Toyota’s popular RAV4 – the vehicle that created the compact crossover segment with its arrival in 1996 – is now in its fourth generation, and just last year, it received some updates, including a slight makeover.
Also added was the first RAV4 gasoline-electric hybrid version.
Six trim levels are now offered for the RAV4 gasoline-only models -- LE, HV LE Plus, XLE, SE, Limited and Platinum, which was added for 2017. The SE model was introduced just last year.
For 2017, prices for the gasoline models begin at $24,410 (plus $995 freight) for the base LE front-wheel-drive version, and range as high as $36,150 for the Platinum AWD. In between are the front-drive XLE ($25,500), SE ($28,790), HV LE Plus ($27,910), Limited ($30,905), and Platinum ($34,750).
There are three trim levels for the hybrid RAV4: XLE ($29,030), SE ($32,185), and Limited ($34,030). The hybrids come only with all-wheel drive, while AWD can be added to any of the gasoline-only models for an additional $1,400.
That included our tester, the Platinum AWD. It was already so well equipped that the only extras on it were the premium blizzard pearl white paint ($395), paint protection film ($395), and a tonneau cover ($90). That gave our tester a total sticker price of $38,025, including freight and options.
Gasoline-only RAV4s come with a 2.5-liter direct-injection, normally aspirated inline four-cylinder engine with 176 horsepower and 172 foot-pounds of torque. It’s connected to a six-speed automatic transmission.
The RAV4 Hybrid borrows its drive system from the Camry Hybrid. It includes a 2.5-liter Atkinson cycle four-cylinder engine and a small high-torque electric motor that power the front wheels, and a second motor to power the rear wheels automatically when extra traction is needed.
Together, the gasoline engine and electric motors give the hybrid a total of 194 horsepower, allowing the vehicle to accelerate from zero to 60 mph in 8.1 seconds, which is nearly a second quicker than the gasoline-only RAV4.
The electric motor kicks in automatically to boost power on startup and whenever extra zip is needed while cruising or passing – all seamlessly, with no driver input required.
Also on the hybrid, regenerative braking helps charge the onboard nickel-metal hydride battery pack for the electric motors by switching the main electric motor into a generator whenever the car is coasting or the brakes are applied.
Our gasoline Platinum AWD was EPA rated for 22 mpg city/28 highway/24 combined, and during our weeklong test, we averaged about 23.8 mpg, with a mix of about 50-50 city and highway driving.
In comparison, the hybrid model has EPA ratings of 34 city/31 highway/33 combined. On our earlier review of the 2016 RAV4 Hybrid, we averaged about 32.8 mpg, with about 60 percent highway driving.
During our recent test of the gasoline RAV4 Platinum, we took an extended weekend trip, carrying three people along with luggage and some beach gear.
Besides having most of the features of the previous top model, the Limited, the new 2017 RAV4 Platinum includes SofTex faux-leather seats, dash, and door panels; heated front seats; eight-way power driver’s seat; frameless auto-dimming rearview mirror with universal garage/gate opener; heated steering wheel; foot well ambient lighting; plush floor mats; and Platinum-badged door-sill protectors.
Also included are the Entune premium JBL audio system with navigation and app suite; five-door smart key with pushbutton start; and the kick-type hands-free power liftgate.
The tester also came with the bird's eye view camera. It uses four cameras mounted on the front, the side mirrors and rear of the vehicle, to project an overhead view of the vehicle’s surroundings. The images are displayed on the dash screen.
We also had perimeter scan, which provides a live, rotating 360-degree view around the vehicle, helping the driver to see potential obstacles, especially when parking.
The JBL system channels 576 watts of audio through 11 JBL GreenEdge Technology speakers, including a subwoofer, in seven locations in the cabin, bringing awesome sound from the radio or, in our case, my iTunes music library from my iPhone. Toyota says the eight-channel amplifier and Green Edge speakers help reduce electrical draw on the vehicle, compared with systems of comparable output.
Last year’s redesign gave the RAV4 a sleeker, more fluid look, with a bolder front fascia. There were standard LED headlights, taillights and daytime running lights on our Platinum model.
The new rocker panels tie in with the restyled front and rear bumpers. There is also new front and rear silver skid-plate trim, along with new wheel designs and a standard shark fin antenna on all grades. The Platinum comes with 18-inch alloy wheels.
