In a compact package, the Toyota RAV4 provides seats for seven passengers and cargo room equal to mid-size SUVs. It’s fast and maneuverable, and you can choose between front-wheel drive and four-wheel drive. The RAV4 is one of the best compact SUVs in terms of comfort and ease of use. It’s easy to get into and out of the driver’s seat.
Due to its suspension tuning, the Sport variant has a harder drive. The optional four-wheel-drive system on the RAV4 performs admirably in both snowy and rainy environments.
When fitted with four-wheel drive, the four-cylinder is responsive and gets an EPA-estimated 21/27 mpg, marginally better with two-wheel drive. The RAV4 has 269 horsepower when fitted with the optional V6 engine.
There are three trim levels for the Toyota RAV4: base ($21,500), sport ($23,200), and limited ($24,490). Front-wheel drive, a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, and a four-speed automatic transmission are available on all models.
Both three trim levels feature a 269-hp 3.5-liter V6 engine with a five-speed automatic transmission: Base ($23,535), Sport ($25,130), and Limited ($26,410). Downhill Assist Control (DAC) and Hill-start Assist Control are common on all RAV4s with V6 power and/or third-row seating (HAC).
Air conditioning, cruise control, an AM/FM/CD stereo with six speakers, MP3/WMA capability, incorporated satellite radio, and an auxiliary input jack, power windows, power foldable mirrors, keyless remote locking, 60/40 split second-row seats with manual recline and fore-and-aft adjustment, tilt-and-telescope steering wheel, three 12-volt power outlets, and auto-off are all standard features on all RAV4s. P215/70R16 tires on steel wheels with hubcaps are standard on the base four-cylinder RAV4. P225/65R17 tires on styled steel wheels have been fitted to the V6. A full-size spare tire is offered on all models.
A handling-tuned suspension, P235/55R18 tires on alloy wheels, fog lights, rear privacy glass, color-keyed trim outside, special charcoal leather, and a rear spoiler are all included in the RAV4 Sport. A power tilt-and-slide glass sunroof, navigation, and a Luxury Kit with leather upholstery, an eight-way power driver’s seat, a back-up camera, and auto on/off headlights are all available. The sunroof comes with a roof rack, daytime running lights, and a six-CD changer as part of the Added Value Package. The Sport does not have a third-row seat.
The Sport Presentation Kit eliminates the spare wheel from the rear door and replaces it with run-flat tires. It is only available on Sport models with the V6 and 4WD. Power heated side mirrors with incorporated turn signals, a stainless-steel exhaust tip, and more interior brightwork are also provided.
Dual-zone automatic climate control, a six-CD changer, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio settings, a leather-wrapped shift knob, a cargo net and tonneau cover, heated and foldable power exterior mirrors with new integrated turn signals, roof rails, an engine immobilizer, the Smart Entry system, and other features are all available on the RAV4 Limited. A distinctive grille and front bumper, P225/65R17 tires on six-spoke aluminum wheels, and a full hard-shell spare tire cover differentiate the Limited on the exterior.
The third-row seat, an eight-way power driver’s seat without leather, and a quality JBL stereo with Bluetooth phone compatibility, as well as much of the Sport level’s features, are all available at comparable prices. The JBL stereo, Bluetooth, sunroof, power adjustable heated seats, and daytime running lamps are all included in two Additional Value Packages; one contains navigation and the other does not.
Dual-stage frontal airbags, side-impact airbags, and side-curtain airbags are mandatory on all RAV4s. On some rear-end collisions, active headrests on the driver and front passenger seats shift back and down to better minimize the distance between the occupant’s head and the headrest. Pretensioners and force limiters are used in front seatbelts. Antilock brakes (ABS) with brake assist and electronic brake-force delivery (EBD), electronic stability control (VSC), traction control (TRAC), and a tire-pressure sensor are also normal.
