Toyota RAV4
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Toyota is aiming to make its RAV4 compact tall wagon more convenient and refined with larger wheels and power options spreading lower through the line.

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.

Well into its fourth generation and Toyota is making sure its compact RAV4 brings more than just perceived reliability to the table. To do this, its design is rather impressive with all sorts of swoops and curves and an angry-looking nose. The RAV4 is similarly sized to the old third-gen 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 competing Ford Escape offers three different four-cylinder engines, the RAV4 only provides 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, roof rails and new 17-inch Superchrome wheels, while the Limited comes with 18-inch alloy wheels and opens up the door to a 576-watt JBL-brand audio system. Toyota’s Entune audio software, and an optional technology package on Limited which includes blind-spot monitoring, lane-departure warning and automatically activated high beams were added last year.