As Toyota’s Camry compact sedan has always been the company’s top seller, it has recently been displaced by their RAV4 SUV. This shows the popularity and versatility of SUV/crossover models, and what car buyers prefer these days. And the RAV4 is a hot seller.
For 2017, RAV4 adds Toyota’s Safety Sense system that includes pre-collision braking, lane departure warning, radar cruise control and automatic high beams among other most desired niceties.
Offered in LE, XLE, SE, Limited and top tier Platinum, we were privileged to test the latter. There’s even a hybrid version that uses the same technology as Toyota’s proven Prius sedan.
As the top level, the Platinum is furnished with nicely padded and supportive and heated front seats and equally soft rear seats. The aggressive and sculpted looking silver exterior of the test car contrasted to an eye-grabbing combination of grey and saddle tan leather upholstery. Toyota interior designers added a swath of padded leather to the vertical stack that appears to meld the entire dash, console and instrument cluster. HVAC controls atop this are ergonomically placed and easy to use without having to consult the owners’ manual. A 7-inch touchscreen aptly serves the JBL audio system, rearview camera whereupon a “birds eye” and curbside view is offered, plus apps that include handy weather and predictive traffic reports. There’s also a smaller driver information screen nestled between the speedo and tach for a variety of driver alerts and operating information.
And a feature many comparable SUVs/crossovers don’t offer is a 4WD Lock switch. It’s useful for up to 25 mph and when getting stuck in deep snow or thick mud. With a 6.1-inch undercarriage clearance, the RAV is not particularly suited for any serious off-roading. But for snow, mud, even beach-buggy shorelines, it can handle most of these situations.
Overall the roomy interior offers seating for five adults, albeit the middle seat could be a squeeze. The split-folding back seat offers ample leg and headroom after a low 19-inch step-in. The back doors could open a bit wider for easier ingress/egress.
With the back seat upright there’s 38.4 cubic feet of cargo room. That measures out to 37 inches deep, 44 wide and 33.5 high. Flip them and depth extends to 70 inches for 73.4 cubic feet.
Beneath the cargo floor resides a full-size spare tire with some small item storage around the front of it.
Powered by a 2.5-liter, 176-hp, 172 lb/ft of torque inline 4-cylinder, this torque is channeled to the wheels through a 6-speed automatic transmission for EPA mileage estimates of 22 city, 28-highway mpg. This powertrain allows a towing capacity of 1,500 pounds, which is sufficient for a small utility or pop-up camping trailer.
In comparison, the hybrid version uses the same 2.5L four-cylinder plus two electric motors for a combined 194-hp and 206 lb/ft of torque. Its EPA mileage estimates come in at 34/30 mpg.
With the gas-only engine, performance was on par with others in its class. RAV4 is not overly quick from a standing stop, but driven conservatively, it offers near best in class fuel economy.
Driving wise, the ride is smooth and controlled on 18-inch Toyo tires. Only exceptionally pocked-marked roads send jitters into the cabin. Handling is nimble and parking is easy with a relatively tight turning radius of 36.7 feet.
As mentioned, the Platinum comes with a host of safety features that include frontal collision braking, pedestrian detection, cross-traffic alert and more.
Starting at a base price of $36,150, this escalated somewhat with four extra cost options such as tonneau cover ($90), paint protection film $395), all weather floor mats/cargo tray ($239), cargo mat ($95) and delivery of $940 that brought the bottom line to $37,919.
To its credit, the RAV received impressive government safety ratings. For an overall vehicle score it garnered a full five stars; for frontal crash, four for driver/passenger; for front/rear seat side crash five stars; and four for rollover.
Without a doubt, the RAV4 is a compelling choice for a compact SUV and that includes Toyota’s fine quality reputation.
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