2011 Toyota RAV4 Limited: Small, versatile economic and cool
By Mike Blake, Carlisle Events
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
The hip, sporty. Small crossover from Toyota, the RAV4, was the first compact sports-ute. Introduced in Japan and Europe in 1994 and brought to America in 1996, RAV4 filled the bill for those who wanted an SUV, but also desired fuel economy, good maneuverability, solid sightlines, 4-wheel-drive and generous cargo space.
Its name stands for "Recreational Active Vehicle with 4-wheel drive", although not all RAV4s have four wheel drive.
Nearing the end of its third generation, the 2011 RAV4 continues to sell well, even in this era of $4/gallon fuel, thanks to its fuel economy rating of 19/26 for 4-wheel drive.
Small on the outside, roomy on the inside, RAV4 was thoughtfully engineered to deliver versatility a quiet ride and family friendliness without losing its hip appeal. With a contemporary design and aerodynamically efficient shape, the elimination of outer moldings from the windshield and door glass enhances aerodynamics and reduces wind noise. Its grille, headlamps and distinct, sharp character lines give RAV4 a rugged yet sporty look while the rear view conveys a more traditional SUV style, with LED tail lamps and an externally mounted spare tire in a color-keyed shell.
Measuring 181.9 inches in length (with a spare tie cover), 71.5 inches wide and 66.5 inches high on a wheelbase of 104.7 inches and ground clearance of 7.5 inches, the 3699-lb curb weight puts RAV4 solidly in the small crossover arena.
My Black exterior ride was mated to an ash leather interior and enhanced by 17-inch aluminum alloy wheels covered in P255/65R17 all-season tires. A full-size spare adds confidence and cool exterior accouterments include color-keyed power heated outside mirrors with turn signal indicators with folding feature, color-keyed bumpers, door handles and rear spoiler, color-keyed overfenders, chrome-accented grille, integrated fog lights, roof rack, rear privacy glass and multi-reflector halogen headlamps with auto on/off feature.
Surprising quickness comes from a 3.5-liter, six-cylinder, double-overhead cam, 24-valve engine with dual VVT-i that is rated at 269hp and 246 lbs-ft of torque. Mated to a 5-speed automatic transmission and an electronic Toyota Direct Ignition, the SFI fuel system has received a ULEVII emission certification.
RAV4 performs when called upon on the highway and energetically sprinted a 6.8-second zero-to-60 run en route to a 15.5-second quarter mile during pre-storm conditions.
A comfortable family car, RAV4 is conscientious and smooth with an independent MacPherson strut front suspension with stabilizer bar and a double wishbone rear, coil springs and stabilizer bar. Power assisted rack-and-pinion steering is attentive and delivers only minor understeer and an acceptable amount of top-wobble, while ventilated front disc brakes and solid-disc rear brakes provide reliable stopping.
RAV4 provides a very good compromise between a macho sports-ute demeanor, a young family van-type vehicle, a hip college student fun ride and a versatile non-extreme off-road ride somewhere between a car-based station wagon and a truck-based SUV.
Ergonomic and user-friendly, the roomy interior measures 40.8 inches of front headroom with 39.7 inches in row two; legroom goes 41.8 and 38.3; shoulder room is 57.1 and 55.3 and hip room goes 53.8 and 52.4. There is also a three-row version, but I tested the double-row configuration. Interior volume is 144.6 cu. in. with cargo room of 73 cu. ft. behind the front row with the second row folded, and 36.4 behind the second row.
The cabin is decked out with automatic dual zone climate control with air filter, with micro dust and pollen filter and information display, Smart Key System with push button start and remote illuminated entry, leather-trimmed steering wheel with audio controls, leather-trimmed shift knob, interior footwell lighting, fabric-trimmed seats, fold-flat second-row seats with height-adjustable headrests and center armrest, power windows with driver auto up/down with jam protection, power door locks, highly visible and attractive Optitron instrumentation, cruise control, tilt/telescopic steering wheel, dual glove box, multi-function center console box, three 12V auxiliary power outlets, outside temperature gauge, washer-linked variable intermittent windshield wipers and intermittent rear window wiper, rear window defogger with timer and digital clock.
Safety is attended to with Enhanced Vehicle Stability Control with Traction Control, Anti-lock Brake System with Electronic Brake-force Distribution and Brake Assist. Air bags include driver and front passenger advanced airbags, driver and front passenger seat-mounted side airbags, and front and second-row roll-sensing side curtain airbags. Additionally, RAV4 is constructed with side impact door beams, a front energy-absorbing crumple zone, soft energy-dissipating interior trim and a collapsible steering column.
The base RAV4, a 4x2 outfitted with a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine and a 4-speed automatic (179hp and 172 lbs-ft of torque and a 22/28 EPS rating), starts at $23,285 plus delivery charges of $810 for a total of $24,095. My test 4-wheel drive RAV4 Limited and its 3.5-liter V-6 joined to a 5-speed trannie based at $31,410. The Navigation package added $2830 and a ton of electronic, comfort and upscale interior touches. Mudguards added $99, body side moldings were $199, custom-tailored carpet floor mats were $199, Blu Logic hands-free system added $299, cargo net added $49, and with the $810 in delivery charges, my test ride booked for $33,270.
RAV4 filled the need in 1994 and continues to do so today.
> Visit www.CarlisleEvents.com for more on the automotive hobby.
Mike Blake, former editor of KIT CAR magazine, joined Carlisle Events as senior automotive journalist in 2004. He's been a "car guy" since the 1960s and has been writing professionally for about 30 years.
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Journalist note: Information about the Carlisle Events Group, its event listings, auction offerings and expo center is available to journalists by phone:
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