2020 Toyota RAV4: Back for a stylish –and highly successful–encore

22 Dec 2020 | 364 views | No Comment
Toyota RAV4 Hybrid AWD SUV     By Donald Hammonds Seldom have I seen a vehicle that has dramatically changed my entire outlook on things automotive. I'm talking about my thoughts about SUVs in general, and my thoughts about a car company in particular--Toyota. I am a self-confessed auto design maven.  I live for good-looking automotive expressions. I loved the vast variety of styling expressions that used to be emblematic of the auto industry, a time which I fear may be gone for good for the average person, except for those who can afford sexy cars that cost $100,000 or more. The popularity of the SUV makes me long for good old days, and I spend an awful lot of free time just looking wistfully at page after page of in my collection of thousands of sales catalogs and car advertisements dating back to 1912. If you are like me--and styling matters to you--and you are looking for an SUV--take a look at the 2020 RAV4. It's the only SUV on the market worth looking at for daring styling other than Toyota's line of luxury SUVs from Lexus. And given how the RAV4's new design flew out of dealer showroom when it was introduced in 2019, it's clear to me that one of the big selling points for the 2020 RAV4 will be its brutish, athletic, and squared off style. Add some of the cool wheel designs, especially those blacked out ones, honkin' dual exhausts around back and its 21st century interior design, and you've got one tough SUV that could easily sell itself--and stand out like crazy from everybody else. By the way, in general, Toyota is right up there in terms of introducing daring, exciting designs that please the eye and turn the head.  So who are the design leaders these days?  Toyota. Kia. Cadillac. Audi. That's it. Well, you can throw in Aston-Martin. And Ferrari and Lamborghini for good measure if you wish. Everybody else? Boxes on wheels. Of course, RAV4 still is all those wonderful things it always has been. Safe. Dependable to a fault. Rugged. Like other Toyotas, you can count on hundreds of thousands of  miles of driving. And I'm happy to say that the RAV4 was great company on a little weekend jaunt I took in rural Pennsylvania.  It accelerated beautifully--though I hear the hybrid I drove is considerably faster than the gasoline RAV4 models.  It took curves like a champ, and did so  in a grounded, bobsled-like fashion. There are cool touches everywhere in the RAV4 interior.  There are cone-shaped, sturdy, and ergonomically pleasing controls for some things. And tabs, rather than dials, worked wonderfully for the RAV4. Some car writers have complained that the front seats were not comfortable, but I found no complaint with them. Overall,  the interior has been dramatically updated with above quality materials arranged in a tasteful, futuristic design. Let's take a closer look at the RAV4: Price: Toyota RAV4 prices range from $25,950 to $35,880 without options. Fuel Economy: I got a pretty remarkable average of 43 miles per gallon in combined city and highway driving! The Feds say EPA-estimated fuel economy is up to 39 mpg combined this year, which is a rather large hike of six miles per gallon over the 2018 RAV4. The battery-assisted hybrid powertrain now produces 219 horsepower, making this the most powerful RAV4 since the V6 engine was discontinued in 2012. Performance: All RAV4 Hybrid models have a 2.5-liter four-cylinder, 219  horsepower, 2.5 liter engine paired to an electric motor with a continuously variable automatic transmission. And an additional electric motor is used to power the rear wheels in low-traction situations. Compare that to the 203 horsepower, 2.5 liter four. Drive both and you will find out that the Hybrid's extra horsepower over the standard four cylinder engine makes a huge difference in driving fun.  The Hybrid is much faster, handles better and gets way more  mileage than the standard gas version.  No wonder there's a run on the Hybrid version at Toyota dealers! The car: Though the RAV4 has always been at or near the top of the compact SUV market, this year's model handily outdoes most of its rivals. Toyota has clearly been listening to consumers and car writers' comments about the previous models, and it has paid a great deal of attention to the quality of the interior--which is a vast improvement, more interior room, and a lot more fun and pizzazz in both styling and overall feel behind the wheel. Kudos, Toyota!   Technology:
        Given what I said above, please bear in mind that the hybrid version may be a bit more difficult to find at dealerships.  Reports from the auto industry say that the consumers are quite aware that it's the hybrid that not only gets more mileage, but is also considerably quicker and more fun to drive than the standard gas RAV4 models.  And some consumers have written in columns that they have had a tough time getting the hybrid RAV4 in colors and trims that they want the most. So let's look at the rest of the RAV4 lineup: You start out with the LE trim, which has as standard equipment such things as  17-inch alloy wheels, roof rails, a rearview camera, LED headlights and daytime running lights, a height-adjustable driver seat, 60/40-split folding rear seats with adjustable recline, and dual-zone climate control. Infotainment is handled by a 7-inch touchscreen, and of course, the new Android CarPlay system. Next up: The XLE which gets all the standard goodies of the lower level models, adds blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert, automatic headlights, integrated foglights, proximity entry with push-button start, a sunroof, upgraded fabric upholstery, sliding sun visor extensions, and additional USB ports (five total, including two for the rear seats). The model also comes with such standard equipment as the 8-inch touchscreen system and the contents of the Convenience package. You also get very cool black-painted 18-inch wheels, a sport-tuned suspension, two-tone exterior paint, simulated-leather upholstery, upgraded interior trim materials, a digital speedometer, a 7-inch digital driver-information display, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, dynamic guidelines for the rearview camera, and additional interior ambient lighting.
    The Adventure is clearly designed for off-roaders.  You will get everything on the  XLE Premium, except for a sunroof and power liftgate, and you also get some exclusive to Adventure wheels, fender flares, taller roof rails, selectable terrain drive modes, hill descent control, and an 8-inch touchscreen, among a few other features. The new kid on the RAV4 block for 2020 is the TRD Off-Road version, and it really is the cherry on top for off-road lovers. You will get everything that the Adventure offers plus all-terrain tires, an off-road-tuned suspension, unique black trim elements, the sunroof, the power liftgate and unique interior trim. The top dog is of course, the Limited.  get everything standard on the XLE Premium, along with chrome exterior trim and more interior upgrades such as heated front seats, a virtual rearview mirror, the 8-inch touchscreen, a navigation system, and a premium 11-speaker JBL audio system. Safety:
The list of standard safety equipment is pretty extensive, including Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 is on all RAV4 Hybrid models and includes forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, pedestrian detection, lane keeping assist, auto high-beam headlights, and adaptive cruise control. Aesthetics/Styling: Since I've already gone ga-ga about the exterior, let me say that the interior is pretty cool, too.  You will find above average trim, interior themes and materials here, and the controls are both easy to operate and intuitive as well.  Though you clearly should read the owners manual when purchasing a new car or truck, the RAV4 controls are so intuitive that you could get into it, get used to it in about two seconds and drive off.  Though I found the second row back seat space adequate, I did feel that the well for your feet under the front seat felt a bit confining. Warranty: Three year, 36,000 mile bumper to bumper warranty.  

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