Daily Archives: September 16, 2012

First Drive: 2012 Toyota RAV4

The  Toyota RAV4 was one of the first large family cross-over SUV’s to enter the automotive market.   The RAV4 has been refined with significant improvements, making it more and more competitive over each year of release.  This earns the RAV4 a reputation for both reliability and versatility.

Toyota has decided to retain the same body styling as the previous year’s model.  The stale looks leaves the RAV4 behind other cross-over SUV’s  in its class such as the Honda CR-V or the Korean rival, Kia Sorento.  The V6 model would have been an interesting endeavor to drive, but the performance of the V4 model reviewed is sub-par with little benefits in fuel efficiency.  The interior cabin space is also outdated compared to other cross-over SUV competitors.

Despite the expiration tag in the styling department, the Toyota RAV4 is still one of the best choices for accommodating consumers with sufficient passenger room and cargo space for large families or the weekend adventure go getters.  The equipped Toyota Entune in-car technology also helps bring the RAV4 up a few advantage points.

Buyers can select between two engine sizes, the standard 2.5 liter four-cylinder engine producing 179hp and 172 ft-lbs of torque, or the upgraded 3.5 liter six-cylinder engine with 269hp and 249 ft-lbs of torque.  The four-cylinder engine is mated to a 4-speed automatic transmission while the 6-cylinder engine transmission is 5 speed.  Squinting closer at the numbers, we much prefer the six-cylinder model as it offers a significant increase in power with little compromise in fuel efficiency.    Each engine size model also has an additional 2wd or 4wd drive-train options to select from.

The RAV4 is offered in three trim levels: Base, Sport and Limited.  All models come standard with air conditioning, six-speaker AM/FM, CD, and MP3 stereo with USB connectivity as well as hands free smartphone connectivity via bluetoothe.  All three trim levels also include a comprehensive set of safety features such as driver and passenger seat-mounted side airbags, traction control and ABS.

The base model comes standard with 16″ alloy wheels, cruise control, power accessories and stability control.  The sports model offers enhanced body styling, sport-tuned suspensions and and larger 17″ alloy wheels.  The Limited edition model comes equipped with dual zone climate control, upgraded stereo and keyless entry.  A backup camera displayed on the rear view mirror is also an option.  Other key features that can be purchased as options include powered sunroof, leather seats, and Toyota’s Entune smart phone connectivity software.

The RAV4 excels in versatility and cargo space.  The RAV4 can comfortably fit four passengers with sufficient headroom.   Carrying three passengers in the back is a little tight, but still adequate in terms of comfort and space, especially for its size.  The trunk space is very generous and can fit additional cargo when folding the rear seats down by a simple pull of a lever.

The refined Mcpherson strut suspensions make the RAV4 very stable and easy to drive.  The steering is responsive in low and mid-speed range.  The overall ride is also very forgiving, especially when driving over bumps and ruts on the road.  Power delivery on the V6 model is a significant gain over the v4 model, but comes at a heavier price tag.  The four cylinder model may be preferred by consumers who simply want a daily commuter with adequate power.  With our tested 4 cylinder model, we found the power to be sufficient for daily commutes in the city; but often times, a heavy foot on the pedal was necessary for passing and merging lanes on the freeway.

Although the styling on the Toyota RAV4 falls behind in both the interior and exterior compared to its rivals, it still retains all the goodies that make the RAV4 a great choice for consumers looking into buying a small-sized SUV.  The refine-tuned suspension and electronic power-assisted steering make the RAV4 very easy and comfortable to drive, even on long commutes. Extra large cargo area and passenger space also makes the RAV4 very versatile for day to day commutes or weekend adventures.  We find that the power delivery in the 4 cylinder engine model was adequate with mostly city driving, but boring in terms of acceleration and performance.  Fuel savings is also a disappointment compared to the six-cylinder engine with an increase of 33% more horsepower at a loss of only 2mpg in fuel effiency.  We highly recommend test-driving both engine models of the Toyota RAV4 to determine which model best suit your needs and preferences.

  • Vehicle: 2012 RAV4
  • Model: Limited Edition 4WD
  • Price as tested: $37,897.58
  • Engine: 2.5 Litre, 4-Cylinder (179 hp, 172 ft-lbs)
  • Transmission: 4-speed Automatic with Gate Type Shifter
  • Features:
    • Dual Zone Climate Control
    • 17″ Aluminum Alloy Wheels
    • Push Button Start
    • Blutooth Controls, Steering wheel Controls
    • Integrated XM Satellite Radio
    • Dual Stage Driver & Passenger Airbag