco Sport Badlands, GMC Terrain AT4, Jeep Compass Trailhawk, Kia Sportage X-Pro, and Subaru Forester Wilderness.

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Edited by humans.

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