2010 Toyota RAV4 4WD Limited Road Test Review

John Birchard - CAP staff
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In case it escaped your notice, Toyota is still in the business of manufacturing and selling motor vehicles, not just recalling them. When the dust finally settles from the unintended acceleration hoo-hah, there will still be a lengthy lineup of products available from Toyota.

One such product is the compact Sport Utility Vehicle, the RAV4, which has been around in one form or another since 1996. The RAV4 was the first-ever car-based SUV. RAV4 stands for "Recreational Active Vehicle with 4-wheel drive." Like most vehicles, it's grown in size and sophistication over the years.

The current version rides on a 2,659-mm (104.7-inch) wheelbase. Its overall length is 4,620 mm (181.9 inches), which includes the spare tire cover on the rear door. The RAV4 comes in either front-wheel drive or electric on-demand four-wheel drive versions. With a ground clearance of 190 mm (7.5 inches), it has a modest off-road capability, enhanced by Downhill Assist Control (DAC) and Hill-start Assist Control (HAC) in V6 and third row models. The third row in the RAV4, by the way, should be reserved for teeny-weeny people or your worst enemies.

Since we're sitting on the subject, the second row of seats is amazingly roomy. Legroom and headroom are both in good supply and the seats can slide forward and backward. The seatbacks recline and are split 60/40 and feature a one-touch fold-flat lever in the cargo area (With all rear seats folded down, the cargo area swells to a generous 73 cubic feet). The front seats in the tested Limited model were leather-covered, comfortable and supportive. Visibility from inside the vehicle is not bad, but pillars are thick and create some blind spots. The bulge into the rear window from the exterior-mounted spare tire is not as restricting to the view as I thought it would be.

Sticking with the interior for the moment, it's a study in contrasts. Overall, the impression is favourable – readable gauges, logical controls, and good fit-and-finish. But then there are some places where the bean counters took over. Example: in the cargo area, the carpeting is clearly low-rent. At one time that wouldn't have bothered me, but other carmakers are upgrading their materials and Toyota, at least momentarily, is lagging.

Under the hood, customers have a choice of an inline four-cylinder engine or a V6. The four is a 2.5-litre, double-overhead cam unit with variable valve timing, making 179 horsepower and 172 lb-ft of torque. It runs on regular gas and produces an estimated EPA equivalent of 10.7 L/100km in town and 8.4 on the road for the 2WD, 11.2 and 8.7 for the 4WD model.  The V6 displaces 3.5 litres. It, too, has double-overhead cams and variable valve timing. The six makes 269 horsepower and 246 lb-ft of torque, operates on regular gas and delivers 12.4 L/100km city/8.7 highway for the front-wheel drive version and 12.4/9.0 in the 4WD model. 

The four-cylinder RAV4 gets a 4-speed automatic transmission (sort of old-fashioned in an era of six-speed trannies in entry-level cars) and the six is hooked to a five-speed automatic.

RAV4s come in three flavours: base, Sport and Limited. The four-cylinder, front-wheel drive version is priced at $24,595. The mid-line Sport starts at $28,345 and the top of the line Limited has an MSRP of $32,385. Select the Limited with the V6 and 4WD and the price tag is $34,640. Options on the test vehicle, such as a power moonroof, JBL high zoot sound system, hands-free phone capability, leather seats, and 8-way power driver's seat, brought the bottom line to $37,240. A rear back-up camera, carpeted floor mats, a cargo mat and a cargo net, and a "tow prep" package consisting of an upgraded radiator, fan coupling and alternator round out the picture.

About that rear-facing camera: the display for the camera appears on the inside rearview mirror and is roughly the size of a postage stamp. I am a fan of backup cameras and the added safety they can provide when reversing. But, the RAV4's picture is too small to be of much use.

The Limited's engine-transmission combo was both quiet and smooth. The V6 provides good acceleration and, for the week's duration of my test, none of it was "unintended." The ride is steady and comfortable and the handling is crisp and agile. 

The RAV4 achieved five stars, the highest rating in the government crash tests for frontal and side crashes, four stars in the rollover category. Driver and front passenger front-seat airbags, along with first and second-row roll-sensing side curtain airbags are standard. Also standard equipment in all Toyota SUVs is the so-called Star System – vehicle stability control, traction control, and ABS with electronic brake force distribution and brake assist.

Toyota backs the RAV4 with a 3-year/60,000-km comprehensive warranty and the powertrain is covered for 5 years/100,000 km. The company warranty also covers corrosion perforation, known more widely as "rust through," for five years and unlimited mileage.

Toyota tells me that through June of 2010, the company sold 1,379,017 RAV4s. That makes it the fourth-best seller among small SUVs, behind the Honda CR-V (1.9 million sales since 1997), the Jeep Wrangler (1.55 million since 1986) and the Ford Escape (1.62 million since 2000).  That's some stiff competition. But Toyota is not sitting still. The Bloomberg Business Wire reports Tesla Motors and Toyota have signed an agreement to begin development on an electric-powered RAV4. The plan is for it to go on sale in 2012. Will it then be known as the RAVE4, as in Recreational Activity Vehicle Electric? Just thought I'd ask.

©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: Crossover, Toyota, 2010, RAV4, $20,000 - $29,999,

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