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Toyota RAV4 electric hybrid will debut at 2015 New York Auto Show

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Alexander Demianchuk/Reuters/File

(Read caption) A sign shows the Toyota logo. The Japanese carmaker has unveiled its plans for greater smartphone connectivity and artificial intelligence applications in its vehicles.

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It took a bit longer than expected, but Toyota will launch a hybrid-electric version of its popular RAV4 compact crossover utility vehicle at next week's New York Auto Show.

The company sent out a teaser photo this morning, showing the rear of a RAV4 with badges saying "Hybrid" and "Limited" on the tailgate.

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It was accompanied by a press release that said, in its entirety, "The 2016 RAV4 Hybrid. See it April 2, 12:30 p.m. EDT at the New York International Auto Show."

Toyota has long said that it intends to offer a hybrid version of every volume car in its lineup by 2020.

While it's offered a hybrid model of its Highlander mid-size SUV, the RAV4 compact crossover hasn't had one until now. 

The current RAV4 was launched for the 2012 model year, and remains one of the top small SUVs in sales, though it's outsold by the even more popular Honda CR-V.

It competes with the Chevrolet Equinox, Ford Escape, Hyundai Tucson, Nissan Rogue, and Subaru Forester, among others--none of which offer a hybrid version.

The 2016 RAV4 Hybrid will likely use the same powertrain that's already sold in the Lexus NX 300h, the luxury compact crossover from Toyota's high-end brand that's based on some of the same underpinnings as the RAV4.

A 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine developing 154 horsepower is combined with the latest generation of Toyota's two-motor Hybrid Synergy Drive system to produce a combined peak power of 194 hp.

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The system dispenses with mechanical all-wheel drive as on the conventional gasoline model.

Instead, the hybrid NX adds a 50-kW (67-hp) third electric motor on the rear axle to provide the rear wheels with torque when the AWD control system senses power is needed.

The RAV4 is likely to use a similar system, though Toyota has thus far provided neither details nor EPA fuel-economy ratings.

The EPA rates the 2015 Lexus NX 200h at 33 mpg combined (35 mpg city, 31 mpg highway) as a front-wheel-drive vehicle, and 32 mpg combined (33 city, 30 highway) when fitted with optional all-wheel drive.

The upcoming 2016 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid should return roughly similar ratings--perhaps 1 or 2 mpg higher due to its lighter weight.

Media previews at the 2015 New York Auto Show open next Wednesday. For full details on all the concept cars and production models, see our New York Auto Show news page.