2011 Toyota RAV4 LimitedPosted on October 26th, 2011
Compact crossover vehicle seats up to seven passengers
By Nina Russin
The RAV4 was one of the first vehicles to combine the versatility of a sport-utility vehicle with car-like ride and handling. The name stands for “recreational active vehicle:” a phrase which should resonate with readers of this web site. Buyers can choose between two or three rows of seating, depending on how many passengers they need to carry.
The newest model is available with a choice of four-cylinder or V-6 engines and front or all-wheel drive. The six-cylinder engine costs a little more, but achieves fuel efficiency close to the four. Given the means to afford the premium, I’d recommend it for the extra power and performance it offers.
The V-6 RAV4 comes with a five-speed automatic transmission, as opposed to a four-speed box with the four-cylinder model. This accounts for the larger engine’s enhanced fuel economy. In addition to adding a large overdrive gear, the five-speed automatic minimizes shift shock during hard acceleration.
Buyers can choose from three grades: a base model, Sport, and upscale Limited. The front-wheel drive Limited starts at $26,835, not including an $810 delivery charge. The V-6 engine is standard, as are 17-inch alloy wheels with a full-sized spare. The spare tire is mounted on the rear door, where it’s easy to reach.
Comfort and convenience features include a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel with redundant audio controls, dual-zone automatic climate control, a fold-flat feature for the second-row seats, satellite radio and keyless start.
A premium option package on the test car adds leather upholstery, upgraded audio system, Bluetooth interface, heated front seats, power moonroof, eight-way power driver’s seat and a 120-volt power outlet ($3480). The test car also includes a towing prep package which I’d recommend against, since the RAC fails to meet the ALV minimum 3500-pound towing standard ($160). Carpeted floor mats cost $199, bringing the MSRP to $32,179.
A new extra value package discount reduces the MSRP by $2000, bringing the price as tested to $30,179.
Designed for the busy urbanite
The original RAV4 was basically a Toyota Camry with two-box architecture. For busy city dwellers, the idea of combining Toyota’s bulletproof midsized passenger car chassis with a more versatile cargo area is an appealing idea.
This past week, the Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year finals gave me the perfect opportunity to test all of the things the RAV4 does best; that is hauling multiple passengers and their gear. Over seven days, I carried up to four passengers, luggage, sign posts, groceries, cases of beverages and more. Since I was making multiple runs between program headquarters and the airport, fuel economy was important. So was maneuverability and visibility around the vehicle.
The seamless manner in which the RAV4 performed its daily tasks is testimony to what a great vehicle it is. When life gets complicated, the RAV4 makes things simpler, which is exactly what a compact crossover is supposed to do.
The two-row car easily holds up to five adult passengers. Since there is no floor tunnel, the middle passenger in the second row has enough legroom for trips around town.
The cargo door is hinged to the side, making it easier to open. With the second-row seats folded flat, the RAV meets our bicycle-friendly standards.
The engine has ample power for merging into freeway traffic, and accelerating off the line. Fuel economy during the week-long test drive was in line with the EPA’s estimates of 19/27 mpg for city and highway driving respectively.
The electric power steering system is well tuned for the car, with plenty of low-speed assist and good on-center response at speed. The electronic unit has the advantage of saving weight over a conventional hydraulic setup. It also reduces parasitic power losses to boost gas mileage.
A four-wheel independent suspension gives the RAV ride characteristics which are virtually indistinguishable from a sedan. Four-wheel disc brakes stop the RAV in a firm, linear fashion.
A rearview camera on the test car projects a wide angle view to the back of the car into the rearview mirror. It does a good job of eliminating blind spots in the back corners and beneath the rear glass.
Visibility to the front and sides of the car is quite good. I had no problems monitoring traffic in the adjacent lanes when driving on the highway.
While the RAV4 has all the creature comforts of a passenger sedan, it also functions as a mobile toolbox, with everything the owner needs to transport passengers and their cargo. Passengers in both rows of seating have ample access to cup and bottle holders. A dual glovebox provides secure storage inside the passenger compartment.
Keyless entry and start saves the driver from having to fumble for the keys. A touchpad next to the door panel will open and lock the door if the driver has the key fob in his pocket. The device adds a measure of safety after dark for owners who work in urban areas.
A tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel allows small drivers to maintain a clear forward view and a safe distance from the front airbag. Redundant audio controls minimize driver distraction.
Heated front seats on the test car keep the driver and front passenger comfortable in temperature extremes.
The optional audio upgrade is MP3/WMA compatible, and also includes a 90-day trial subscription to XM satellite radio. The optional 120-volt outlet powers a computer and turns the RAV4 into a mobile office.
The optional moonroof brings an abundance of ambient light into the interior. Optional daytime running lamps make the vehicle more visible on canyon roads and in low light situations.
The RAV4 comes with Toyota’s star safety system, which integrates antilock braking, traction and stability control in a manner which is invisible to the driver. All models come with front, side and side curtain airbags, active front headrests and tire pressure monitoring.
The RAV4 is on display at Toyota dealerships nationwide.
Likes: A versatile crossover with the ride and handling of a passenger sedan. The extra value package, new for 2011, enables buyers to add a lot of premium features at a reasonable cost.
Model: RAV4 Limited
Base price: $26,835
As tested: $30,179
Horsepower: 269 Hp @ 6200 rpm
Torque: 246 lbs.-ft. @ 4700 rpm
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: Yes
Fuel economy: 19/27 mpg city/highway
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