2009 Toyota RAV4

The Toyota RAV4 is a compact sport-utility vehicle, the smallest of Toyota’s large family of SUVs. The RAV4 was one of the first entries in the compact SUV market, which has become more and more competitive in recent years thanks to rising fuel costs. Next to its competitors, many of which are in their first generation, today’s third-generation RAV4 benefits from years of refinement and many first-in-class features.

We have always described the Toyota RAV4 as possessing favorable on-road manners, good ergonomics and a high level of quality, even if that comes at the expense of macho styling and off-road prowess. It has the comfort and drivability of car-based architecture and benefits from fuel-efficient engines. As such, this highly evolved, well-packaged compact sport-utility vehicle is best matched to young families and urban singles in search of a compact SUV that hits that sweet spot between car-based station wagons and truck-based SUVs.

The 2009 RAV4 is a 4-door, up to 7-passenger sport-utility, available in 12 trims, ranging from the Base I4 4X2 to the Limited V6 4X4.

Upon introduction, the Base I4 4X2 is equipped with a standard 2.4-liter, I4, 166-horsepower engine that achieves 21-mpg in the city and 27-mpg on the highway. A 4-speed automatic transmission with overdrive is standard. The Limited V6 4X4 is equipped with a standard 3.5-liter, V6, 269-horsepower engine that achieves 19-mpg in the city and 26-mpg on the highway. A 5-speed automatic transmission with overdrive is standard.

Current Toyota RAV4

The current Toyota RAV4 comes in Base, Sport and Limited trims, with either a four-cylinder or a V6 engine, and either front-wheel drive or an on-road-biased all-wheel-drive system. Automatic transmissions come standard (a four-speed unit for the four-cylinder, a five-speed auto for the V6). Today’s RAV4 is close to Toyota’s midsize Highlander in length and actually has a more powerful V6. Yet thanks to its more narrow width and lighter weight, it’s easier to park and achieves superior fuel economy when comparably equipped.

The 166-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder provides surprisingly good acceleration and excellent fuel economy. With 269 hp, RAV4s equipped with the available 3.5-liter V6 are quite fast and buttery smooth. The steering is light and the brakes are strong, making the RAV4 feel effortless to drive. Maximum towing capacity for the V6 is a respectable 3,500 pounds.

Even in Base trim, the Toyota RAV4 is well equipped with power accessories, cruise control and a full suite of safety features, including stability control. Sport trim brings exterior enhancements, a sport-tuned suspension and bigger wheels. The Limited model adds numerous luxury features.

The interior has Toyota’s typical ergonomic flair, placing controls and switches right where one expects to find them. Among the RAV4’s clever features are flat-folding split second-row seats that slide both fore and aft up to 6.5 inches and recline for added comfort. The backlit, white-on-black gauges and stellar assembly quality contribute to the high-quality feel of the interior.

Among the RAV4’s options is a (kids-only) third-row seat that folds into the floor, as well as side curtain airbags, a powerful JBL audio system and, on Limited models only, leather upholstery and a rear-seat DVD entertainment system.

The current RAV4 has changed little since its debut for 2006. For 2007, front-seat side airbags and side curtain airbags became standard (they were optional in ’06), and the optional JBL audio system received steering-wheel-mounted controls and Bluetooth connectivity.

Past Toyota RAV4 Models

The original Toyota RAV4 was introduced in 1996, at a time when the only compact SUVs were crude truck-based sport-utility vehicles that were better off-road than on. The first RAV4 was dubbed a “cute ute” in reference to its cartoonish styling, a moniker that was applied to several of the small SUVs that followed.

The first-generation RAV4 (1996-2000) was offered in two-door and four-door body styles, with a convertible version for a brief period. The first-gen RAV4 was appealing to young singles, but due to its narrow width and tight rear legroom, this cute ute was ultimately no substitute for a traditional family vehicle. Advantages included carlike handling, a low cargo floor and a large rear door that made loading cargo a breeze.

The second-generation Toyota RAV4 (2001-’05) was larger, with more expressive styling and innovative removable second-row seats that gave it truly impressive cargo-carrying capabilities. Early models had a 148-hp, 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine that came up short versus the larger four- and six-cylinder engines offered by competitors. Toyota addressed this to some extent in 2004 by replacing the 2.0-liter with a larger 2.4-liter four-cylinder good for 160 hp. Acceleration was markedly improved, and buyers could still choose a manual or automatic transmission. Overall, we found this RAV4 to be a fun-to-drive urban runabout thanks to its precise suspension tuning and high fuel economy ratings.

Scribbled on September 14th 2008 in Toyota, Toyota RAV4
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