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Best driving AWD hybrid currently available

3989 Views 30 Replies 16 Participants Last post by  OkieBolt
FWIW, given the looong distances and cooold winters here on the northern frontier, we're not ready to rely on any EV for our road trips. We're considering a PHEV and would probably go with a late Volt, but it's not AWD.

The specifications of the Toyota RAV4 Prime look great on paper, but those car guys I respect who have driven one say it's a dog with fleas. Even Edmunds, who's usually pretty accurate says:
  • Very low handling capabilities
  • Longer-than-average braking distances
  • Disconnected steering feel
  • Uncomfortable front passenger seat
None of the Toyota dealers here have a demo for test drives, so I can't try one myself. Their attitude, "There's a waiting list for the Prime, give us a deposit and we'll call you when it comes. And yes, there's market price adjustment."

Those of you who have hands-on driving experience, are there any AWD hybrids which are more fun-to drive than the RAV4 Prime?

jack vines
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From second-hand-but-reliable sources, what drags down the RAV4 Prime are the compromises necessary for it to be built as a FWD ICE, AWD ICE, FWD hybrid, AWD hybrid and Prime versions. The engineers I've spoken with say if Toyota had designed the Prime from a clean sheet, it would be lighter, roomier and drive/handle better. Of course, with the lower volume production, it probably would also cost more.

Unless you have steep icy terrain to manage often fwd and good snow tires should be just fine.
We've lived in the frozen-ass-end-of-nowhere for almost fifty years and have snow tires on our Bolt. And yes, FWD with snow tires is OK until it isn't. Last night and today we've gotten almost a foot of snow. It's doubtful the Bolt will be able to negotiate the unplowed side streets. When the winter trip is going to be through the mountains and hundreds of miles from the nearest tow truck, AWD and higher ground clearance is a must if one is to have any chance of making it.

FWIW, a family member has a Tesla M3 AWD. With snow tires, it's OK on plowed roads, but the low-slung sedan will high center when drifts are more than 6".

jack vines
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Back in my ICE days, I never drove boring and/or slow cars. That's why the test drive sold me on the Bolt; it's just a hoot to drive. Seems it's too much to ask for an affordable hybrid to be as quick as the Bolt whether on battery or on ICE.

jack vines
AWD is not beneficial in every situation, they make a ton more sense in BEVs than they do in ICE vehicles but in general you're paying thousands more up front and thousands more in repairs for a system you're never using. Essentially no drivers, not even drivers who think they're good (when they're probably not) apply gas in a situation to avoid an accident where traction is going to make the difference.

Any notion that AWD isn't a waste of money for almost everyone went out the door for me when I started to drive fleet vehicles off-road working at a 20,000 acre wilderness in upstate NY. They were all the oldest FWD vans and only a few were needed to get to the "yeah we haven't tended to this road in 20 years" places and those weren't the newest most capable vehicles ever. That stuff costs money.

How I see it, if you're truly driving in a place that AWD is "beneficial" it becomes prohibitively expensive to buy and maintain cost-effectively.

If your house ends in a sand road or you drive unplowed winter roads frequently, AWD will matter to you. Everyone else is wasting their money unless it's for performance reasons.

Go to the Outer Banks and check out the driveways of locals who live in the 4x4 areas, you're not going to see 2022 Raptors, you're going to see 1995 Jeep Cherokees because you're acutely aware of how disposable AWD systems are where you truly need them.

Those OBX people thank you though, they need a constant stream of rust-free 4x4s to survive on the used market! 😁
We'll agree to absolutely, positively, politely disagree on the benefits of AWD. We've lived and driven in northern tier winters for almost fifty years. A well-engineered AWD with snow tires is a game changer. Those which benefit the most are trucks and large SUVs. Without AWD, they're literally helpless on flat ground when it's packed ice. I know, as I've been stuck enough times.

Currently, neither the Bolt nor my work Ford F250 are AWD. From November to March, driving one of these takes much more skill and caution just to get to the destination. None of my friends can understand how I manage with the old RWD Ford and sometimes it's very difficult. When I go up in the north woods to my partner's machine shop, there is only packed ice. About once a month, I can't even get turned around in front of his shop to go out if I don't have a couple of core engines in the bed on their way to the rebuilder. A RWD truck has to waste considerable energy hauling around at least 500# just for traction.

You drive what works for you, but arguing against AWD puts you in the tiny minority up here. Dealers don't even stock any RWD trucks. The reason I'm still driving my RWD F250 is because I bought it used for less than half what the same truck with AWD would have cost; not a bargain I'd make again.

jack vines
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So you find yourself going into a turn and saying, "ya know, if I just stepped on it I could power my way out of this" or you get stuck at red lights? You don't seem like the kind of guy who would lie so if you can sit here and tell me with a straight face you've used your AWD systems all the time and it's avoided accidents and getting stuck, then fine, welcome to the extreme extreme minority.
FWIW, you're talking to someone who has been doing this for fifty years up in the frozen-ass-end-of-nowhere.

Definitely. In snow country, a major safety advantage of AWD is being able to reliably turn off a glare ice side street intersection onto a major arterial. With a FWD with snow tires, but on ice, the ability to get moving while turning ninety degrees is a very uncertain exercise and limits the opportunities to safely merge. With AWD and snow tires, any decent gap in traffic and it's done quickly and safely.

Definitely, going uphill is the same degree of difficulty. FWD loses the front bias weight advantage and the steeper the hill, the worse it gets. Our driveway is much steeper than a sane person would attempt when snow and ice covered. For fifty years, with FWD or RWD, it's always an adventure. With AWD, no problem.

jack vines
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