2015 RAV4 New Car Test Drive
All-new for 2013, the Toyota RAV4 adds new safety features and four levels of Entune connectivity for 2014.
Toyota pioneered the crossover/SUV segment with the first RAV4 (for Recreational Active Vehicle, 4WD) in 1996. This latest, fourth-generation RAV4 handles better than before, and squeezes more miles from a gallon of gasoline. The new styling is more fluid: less truck, more car. The fourth-gen RAV4 is also more focused than its predecessor. The V6 option is gone, as is the optional third row of seating. The RAV4 is now strictly a four-cylinder five-seater. Take it or leave it.
Of course, the 2.5-liter four-cylinder that remains features all of Toyota's usual high-tech hardware, including four valves per cylinder with variable valve timing on both the intake and exhaust sides (VVT-i, in Toyota-speak). It boasts 176 horsepower and 172 pound-feet of torque. It's coupled to a six-speed automatic transmission (also new for 2013), with the top two cogs being overdrive gears to aid fuel efficiency.
City/Highway EPA ratings are 24/31 mpg with front-wheel drive and 22/29 mpg with all-wheel-drive, representing about a 10 percent improvement over 2012 and older models.
As we said, the latest styling is more car than truck. It's been tweaked to create more emotion. The spare wheel is no longer stored on the tailgate but in the more commonly used location under the trunk floor. Yet despite these changes, it still looks remarkably uninspiring and bland.
The fourth-generation interior is upgraded as well, including a SofTex leather band that runs the entire width of the dash. While the feel doesn't scream luxury, it does stack up well against the competition; and comfort is good, too.
On the road, the fourth-gen RAV4 is a nice step forward in terms of handling. It feels far firmer and more planted than before. The steering is a touch rubbery, but braking is good. Yet, again, despite the improvements, the car still fails to engage the driver. It's better, but not fun.
Overall, the 2013-14 RAV4 is a solid improvement over the outgoing model. But it is still a means of transportation, and not a vehicle that you will particularly enjoy driving. In true Toyota fashion it remains remarkably vanilla.
It is, however, practical, efficient and competitively priced (starting at $23,550), making it a car that will sell like a Lightning McQueen toy at Christmas.
The 2014 Toyota RAV4 comes in three models: LE, XLE and Limited. All three are available with front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive.
RAV4 LE ($23,550) and LE AWD ($24,950) come standard with air conditioning, cruise control, fabric-trimmed six-way adjustable driver's seat, four-way front-passenger seat, remote keyless entry, day/night rearview mirror, and Eco and Sport mode transmission programs. What Toyota now calls Entune Audio mostly comprises features carried over from 2013 (6.1-inch touch-screen AM/FM/CD audio with MP3/WMA playback, six-speakers, auxiliary jack, USB port with iPod connectivity, Bluetooth with phonebook access and music streaming, integrated backup camera) but adds advanced voice recognition. (All prices are MSRP excluding $860 destination charge.)
RAV4 XLE ($25,000) and XLE AWD ($26,400) upgrade with dual-zone climate control, premium fabric seats with sport bolstering and French stitching, power tilt/slide moonroof with sunshade, dual sun visor extensions, roof rails, power heated outside mirrors with integrated turn signal, chrome accented grille with silver highlighted lower grille, fog lights, and 17-inch alloy wheels. New for 2014 is Entune Audio Plus, which includes all the Entune Audio features listed above and adds HD Radio with iTunes tagging, HD Traffic and Weather (metro areas only), and SiriusXM Radio (with 90-day trial subscription).
RAV4 Limited ($28,320) and Limited AWD ($29,720) add Softex trimmed eight-way power-adjustable driver's seat with French stitching and sport bolstering, leather-trimmed steering wheel, leather trimmed shifter lever, Softex covered armrest and console box, push button start, power liftgate, and 18-inch alloy wheels. Again, the audio setup is new for 2014; called Entune Premium Audio, it incorporates all features of Entune Audio Plus and adds navigation and the Entune App Suite, which includes Bing, iHeartRadio, MovieTickets.com, OpenTable, Yelp, Facebook Places, Pandora, and other smart-phone-type functions.
Options include Entune Audio Plus for LE, and Entune Premium Audio with navigation and App Suite for XLE. Limited buyers can step up to an 11-speaker JBL Green Edge system with all Entune Premium functions. Also exclusive to Limited is a Technology Package that includes a blind spot monitor with rear cross traffic alert, lane departure alert and auto high beam.
Safety equipment on all models includes stability control, traction control, anti-lock brakes, electronic brake-force distribution, brake assist, eight airbags (driver and front passenger, driver knee, front passenger seat cushion, driver and passenger side, front and second row side curtain), seatbelt pre-tensioners, LATCH anchors on second row, whiplash injury lessoning seats, and a tire pressure monitor system. The standard rearview camera can help the driver spot a child behind the car when backing up. Optional all-wheel drive can improve handling stability in slippery conditions. The optional Blind Spot Monitor operates by detecting vehicles in adjacent lanes and alerting the driver using indicators on the side mirrors. When backing up, rear cross-traffic alert senses vehicles approaching from either direction and provides an audible warning combined with flashing indicators in the outside mirrors.