Toyota RAV4 — Driving a best-seller

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

The 2018 Toyota RAV4 represents the fourth generation's sixth and final year since it was completely redesigned for 2013. The current edition has received enhancements over the years with a major freshening in 2016, adding extra safety features and updating technology, but it's largely the same utility-focused vehicle it has been since its inception.

As the original small SUV that created the segment in 1996, the RAV4 has earned the current rank of best-selling Toyota and best-selling compact CUV in the country.The leap in sales since its last redesign indicates Toyota stylists and engineers have hit a home run with the current crossover. Even though the iteration is in its sixth year — a long stretch in the fast-moving automotive world — it has sold nearly 240,000 copies through the first seven months of 2018, outselling all competitors including the popular Honda CR-V by a wide margin. It also won the segment battle in 2017 with more than 400,000 sales.

New for 2018 is an Adventure trim with unique rugged styling, higher ride height and additional special items. The Adventure grade combines the feature content of the mid-level XLE trim with the sporty exterior accents of the SE and then adds unique features that we think outdoor enthusiasts will appreciate. Larger over-fender flares and 18-inch five-spoke black alloy wheels with big 235/55R18 tires give the RAV4 a kinship with tough Toyota off-road trucks. Raised ground clearance on the Adventure grade (now 6.5 inches vs. 6.1 inches) adds off-pavement and all-weather functions.

The Adventure identity continues inside, with such unique and exclusive features as carbon-fiber-like trim panels, leather-wrapped shift knob, “RAV4 Adventure” logo on the door sill protectors, and all-weather floor and cargo mats with “RAV4 Adventure” badging. A 120V/100W power outlet in the cargo area is convenient for operating a portable air compressor or other equipment.

Available in front-wheel drive (FWD) with an Automatic Limited Slip Differential, or in Dynamic Torque Control All-Wheel-Drive (AWD), the RAV4 Adventure grade lives up to its name. Both versions feature a standard Tow Prep Package that includes an upgraded radiator and supplemental engine oil and transmission fluid coolers, allowing the Adventure grade to tow up to 3,500 pounds.

Exclusive to the RAV4 Adventure grade, an available Cold Weather Package equips the vehicle with heated fabric front row seats with power driver’s seat, heated leather steering wheel, and wiper de-icer. Unique gray lower valance panels and rocker panel guards, black headlight bezels, black fog lamp surround, roof rails, and exclusive badging complete the package.

Trim levels include LE, XLE, Adventure, SE, Limited and Platinum and all come with the same 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine making 176 horsepower and 172 pound-feet of torque mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. One of the biggest criticisms over the years has been the single-engine configuration. While it's certainly adequate, requests for a bigger, optional engine have landed on deaf ears. Front wheel drive is standard on all trims with all-wheel drive optional.

Gas mileage is also adequate, but not exemplary, rated at 23 mpg city, 30 highway and 26 overall on regular gas in front-wheel drive. All-wheel drive configurations are rated at 22/28/25. To get the best mileage there is a RAV4 Hybrid edition powered by a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and electric motors front and rear making a combined 194 horsepower. The hybrid starts at $28,430 including destination charge in LE trim that is EPA-rated at 34/30/32.

Inside, the RAV4 offers a stylish, modern looking dash with intuitive switchgear, quality materials for the segment, good fit and finish, and the requisite number of cupholders including one up front that will accommodate a container with a big handle.

Front seats are com
fortable and back seat space is adequate, but a low seat cushion and a stiff seatback proved somewhat unsettling. Cargo space with the seats in use measures 38.4 cubic feet. With the second-row seats folded, cargo space is a very useable 73.3 cubic feet.

The Entune Premium Audio package that includes navigation, smartphone app integration, the Toyota Safety Sense system including adaptive cruise control and a blindspot monitor can be purchased as an option on the XLE and SE trims for $1,740. We think if you purchased only one option this should be the one.

The RAV4 starts at $25,705 for a FWD LE. Prices rise through the trim levels topping out at $37,445 for a Platinum trim with AWD. Our AWD Adventure test vehicle carried a base price of $29,695 and with options reached $32,140. Edmund's says the current fair market value is $28,719.

Base price: $25,705; as driven, $32,140
Engine: 2.5-liter 4-cylinder
Horsepower: 176 @ 6,000 rpm
Torque: 172 foot-pounds @ 4,100 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Drive: all-wheel
Seating: 2/3
Wheelbase: 104.7 inches
Length: 181.1 inches
Curb weight: 3,605 pounds
Turning circle: 36.8 feet
Luggage capacity: 38.4 cubic feet
Cargo capacity: 73.4 cubic feet
Towing capacity: 3,500 pounds
Fuel capacity: 15.9 gallons (regular)
EPA rating: 22 city, 28 highway, 25 combined
0-60: 8.5 seconds (Car and Driver)
Also consider: Honda CR-V, Ford Escape, Chevrolet Equinox

The Good
• Roomy interior
• Large cargo capacity
• Excellent resale value

The Bad
• Final year before complete redesign

The Ugly
• Only one engine option