Three exterior colors are new this year: silver sky metallic, black currant metallic and electric storm blue.
On our tester, we also had a seven-inch audio/navigation color touch screen; eight-way power-adjustable driver’s seat with memory; LED interior lighting on the lower center console; a 12-volt power outlet in the rear area; and cupholders that were designed to hold tall mugs with handles. There was also a holder for sunglasses.
Other features included heated front seats and a heated/leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls; reclining and fold-flat rear seat; dual-zone automatic climate control that blew about as cold as any automotive air conditioner I’ve ever experienced (great on the hottest summer days); two front 12-volt power outlets and a single USB port in the front of the center console; and a power moon roof.
Toyota says the RAV4 was among the first of its U.S. models to feature the new Toyota Safety Sense system, which includes automated pre-collision braking. This system is standard on the RAV4 Limited (gas and hybrid) and Platinum grades; optional on XLE gas and hybrid versions and the SE grade.
It also includes the pre-collision system with forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking; lane departure alert; automatic high beams; a pedestrian pre-collision system; and radar cruise control.
SE gas, Limited (gas and hybrid), and Platinum models have a blind spot monitor with rear cross traffic alert. We found this system to be quite helpful when trying to back out of a shopping center driveway or our home driveway onto the street.
The speed-sensitive rack-and-pinion electric power steering allows precise and predictive control of the RAV4. The suspension provided great handling on some curvy roads we encountered on our trip.
Safety features also include electronic stability control with traction control, electronic brake-force distribution with brake assist, and Toyota’s Smart Stop technology.
We had three people in the RAV for most of our trip, but added a couple more for some sightseeing and restaurant runs. There’s plenty of room for four adults, and enough for five if you’re not going a long way.
Behind the rear seat there is 38.4 cubic feet of cargo space, which can expand to 73.4 cubic feet with the rear seatback folded. The gasoline RAV4 has about three more cubic feet of cargo space than the hybrid (35.6 cubic feet), as the hybrid’s battery pack uses part of the cargo area behind the rear seat.
The rear seatbacks can recline a few degrees for extra passenger comfort. Rear privacy glass is standard on all models.
The automotive columns of G. Chambers Williams III have appeared regularly in the Star-Telegram since 1994. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @gchambers3.
2017 Toyota RAV4
The package: Compact, all-wheel-drive, four-door, five-passenger, gasoline only or gasoline/electric hybrid crossover utility vehicle.
Highlights: Restyled and upgraded for 2016, the RAV4 also now has its first hybrid version. For 2017, a new high-end gasoline trim, the Platinum model, was added to the lineup.
Negatives: No V-6 engine offered for extra power. Hybrid system available only in higher-priced trim levels.
Overall length: 183.5 inches (gasoline); 181.1 inches (hybrid).
Curb weight range: 3,455-3,630 pounds (gasoline); 3,925-3,950 pounds (hybrid).
Engine/motor: 2.5-liter inline four-cylinder (gasoline models); 2.5-liter Atkinson cycle inline four-cylinder gasoline engine, plus front and rear electric drive motors (hybrid).
Transmission: Six-speed automatic (gasoline); continuously variable automatic (hybrid).
Power/torque: 176 HP./172 foot-pounds (gasoline); 150 HP./152 foot-pounds (gasoline engine alone, hybrid), total combined 194 HP., gasoline engine plus electric motors (hybrid).
Brakes, front/rear: Disc/disc, antilock.
Cargo volume: 38.4 cubic feet (behind rear seat; 35.6 for hybrid); 73.4 cubic feet cubic feet (rear seat folded; 70.3 for hybrid).
Towing capacity: 1,500 pounds.
Electronic stability control: Standard.
Side air bags: Front seat-mounted, both rows side-curtain.
EPA fuel economy: 23 mpg city/29 highway/25 combined (2WD, gasoline); 22/28/24 combined (AWD Platinum); 34/31/33 (hybrid).
Fuel capacity/type: 15.9 gallons (14.8 hybrid)/unleaded regular.
Base price range: $24,410-$36,150, plus $995 freight (gasoline models); $29,030-$32,185 (hybrid).
Price as tested: $38,025, including freight and options (Platinum AWD).
On the Road rating: 9.2 (of a possible 10).
Prices shown are manufacturer’s suggested retail; actual selling price may vary.