2015 Toyota RAV4 Limited AWDPosted on September 23rd, 2015
Compact crossover gains refinement and style
By Nina Russin
Toyota’s Recreational Active Vehicle has changed a lot since its introduction in 1995. What began as a personal car based on the Camry platform has evolved into a larger, more substantial vehicle that works well for small families. The car’s mission remains the same: combining car-like ride and handling with a more versatile interior and available all-wheel drive for buyers with active lifestyles.
The current model is essentially carry-over from 2013 when Toyota unveiled the fourth-generation car. Lava exterior paint on the test car is new for 2015.
Base price for the Limited is $29,850 excluding the $885 destination charge. The upscale grade comes nicely equipped with convenience features including dual-zone climate control, Entune infotainment with navigation, satellite radio, leather wrapped steering wheel, heated front seats with driver’s seat memory settings, keyless entry and start, reclining and fold flat second-row seats, 18-inch alloy wheels, power moonroof, heated outside mirrors and power on/off headlamps.
Options on the test car include a JBL premium audio system, blind spot monitoring with cross traffic alert, lane departure warning, automatic high beams, roof rack cross bars, remote start and carpeted floor mats. Final MSRP is $33,469.
Weekend road trip
This week, I drove the RAV4 on a weekend road trip southeast to Tucson. The RAV proved to be the perfect highway companion with excellent range, a quiet interior and good power.
As the Phoenix metropolitan area has grown, traffic has moved along with it. The section of the I-10 freeway between Phoenix and Tucson is jammed on weekends with families heading to college football games, tourists, residents of new townships between the two cities and truckers. ADOT has added an extra lane in each direction to ease the flow, but it’s not unusual for an accident to have cars backed up for miles.
In situations such as this, the Toyota RAV4 is the perfect choice. Despite traffic slowdowns our fuel economy was exceptionally good for a car of this size thanks to large overdrive gears in the six-speed automatic transmission: true to the EPA 29 mpg estimate.
The 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine develops 172 foot-pounds of peak torque for good acceleration off the line and in the 20-to-50 mile-per-hour range drivers use on entrance ramps. There is enough horsepower on the high end to easily pass slower vehicles at speed.
On wet roads, the all-wheel drive system automatically transfers engine power to the rear wheels as needed to maintain good traction. This came in handy when a monsoonal rainstorm soaked the streets of Tucson leaving standing water in its wake. The system also transfers power to the rear wheels during hard acceleration to prevent understeer.
A four-wheel independent suspension consists of MacPherson struts up front and a compact double wishbone setup in back that enabled engineers to maximize room in the second row of seating and cargo bay. The ride is smooth and comfortable without feeling floaty.
Four-wheel disc brakes stop the RAV4 in firm, linear fashion.
The standard rearview camera works well in all weather conditions. Unlike some competitors the lens is protected so it doesn’t become blurry after a rainstorm. Optional blind spot monitoring illuminates LED signals in the side mirrors when vehicles in adjacent lanes pass through the driver’s blind spots. The safety feature makes it much easier and safer to weave through dense traffic.
I appreciated the cross traffic alert pulling out of a parking spot near the Rillito River path in Tucson. Several bicycles passed in back of the vehicle, none of which I would have been able to see using the rear glass.
The Limited grade gives the RAV4 a premium feel with its Softex seating surfaces, large color center stack screen and expanded infotainment services. Adjustable lumbar made the two-hour drive to Tucson much more comfortable. Driver’s seat memory settings enable multiple family members to share the car.
I have mixed emotions about the new horizontal shelf designers added to the passenger side of the instrument panel on the new model. My husband had to push his seat pretty far back to keep his knees from knocking into it. I was also disappointed that the front passenger seat has manual adjustments on the Limited grade. On a car costing close to $30,000, I expect power seat adjustments for both front occupants.
The fourth-generation RAV’s longer wheelbase translates to more legroom for second-row occupants, making it better suited for adult passengers on longer drives. Riders in the second row can also recline their seatbacks if they want to take a short nap.
The cargo area is quite spacious, with plenty of room for luggage, groceries, golf bags and camping equipment. A power liftgate is standard on the test car, making it easier to load big gear in back.
The RAV4 easily meets our bicycle friendly standard with second-row seats folded flat. The tonneau cover on the test car keeps items stashed in back concealed from prying eyes. Optional crossbars enable owners to add a cargo rack or carrier up top.
The RAV4 comes with eight airbags, whiplash resistant front seats, tire pressure monitoring, antilock brakes, traction control, stability control and daytime running lamps. Standard Toyota Care covers all scheduled maintenance for the first two years or 25,000 miles as well as 24/7 roadside assistance.
The versatile RAV4 is on display at Toyota dealerships nationwide.
Like: A stylish versatile crossover vehicle with a roomy enough interior to work for small families.
Dislike: Horizontal shelf on instrument panel decreases legroom for the front passenger. Power passenger seat adjustments are not standard.
Model: RAV4 Limited AWD
Base price: $29,850
As tested: $33,469
Horsepower: 176 Hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque: 172 lbs.-ft. @ 4100 rpm
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: Yes
Fuel economy: 22/29 mpg city/highway2015, Best Value 2015, Active Lifestyle Vehicles, auto review, performance, pricing, standard safety, Toyota