2016 Toyota Rav4 Limited AWD

by Craig and Deanne Conover :: posted in Reviews on April 11th, 2016
It’s not often that we get to take an extended road trip in one of our test vehicles, but it was so with the Toyota Rav4 this year. After flying to Denver, Colorado to spend a day at the Auto Show seeing what the future has to offer in the automotive world, Toyota allowed us to drive the Rav4 home as part of our normal rotation. As it turned out the Toyota focus car at the show was the new Rav4 Hybrid, the eighth in the Toyota line to have a hybrid added to its DNA. This new all-wheel drive SUV actually has an electric motor to run the rear wheels when needed, and it can travel on electricity at low speeds and will push the great gas mileage even higher in the RAV. Most important, it will be the most powerful Rav4 made yet, with 196 horsepower, and should prove to be very fun to drive. We will have to wait our turn to get a chance with the new hybrid powered Rav4.                  

We have found that it is very easy to get acquainted with a car when you spend over ten hours with it in one day; yes, we took our time coming home from Denver. The day dawned with clouds over the city and also over the mountains to the East. We were concerned at first that snow fall might become an issue before the day was done, and a quick check of the traffic cams proved that might be the case with snow staring to accumulate on the roads at the higher elevations.

Having an AWD vehicle did give us a boost of confidence that we should be okay, and according to the weather report, we should actually be ahead of the worst weather coming that afternoon and evening down from Wyoming. It did start to snow at about the 8000-foot level and got worse as we got closer to the Eisenhower tunnel. The Rav4 however, was up for the challenge and handled the snow with confidence and ease.

The roads remained slushy and very wet until we got to Vail, at which point we seemed to get to an elevation where the snow let up and the clouds allowed the sun to shine, by the time we arrived for lunch in Grand Junction the temperature had arrived at 65 degrees. The Rav4 Limited has such a great look we even had to give it a quick wash for the rest of the drive to show it off on the highway!
With a completely new look from Toyota when the Rav4 was overhauled a couple of years ago, Toyota chose to give the small SUV a new bolder look, where some things were taken away and others added to give the small SUV a better position in the marketplace. The competition including the Ford Escape, Honda CR-V, Hyundai Santa Fe and the Mazda CX-5 had all received a new look or refresh, so Toyota felt that some new digs were necessary, along with improved efficiency to keep this nimble SUV a major player with small families and soccer moms. Gone is the option of a V6 motor, as it was pointed out by Toyota, only 5% of their sales of the Rav4 over the past few years have been with this engine. As we discovered over the week of running around in the compact SUV, the V6 was an option wasn’t really needed in this small SUV. The current 2.5-liter 4- cylinder motor puts out and impressive 176 horsepower, never leaving us with the feeling it was underpowered. It has a decent 0 to 60 time of 9 seconds, not a race car, but was more than adequate for all of our needs. With the addition of a six-speed transmission the Rav4 is really quite nimble, we enjoyed having a compact SUV for a week as years ago we owned a Suzuki Vitara. We have always felt this type of vehicle is fun to drive, with us sitting higher that a normal car adding 4 wheel drive capability, and then able to turn on a dime and an ability to maneuver very quickly in any situation, just makes us feel more comfortable and safe. Along with the new transmission, the option of a sport, eco mode and normal driving mode, we have to recommend not pushing the eco mode button, it’s labeled eco because putting the RAV4 in eco mode takes away all the fun away, and that many words would just not fit on such a small button and still be legible. The sport button however, did add to the peppiness of the Rav4, but mostly it made Craig happier when he was at the wheel. Even after Craig kept using the sport button during the week we still were able to get an impressive 27.8 mpg average! Since we had the Limited edition for the week the seats were made of simulated leather and proved to be very comfortable both in front, and as pointed out by anyone we took in the rear. It would be a fine place for even a longer journey with two adults in the back. The front seats were heated, a nice touch, and the driver’s seat was powered with memory settings for two different drivers. There were also dual zone climate controls, which are very nice when both front seat occupants can’t decide on a normal temperature, an argument that we continue to have each time we drive a new vehicle, Deanne will have her side set to high heat and Craig is always in the more normal temperature range, usually on the cooler side The dashboard also included a very nice stitched leather accent, giving the Limited Edition some extra style points. Another great ad-on was the addition of the 6.1 inch touch screen that came with navigation, Toyota Entune system and a very powerful JBL sound system with 11 speakers, including a great subwoofer in the rear of the Rav4. Toyotas Entune system is very intuitive and easy to use allowing the user to access things like Pandora and iheartradio through a smart phone and other satellite based functions through SiriusXM like traffic and weather information. The navigation came in very handy getting around in Denver itself, but we found it easier to input the destination by hand as the voice recognition never could quite understand us well enough to get it right. The spare tire that over the years has become trade mark of sorts on the Rav4 has moved from hanging on the rear door to underneath the rear compartment, as with most all of the competition, taking away some of the rear under carpet storage space. Even though it is now harder to distinguish the Rav4 from behind, losing the wheel from the rear door give the Toyota a more refined expensive look, in our opinion. This move of the tire allowed Toyota to put in a hatchback instead of a swinging back door, we were on the fence with this as it was sometimes hard to open and close the rear hatch when we drove the XLE version a couple of years ago. With the Limited, the lift gate was automatic which we think is far more convenient, even with a smaller SUV like the Rav4, it’s just so much easier when your arms are full to hit a simple button and have the gate go up. We would highly recommend this option for any busy family. The Rav4 is the perfect small family automobile, it is made for running around with gear for all the kids in comfort, yet not having to worry if the kids spill something, and they will, in the rear seats. Maneuvering in tight spaces is fantastic and it will turn on a dime, a couple of the great features that come with a small footprint SUV. Wintertime will be no challenge for the AWD vehicle, so this car a great addition to any Utah family. There are also included roof rails where extra gear could be stored on a lengthier vacation. It would also work for empty nesters like us that just want a powerful compact SUV for running errands or the occasional night out with friends. It seemed to fit our lifestyle during the week very well. Overall it was a fun vehicle that we would enjoy driving, even on the extended road trip.

Base Price: $32,910                  

Price as driven; $37,356

Craig and Deanne Conover have been test-driving vehicles for over six years and have had the opportunity to drive many makes and models. They receive a new car each week for a weeklong test drive. Craig has worked in the Newspaper industry for over 21 years and been with The Daily Herald for 13 years - and Deanne has been a veterinarian's assistant at Mountain West Animal Hospital for 12 years. They both love having the unique opportunity of trying out new cars. They reside in Springville, Utah. Check out other reviews at heraldextra.com/sundaydrive. cconover@heraldextra.com.            
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