A 179-horsepower, 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine is now standard on the RAV4, with a 269-hp, 3.5-liter V6 available. The new 4-cylinder engine utilizes variable valve timing for both intake and exhaust valves, along with a variable induction system to assure good low-RPM torque. The 4-cylinder includes a 4-speed automatic transmission, while the V6 is matched to a 5-speed automatic; both transmissions have a revised grade logic that reduces the frequency of shifting on steep, curvy roads.
Both engines can be paired with either front-wheel drive or a 4-wheel drive system that includes an Auto mode that automatically sends torque to the wheels that can better use it; a Lock mode maximizes the torque going to the rear wheels, for use at low speeds. V6 models and 4-cylinder ones with the third-row seat also get Hill-start Assist Control and Downhill Assist Control devices that help maintain control when negotiating steep, slippery slopes.
Fuel economy is quite good with either engine. For the front-wheel-drive models, the 4-cylinder engine returns 22 mpg city, 28 highway, and the V6 is rated 19 city, 27 highway yet it's capable of accelerating to 60 mph in less than seven seconds.
The RAV4 might rank as a compact on some lists, but its interior is more on par with mid-size crossover SUVs. Third-row seating is available, to accommodate up to seven. Models without the third-row seat get an added underfloor storage compartment, while the third-row seats fold neatly into the floor. The RAV4's 60/40-split second row slides fore and aft to reach a compromise for passengers and cargo, and they tilt forward and fold flat to further expand cargo space.
Safety features include front seat-mounted side airbags, front active headrests, and roll-sensing side-curtain bags that cover the first and second rows. Anti-lock brakes with Brake Assist are also included, as is a sophisticated electronic stability control system that is integrated with the RAV4's electronic power steering.
The RAV4 is offered in Base, Sport, and Limited trims; all are offered with either engine and drive system. Equipment even on the base model is generous, including keyless entry, cruise control, air conditioning, and a 6-speaker MP3-compatible sound system with auxiliary input. The Sport brings a sport-tuned suspension, larger alloy wheels, fog lamps, roof rails, and other appearance extras, while the Limited steps up to a power driver's seat, dual-zone climate control, steering-wheel audio controls, integrated satellite radio and a 6-disc changer. Top options include a moonroof, leather upholstery, heated seats and a 9-speaker JBL sound system with Bluetooth hands-free interface.
The newly available Sport Appearance Package quite significantly changes the RAV4's look, because it omits the spare tire that otherwise hangs off the back door, replacing it with a redesigned rear door and substituting run-flat tires. The package also includes chrome accents throughout, a bright exhaust tip, and unique steel doorsills, plus color-keyed power heated side mirrors with turn signal indicators.