2014 Toyota RAV4: Good as ever, but competition is nipping at the wheels

13 Oct 2014 | 1,794 views | No Comment
By Don Hammonds Toyota's venerable RAV4 isn't so venerable any more--because it's been heavily  transformed.   It's got snappy new looks to entice buyers who may mistakenly think they will find the same model in Toyota showrooms that they've seen before.  It's somewhat roomier than previous models. And the interior materials and presentation have been stepped up considerably. Power comes from a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 176 horsepower and 172 pound-feet of torque. You will find that the  six-speed automatic transmission is standard, and  you can choose either an all-wheel drive model or you can get the front wheel drive version, and either one, we think, will be a great choice for you. Fuel mileage rating is 25 mpg overall, 22 city and 29 highway, and you can save $1,000 in gasoline costs over five years compared with other products if you buy a RAV4.  The car uses 4.0 gallons of gasoline per 100 miles, and the annual fuel cost is $2,100 annually, based on 15,000 miles of driving yearly, with $3.55 per gallon gasoline. Safety features abound in the RAV4. Among the features you will get as standard equipment, are antilock disc brakes, a rearview camera, stability control, traction control, whiplash-reducing front head restraints, front-seat side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags. A driver knee airbag is also standard.  We also like that the  rearview camera is standard no matter what version you buy, and if you like, and you choose to purchase a Limited, you can get an optional Technology package on the Limited that gives you blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alerts and lane departure warnings. You can get your RAV4 in several versions, including  LE, XLE and Limited. The LE comes standard with 17-inch steel wheels, automatic headlights, power folding mirrors, keyless entry, rear privacy glass, full power accessories, air-conditioning, cruise control, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a 60/40-split and reclining second-row seat, a rearview camera, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, and a six-speaker sound system with a 6.1-inch touchscreen, a CD player, an auxiliary audio jack and an iPod/USB audio interface. The XLE adds 17-inch alloy wheels, foglights, heated side mirrors with integrated turn signals, roof rails, a sunroof, dual-zone automatic climate control, sportier front seats, a cargo cover and extendable sun visors. The audio system is upgraded on the XLE to include satellite radio, HD radio, traffic and weather. An option package allows you to add a navigation system and Toyota's Entune smartphone app integration to the XLE. The top-level Limited comes with all of the equipment mentioned for the other models, along with 18-inch alloy wheels, a height-adjustable power liftgate, keyless entry and ignition, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter, an eight-way power-adjustable driver seat with memory settings, heated front seats and premium synthetic leather upholstery. Options on the Limited include a navigation system bundled with a premium 11-speaker JBL audio system. The Technology package adds a blind-spot monitoring system with rear cross-traffic alerts, a lane-departure warning system and automatic high-beam control for the headlights.   The price of our tester  was $32,679 with options like Entune Premium infotainment and nav system,  a technology package, blind spot monitor with rear cross traffic alert, lane departure alert and auto high beam, and other items are included in that price.      That Entune system package is pretty comprehensive, by the way. It includes a Premium JVL audio system with navigation that was particularly terrific, a touch screen that can be split for a divided display, MP3/.WPMA playback capability, USB 2.0 port with  iPod connectivity, Predictive traffic and Doppler Weather  Overlay and Sirius XM radio and Gracenotes Cover Art, included, and there are other features as well that are part of this package that are too numerous to mention, as they say. The RAV4 is available with either front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. But the RAV4's biggest issue is that competitors are either right on its tail or even ahead of it.  Many compact SUVs come with choices in powertrain combinations, while RAV4 has to make do with only one choice--the standard powertrain. Also, the interior is quite nice. with two tone presentations that feature much nicer materials than what we have found in RAV4s up until now. But even with the upgrades, other CUVs like Ford Escape, Nissan Rogue, and Jeep Cherokee, all either brand new versions or nearly new versions of competitors,  look much nicer, feel better to ride upon and look far more contemporary. So between the lack of engine choices and an interior presentation that's okay, the RAV4 will have trouble with many comparison shoppers who don't hesitate to look at the whole array of competitors before making a choice.   Another issue:  A comparatively rough ride.  You get bounced and jounced quite a bit more in a RAV4 than you will in competitors.  The rough ride was the very first thing that my oldest son, 20, mentioned only five minutes into a ride in our RAV4.   Standard safety equipment on every 2014 Toyota RAV4 includes In Edmunds brake testing, the RAV4 stopped from 60 mph in 128 feet, which is longer than average.
In government crash tests, the Toyota RAV4 received four out of five stars for overall protection, with four stars awarded for frontal protection and five stars for side-impact protection. In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety crash tests, the new RAV4 earned a top score of "Good" for its protection of occupants in moderate-overlap frontal-offset, side-impact and roof strength tests. Its seat/head restraint was also rated Good for whiplash protection in rear impacts. However, the RAV earned a Poor rating (the lowest) in the Institute's small-overlap frontal-offset crash test.
    You will find that you have plenty of cargo room and rear seat passenger room, but that's because RAV4 no longer offers a third seat, which may perturb some potential  customers.  And you can recline the second row seat.  As for cargo bay space, you have 38.4 cubic feet, which makes  the RAV4  one of the more spacious members of the compact utility vehicle class.    The RAV4, thus remains as a terrific, top of the class value among CUVs, and it surely would be a choice along with the Honda CR-V for those who put long range, years long ownership of any car first on their list. But....a more complete redo should probably be on the horizon for the little CUV.  

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