2009 Toyota RAV4 Sport - Click above for high-res image gallery The small crossover segment, where the neo-sorta-trucks live, is one of the hottest battlegrounds for consumer dollars. Small skirmishes go on in the border regions; confused vehicles don't know whether to be mud-slingers with brash attitudes or optioned-up urban sophisticates. Toyota's RAV4 certainly brings sophistication, and though it can venture off road a bit, it's not a jumbled, mixed-up mess. The RAV's classification-straddling lets it serve the whims of a broad array of potential buyers. Wanting to cover all the bases, the RAV4 can be had in a variety of configurations, from a basic front-driver with four-cylinder power up to a leather-lined, four-wheel-drive Limited with a silly-powerful V6. A Sport version seeds right in between the base and Limited, carrying a satisfying level of equipment. There's an allure to the big horsepower delivered by the six – especially when it costs as little on EPA ratings as the RAV's 3.5-liter – but these days, "adequate" is riding a wave of newfound popularity as Americans struggle to pinch more pennies. In keeping with that spirit, when it came time to test a RAV4, we decided to try life with a four-cylinder 4WD Sport. %Gallery-50531% Photos Copyright ©2009 Dan Roth / Weblogs, Inc. All grown up in its third generation, the RAV4 has swelled significantly since the model launched back in the 1990s. The Highlander's newfound gigantism left room for the RAV to expand beyond its Corolla roots. The CUV's styling has shed its old stubbiness and is now far from the weird of the original. There's a strong face, a slight hint of gaping maw suggested by the trapezoidal grille, but the overall design is generally restrained and safe. Nowhere do you find a hint of cladding or overly fussy detailing, making this not-so-small small CUV a cleanly-styled contender. The Sport trim level gets body colored fender flare appliques, as well as painted door handles, fog lamps, and sharp looking 18-inch alloy wheels. Sport badges taped to the doors are backed up by sharpened suspension reflexes; check out those blue painted struts. The Sport manages to differentiate itself from a base RAV4 the same way a Z06 looks more special than the standard Chevrolet Corvette. No version looks bad, but there's a little extra zoot to the step-up model, differences that are most noticeable when parked side by side. Unlike the Corvette, though, absolutely nobody is going to gawk at your RAV4, not even with that tumor of a spare tire on the back door. The Sport has its own interior scheme called Dark Charcoal, which teams with the deeply tinted rear glass to lend a dour atmosphere to the interior. Lighter interior colors, like in other versions of the RAV, feel friendlier. New ground is not broken with the RAV4 inside or out, but Toyota has taken a file and rasped off any rough edges, so the execution is all but flawless. Even without the niceties of leather …
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