Toyota introduced RAV4 in Japan in 1994 and brought it to the U.S. in 1996, with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine.
The first RAV4 was a different-looking vehicle that started the compact crossover vehicle segment – the rest is history. Last redesigned for 2013, this compact crossover is one of the top-selling vehicles in one of the industry’s largest segments.
RAV4’s wind-cheating chiseled design and roomy, versatile interior with the premium look and feel of soft-touch materials and driver-focused controls are favorites among customers.
This eye-catching vehicle has three grades – LE, XLE and Limited – offering front- or all-wheel drive on each level, and a 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine connected to a six-speed automatic transmission standard for all levels. Base prices range from $23,680-$29,850, with all-wheel drive adding $1,400 to each trim level.
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Front-drive RAV4 models have an automatic limited-slip differential, which can engage at speeds below 25 mph to help the vehicle to dig out of difficult conditions, such as a sandy patch on an unpaved road, or a driveway covered with snow.
The LE model is a well-equipped basic vehicle, with cruise control, backup camera, power side mirrors, power door lock/windows, manual tilt/telescopic steering column, and an air conditioning system that integrates a micro dust and pollen filter.
Outside, the XLE adds sporty 17-inch alloy wheels, color-keyed heated mirrors with integrated turn signals, roof rails, chrome-accented grille and integrated fog lights.
Inside, the XLE brings bolstered sport seats with French stitching, dual-zone automatic climate control, a power moon roof, and voice recognition control for the Entune system, along with details such as a driver’s side auto up/down window with jam protection, a cargo cover and sun visor extenders.
My tester, the RAV4 Limited also included the luxury of breathable SofTex trimmed seats, dash and door panels. The driver’s eight-way power seat has memory and lumbar adjustment, and the front seats are heated. A Smart Key system with pushbutton start and remote power liftgate function, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and SofTex-covered sliding center armrest with console storage compartment add even more convenience and luxury.
A Technology Package for $725, exclusively for the Limited, comes with a Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Lane Departure Alert and Auto High Beam. The Blind Spot Monitor alerts the driver to the presence of a vehicle in the adjacent lane using icons on the side mirrors. If the driver activates the turn signal when a vehicle is detected, the icon on the corresponding side mirror will flash.
Rear Cross Traffic Alert sounds a warning along with flashing icons on the side mirrors to alert the driver to vehicles approaching from either direction when backing from a parking place or driveway.
At speeds of 32 mph or more, Lane Departure Alert uses a camera to recognize lane markings and alerts the driver when the vehicle deviates from its lane. Auto High Beam also uses a camera sensor to determine when external lighting is low enough for high beam use. When another vehicle is approaching, high beams are turned off.
For 2015, Toyota adds a Blizzard Pearl Premium Package for the Limited grade with Blizzard Pearl paint and new 18-inch machined wheels with black painted pockets. Hot Lava also joins the exterior color lineup, the one-touch power liftgate with memory height settings is now offered as an option on the XLE grade, and the XLE adds 17-inch Superchrome alloy wheels.
My tester was a Magnetic Gray Metallic Limited with Black/Terra Cotta interior and front-wheel drive, priced at $28,450 before options. Terra Cotta trimmed the seat bolsters, lower dash, and door panels. Textured carbon black trimmed the center console around the cupholder and shifter, and the door armrests. Pewter-colored metallic plastic accented the door panels, center stack, shifter knob, cupholders, and upper dash
The RAV4 seems small on the outside, but has lots of room inside for five adults, in addition to 38.4 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seat. The rear seatbacks fold flat in a 60/40 configuration, increasing the cargo space to 73.4 cubic feet. I was able to stuff the cargo compartment with a large file cabinet, desk chair, floor lamps, framed artwork, and some smaller personal items with room left over.
Rear passengers have more than adequate 37.2 inches of legroom and 38.9 inches of headroom. Legroom in the front is an impressive 42.6 inches, with 38.9 inches of headroom.
With the slim seatback design in the front, the rear passengers also have plenty of knee room, and the rear seatbacks recline slightly for an extra measure of comfort. Privacy glass on both sides and the liftgate adds a level of luxury, and retractable rear headrests improve visibility to the rear.
The sporty, asymmetrical dash panel is driver-friendly, with clear-blue illumination for easy viewing. Controls were within easy reach, and easy to read and understand.
In the middle of the instrument cluster, the standard Multi-Information Display provided fuel-economy information (average and instant), distance to empty, gear selection, and warnings for low fuel, battery, tire pressure, and more.
Using a button on the right side of the leather-trimmed steering wheel, it was easy to toggle through the screens. Other buttons on the steering wheel controlled audio volume and media selection, the Bluetooth hands-free phone and audio streaming.
RAV4 comes with a drive-mode selection with Sport and Eco choices. Sport mode sharpens shift timing, throttle response and steering feel. Eco mode optimizes powertrain operation to maximize fuel economy.
EPA mileage estimates for the RAV4 range from 22 mpg in the city and 29 on the highway to 24 city/31 highway. My Limited was rated at 23/30. I used Eco mode for my 400-mile-plus road trip and achieved 26 mpg average.
There are four levels of Entune Audio and Multimedia systems. The basic Entune system, standard in the LE, comes with a 6.1-inch touchscreen, AM/FM/CD, Bluetooth hands-free phone connectivity and audio streaming, iPod connectivity and control, USB 2.0, AUX mini-jack and six speakers.
The touchscreen also displays images from the standard backup camera, and allows operation of the climate control system and the available navigation system, as well as the audio system and Entune.
In the XLE, the standard Entune Audio Plus adds HD Radio with iTunes tagging, satellite radio (trial subscription) and HD traffic and weather (where available).
Standard in the Limited (and optional in the XLE), Entune Premium Audio adds navigation and Entune App Suite (subscription-free). Premium uses a mobile smartphone connection for fully integrated access to navigation, music and information services.
App Suite brings iHeartRadio, OpenTable, Yelp, Pandora, Bing, MovieTickets.com, and Facebook Places as well as real-time traffic, weather, fuel prices, sports, and stocks, with updates available for download.
My tester had the top level Entune Premium JBL audio system, available only as an option on the Limited. The $785 package pumps 576 watts through 11 JBL GreenEdge speakers, including a subwoofer. GreenEdge speakers, paired with an eight-channel amplifier, reduce electrical draw on the vehicle compared with similar systems.
The JBL system includes the features of the standard Premium system with navigation; App Suite, 6.1-inch screen, satellite radio, AM/FM/CD, iPod/USB/AUX, Bluetooth/streaming, phonebook, advanced voice recognition, HD radio/traffic/weather, AM/FM radio cache, and Gracenotes Album Cover Art.
RAV4 Limited also comes with the Star Safety System with Smart Stop technology; LATCH attachments for child seats; eight air bags, including full-length side head-curtain bags, driver’s knee bag, front seat-mounted torso bags, and anti-submarining air bag in the front passenger seat; and Whiplash Injury Lessening front seats.
My RAV4 had $2,963 in options including the JBL Audio package. Roof rack cross bars added $315; remote start tacked on $499; mudguards, $129; interior light kit, $185; and four-season floor mats, $325.
With options and $885 freight, the total delivered price of my RAV4 was $32,298.
The automotive columns of Emma Jayne Williams have appeared regularly in the Star-Telegram since 2007. Contact her at email@example.com.