2006 RAV4 New Car Test Drive
It's not often that Toyota finds itself chasing the competition in a class that it invented. Such is the case, however, with the RAV4, the original small sport utility built on a car chassis. It's not that there has been anything fundamentally wrong with the vehicle. It's just that one or two others have raised the bar, most notably with a V6 engine, while the RAV4 has continued with a four cylinder. Other SUVs also offer a third row of seats, boosting passenger capacity from five to seven.
No longer, in either regard. With the 2006 RAV4, Toyota has caught up. There's a new, 269-horsepower, 3.5-liter V6 engine coupled to a new, five-speed automatic. And there's an optional third row of seats that, by the way, folds into the floor, leaving a flat cargo space that holds almost five more cubic feet of stuff than the '05 model. The RAV4 is also available with the tried and true four cylinder that powered the '05, but with an added five horses under the hood. Buyers also have the choice of front-wheel drive and four-wheel drive, just as before.
The RAV has been completely restyled for 2006, inside and out, although functionality has been maintained. The RAV4 has been a standard-setter virtually from its inception. And the exterior is fresh, less flashy, with fewer styling gimmicks. But the same can't be said for the interior, where some of the updating appears not to have been so much an improvement as a change to something different, while still just as good as before.
The 2006 RAV4 is a mix, then, of best, better and good, but with one reservation: the V6 seems almost too much for the package, as if in catching up, Toyota leapt too far ahead. It's a good, solid engine, and it adds substantially to the RAV4's capabilities. It has to haul as many as seven people, for instance, and it raises the tow rating to as high as 3500 pounds. But as it's engineered for the 2006 RAV4, it just might be more than was needed. In other words, the new RAV4 really scoots with the V6.
The 2006 Toyota RAV4 comes in three trim levels, all with four doors: base ($20,200), Sport ($21,775) and Limited ($22,455).
All three start with front-wheel drive and the same 2.4-liter, 166-horsepower, four-cylinder engine and four-speed automatic transmission. All three can be upgraded to the 3.5-liter, 269-horsepower V6 with a new five-speed automatic ($2,035 for the base; $1,915 for Sport and Limited). Full-time four-wheel drive is available across the line ($1,400).
Standard features include air conditioning, cruise control, AM/FM/CD/MP3/WMA stereo with six speakers, the usual powered and keyless-remote features, manually adjustable driver and front passenger seats, tilt-and-telescope steering wheel and auto-off headlamps. The four-cylinder RAV4 has P215/70R16 tires on steel wheels with hubcaps, the V6 is upgraded with P225/65R17 tires on styled steel wheels.
Options include the third-row seat for seven-passenger seating ($950). Also available: an in-dash, six-disc CD changer ($200); a selection of 17-inch wheels, both styled steel ($120) and alloy ($560); cargo cover ($140); roof rack ($220); daytime running lights ($40); and a towing package for the V6 ($160) that includes a heavy-duty radiator and fan, transmission oil cooler and 150-amp alternator. (Option prices are for the four-cylinder base model and may be lower for V6 or higher trim levels; all are manufacturer's suggested retail prices, or MSRP.)
The Sport adds a roof rack with cross bars; rear privacy glass; fog lamps; sport-tuned suspension; P235/55R18 tires on alloy wheels; and combination hard/soft spare tire cover. Optional are two stereos, one the same upgrade as offered on the base, the other a JBL premium system with nine speakers, including a subwoofer ($590); power tilt-and-slide moonroof ($900); plus many of the options available for the base model. Befitting the model's designation, the third-row seat is not offered on the Sport.
The Limited model upgrades with dual-zone automatic climate control; an in-dash, six-disc CD changer; power-adjustable driver seat; heated outside mirrors; leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob; rear privacy glass; cargo cover; fog lamps; P225/65R17 tires on alloy wheels; and a full, hard-shell spare tire cover. Options include the third-row seat ($810) and a rear-seat entertainment system for the V6 ($1,075). Leather seats are optional ($1,050). Front seat heaters ($440), audio upgrades, and other features are available.
Safety features on all 2006 RAV4s include dual-stage frontal airbags, LATCH child safety seat anchors, antilock brakes with brake assist and electronic brake-force distribution, electronic stability control and traction control. However, side-impact airbags and side curtain airbags are optional on all three models ($650). We strongly recommend getting them. Curtain airbags are designed to provide head protection in a side impact or rollover, the leading cause of fatalities in those types of accidents, while side-impact airbags are designed to improve torso protection.