Toyota RAV4
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Overall

One year after its latest generation change, Toyota is already messing around with new Entune audio systems.

Drivetrain

A 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and six-speed automatic transmission, which falls in line with competitors such as the Ford Escape and the Hyundai Tucson.

Through four generations, the RAV4 has gone from unlikely savior to slick machine. But it has to be since the competition is insanely fierce. Back in 1997 when the first RAV4 arrived, it was all by itself. Benchmark vehicles such as the Ford Escape, Hyundai Tucson and, of course, the Honda CR-V have the RAV4 fighting tooth and nail for turf it once owned outright. To do this, the design is rather impressive with all sorts of swoops and curves and an angry-looking nose. There’s more high-strength steel in the structure, which is intended to increase safety while keeping the weight in check. The RAV4 is similarly sized to the outgoing model, but Toyota says there is more cargo room. Despite this, there is no option of the third-row seat or the V6 engine that was required when that seat was ordered. In fact, where the Ford Escape offers three different four-cylinder engines, the RAV4 only offers the carryover 2.5-liter four-cylinder rated at 179 horsepower. Fuel economy is good — 24 mpg in the city and 31 on the highway — largely due to a six-speed automatic transmission with tall overdrive gearing to cut highway revs. The all-wheel-drive option is has Auto, Lock and Sport modes to suit specific traction and driving situations. Lock mode keeps half the power going to the back wheels as long as you’re driving slower that 25 mph. Sport mode allows wider transfer of torque between the front and rear wheels (as much as half to the rear) than the Auto mode. That’s all well and good, but the real battleground these days is in interior fit and finish as well as technology. The RAV4 is awash with “soft-touch” materials and silver trim bits, which is pretty standard for this class. There are also eight standard airbags and a 6.1-inch screen that doubles as a monitor for the back-up camera, which is also standard. RAV4 is offered in the usual LE, XLE and Limited trim levels. Oddly perhaps, the LE comes with 17-inch steel wheels, which probably helps keep the starting price under $25,000, but you do get air conditioning and some power features. The XLE adds a moonroof and roof rails, while the Limited comes with 18-inch alloy wheels and opens up the door to a 576-watt JBL-brand audio system. The only changes for 2014 is the adoption of Toyota’s new Entune audio software, and an optional technology package on Limited which includes blind-spot monitoring, lane-departure warning and automatically activated high beams.

Base price (incl. destination): $24,150 (2013)
Type: Four-door sport-utility vehicle
Engine (hp): 2.5-liter DOHC I4 (176)
Layout: Front-engine, front- /all-wheel-drive
Transmissions: Six-speed automatic
MPG (city/hwy): 24/31 (2.5, 4×2)
Safety: Front airbags, side-impact airbags; side-curtain airbags; anti-lock brakes; stability control; traction control
Weight (lb.): 3,440