The RAV4 is functional on the inside, if a little funky in nature. Anyone who has owned a prior RAV4 can know the gauge positioning. The positioning and usability of the controls in the center stack are outstanding, as is the configuration of the hand brake and shift lever. A horizontal indentation extends the length of the dash, dividing it from the rest of the engine. A bi-level glove box with an upper bin hidden by a pulling back lid and a lower bin fitted with a conventional, bottom-hinged cover is about the only plus we find in this garish element.
The standard of the materials is outstanding. Toyota grade means “excellent” fit and finish. The stereo and temperature sensors, as well as the shift gate and the door handles, all have contrasting but compatible colors and polished metallic trim components. A passenger assists grip folds down from the headliner over each door as part of the regular side-curtain airbags.
With modest bolsters and sufficient thigh protection, the front seats are comfortable but not too firm. The height-adjustable driver’s seat and tilt-and-telescope steering wheel allow almost any size driver to find a comfortable match without the added difficulty (and cost) of adjustable pedals. Front visibility is strong due to the comparatively elevated seating location, low cowl, and sloping hood. The long side windows make it easier to search your lane. The viewing range through the inside mirror is increased by fully retractable head restraints in the second row and optional third row seats.
The second-row seats are less cushioned and lack bolsters than the front seats. It’s understandable, provided that the seat needs to hold three people.
The optional third row seats barely qualify as such, with flat bottoms and equally featureless backs and head restraints. Access to that back row, by folding and tilting the outboard second-row seats, is not especially easy, but it isn’t as much of a strain or as awkward as in some larger, full-sized sport utilities.
Storage areas are plentiful. Beyond the glove box, the doors have fixed plastic map pockets, the backs of the front seatbacks wear net pouches, and a total of 10 cup holders are situated about the cabin. When the third-row seats aren’t ordered, a deep cargo area awaits beneath a water-repellant, foldable deck board.
The Toyota RAV4 delivers a smooth, stable ride. In the Sport variant, the suspension is tuned toward handling over smoothness. Steering response is confident, there’s moderate body lean in corners, but dive under braking and squat when accelerating is well controlled. The brake pedal feels firm.
Depending on the engine, response to the gas pedal is either prompt or borderline overwhelming. The four-cylinder engine produces 179 horsepower at 6000 rpm and 172 pound-feet of torque at 4000 rpm. Designed specifically for low internal friction and high fuel efficiency, the 2.5-liter engine applies Toyota’s Variable Valve Timing with intelligence (VVT-i) to both intake and exhaust valves, rather than the intakes only.
The four-cylinder engine is partnered with a four-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission that is compact, lightweight and efficient.
The EPA estimates for the four-cylinder RAV4 are 22 mpg city/28 mpg highway with FWD, and 21/27 mpg city/highway with 4WD.
The optional V6, with its head-of-the-class 269 horsepower and 246 pound-feet of torque, is a different story. With its impressive acceleration comes torque steer, particularly in front-wheel drive models: When you floor the gas pedal hard you can feel the steering pulling one way or the other. You’ll get used to it, and the V6 sounds much better than a four. In addition, the V6 is matched to a five-speed automatic transmission.
The RAV4’s on-demand four-wheel-drive system uses an electronically-controlled center coupling to distribute torque between the front and rear wheels, depending on road conditions and driver input. The system can continuously and seamlessly switch from front-wheel-drive to four-wheel-drive mode, maximizing fuel efficiency. In Auto mode, torque distribution to the rear wheels is decreased during low-speed cornering for better maneuverability.
The Auto mode can be disengaged by a 4WD manual locking switch, optimizing torque to the rear wheels. Lock mode can disengage until the vehicle speed exceeds 25 mph, reverting to Auto mode. As the brakes are applied, Lock mode disengages, allowing the ABS and electronic stability control (VSC) systems to work more effectively. An automatic limited slip differential is standard on FWD models.
Start on an incline Assist Control adds to the on-road and off-road driving control by aiding you in keeping the car stationary while you’re starting on a steep incline or a slick surface. Downhill Assist Control is intended to boost low-speed descending ability by aiding the driver in maintaining a goal speed with limited interference.
The Toyota RAV4 is a nice vehicle to drive and is well-equipped. There are three rows of seating available. The available V6 engine is extremely powerful.