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TheStreet Open House

223 Miles in Toyota's Tesla-Based SUV

Stocks in this article: TMTSLAGMFHMCNSANYSIRI

This means that when you drive the Toyota, you do burnouts all the time. Driving the car up the steepest streets in San Francisco, you feel like nothing short of Steve McQueen in the movie classic Bullitt (1968): It's a very wild ride, just like in the famous 1968 Ford Mustang, with narrow tires as well.

Luckily, your propensity to be airborne is a little less than in Bullitt, thanks to the 845 lbs battery being placed under the floor in the center of the car. This means that even though the Toyota is as tall as other SUVs, it's got a much lower center of gravity and therefore much better handling.

Speaking of airborne, this is the one EV where you feel compelled to hold onto the steering wheel for dear life. The torque steer is significant and the seats have no side bolstering, causing only the seat belt to hold you in place from flying around like a rag doll.

The Toyota RAV4 EV looks as understated, as you might imagine, but just as the 1968 Bullitt version of the Ford Mustang, it is destined to become a cult collector car. With Toyota making only 2,600 of these, you have only a limited time to acquire one of these radically engineered classics.

From an interior noise level standpoint, the RAV4 EV is more like the "raw" Tesla Roadster than any other EV in the market today. The other EVs tend to be so extremely quiet that you just can't hear a thing. In the Toyota, you can hear a turbine-like whine from the electric motor. It's the electric-equivalent of the burbling exhaust sound from the movie's 1968 Mustang.

The interior is Toyota's entry-level standard from five or more years ago: Gray plastic everywhere and mouse-gray cloth seats, too. This is the old RAV4, which was replaced in the last few months by a totally updated all-new model.

The RAV4 EV lacks a tire pressure monitor, and the Sirius XM (SIRI) controls are hard to use -- but at least it's got an analog AUX jack, just like the Volt, but unlike the Ford plug-ins. The cupholders are appropriately shaped for holding smartphones and keys.

The interior space is excellent: It's easy to get in and out, the back seat has tons of space in every dimension, and the luggage space is superb from every angle. Why haven't Ford, GM, Chrysler, Honda (HMC), Nissan (NSANY) and many others copied this idea for an electric car?

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