By KBB.com Editors
The 2008 Toyota RAV4 underwent a major evolution in 2006, growing in size and price. Toyota's smallest SUV left its long-time rival, the Honda CR-V, in the feature-content dust by offering seating for seven and an optional V6 engine. Moving upscale can have its drawbacks, however, and the current RAV4's conservative styling might be the most noticeable of those. Where the RAV4 was once aimed at young singles with active lifestyles, the new vehicle caters to young couples with active two-year olds. While there are better equipped and less expensive seven-passenger SUVs on the market (the Hyundai Santa Fe, for example), none have the RAV4's impeccable quality, reliability reputation or strong resale value.
If you want a small-to-midsize Japanese-built sport utility vehicle that combines car-like performance, ride, handling and fuel economy with available four-wheel drive and room for up to seven passengers, or five adults and a fair amount of cargo, the 2008 Toyota RAV4 is a good choice.
If you prefer a domestic or European brand and/or your needs include heavy duty hauling or towing or serious off-road rambling, you may want to look elsewhere. There are many fine competitors in this class, including some that may offer a combination of attributes, price and value that are better suited to your tastes and needs.
The Limited trim receives a standard immobilizer feature, which is optional on the base and Sport.
Driving Impressions Toyota engineers have achieved their objective of car-like driving dynamics in a practical SUV package. High-strength steel increases the body's rigidity for improved ride, handling, steering and (if...necessary) crash energy management, weighs less and reduces noise, vibration and harshness. Improved sealing and insulation keeps most engine noise out of the cabin, except for some (un-Toyota-like) engine harshness at wide-open throttle, even with the V6. Elimination of outer moldings around the windshield and door glass helps reduce aerodynamic drag and wind noise. While the 166-horsepower four-cylinder is more than adequate with light loads and at lower elevations, the 269-horsepower V6 offers acceleration, pulling and passing power at or near the top of this class and is recommended for heavier loads and higher altitudes.
Star Safety System
This comprehensive system integrates five active electronic safety features -- enhanced Vehicle Stability Control (VSC), Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD), traction control, anti-lock brakes (ABS) and Brake Assist -- to help avoid accidents, and one passive safety feature (multi-stage front airbags) to cushion occupants should a crash occur. The VSC is assisted by "cooperative steering control" and, on four-wheel-drive models, "cooperative four-wheel-drive system control." Driver and front passenger side-impact airbags and front- and second-row roll-sensing side-curtain airbags are available as stand-alone options.
Hill Start and Downhill Assist Control
Toyota's second-generation Hill Start Assist Control (HAC) automatically prevents the vehicle from rolling backward for two to three seconds when starting from a stop on an uphill slope. Downhill Assist Control (DAC), when activated by the driver, keeps the vehicle's speed to a crawl on steep descents. Both are standard on all V6 models and four-cylinder RAV4s with the optional third-row seat.
The 2008 RAV4 offers nearly six inches more second-row legroom and an inch-and-a-half more head and shoulder room than the previous-generation models. The 60/40 reclining middle-row seats adjust fore and aft and fold flat with levers on their sides or (on two-row models) a one-touch lever in the cargo hold. The available third-row seat folds flat into the same space in the rear where standard RAV4s have hidden under-floor storage. Base RAV4s get durable fabric-covered seats, while higher-level cloth dresses Limited and Sport models, the latter in dark charcoal. The center cluster, door trim and steering wheel spokes are brushed metallic-look plastic. Lighted front cupholders, a console cell phone holder, an extra storage compartment above the glove box and a deep rear storage bin are notable features.Exterior
The third-generation RAV4 is more substantial and less "cute" than the original, with contemporary but conventional good looks. Only the triangular rear C-pillar and vertically-wrapped taillamps are somewhat unusual, reminding us (in profile) of the very unconventional Nissan Murano. The trapezoidal grille opening, sitting atop an integrated body-color bumper with two large cooling slots, displays a hefty Toyota logo on twin horizontal bars. The spare tire, mounted to the right of center on the rear door -- which, unfortunately and inconveniently, swings open from the driver's side (curb side in Japan) -- has a color-keyed cover with a full hard shell on Limited models.
All three trim levels have an automatic transmission, front side-impact airbags, side-curtain airbags, air conditioning, remote keyless entry, power windows and door locks, rear privacy glass, power mirrors, tilt/telescoping steering wheel, three 12-volt outlets, 10 cupholders, cruise control and AM/FM/CD six-speaker audio with MP3/WMA and a mini-plug jack. The Limited adds 17-inch tires on six-spoke alloy wheels (in place of the 16-inch steel wheels of the base model), fog lights, heated outside mirrors, six-disc CD changer, dual-zone automatic climate control, leather-wrapped shift knob and steering wheel with audio controls, eight-way (plus lumbar) power driver's seat, cargo area net and tonneau cover, engine immobilizer system and a chrome grille. The Sport trim gets much of this plus 18-inch performance tires and wheels, sport suspension, blackout headlamp trim and fender flares.
Options for the base model include the six-disc CD changer, daytime running lights, black painted roof rails and cross bars, 17-inch wheels and tires, third-row seat, cargo area net and tonneau cover and (with the V6 only) a tow package that increases towing capacity to 3,500 pounds. Available options on the Sport include a power moonroof with sunshade and a JBL six-disc CD changer with nine speakers and steering wheel audio controls. The Limited offers optional leather-trimmed seats, heated front seats and a rear-seat DVD entertainment system with rear-seat audio.
Toyota provides a choice of a 166-horsepower version of its 2.4-liter Variable Valve Timing with intelligence (VVT-i) four-cylinder engine, or a potent VVT-i V6. The former is one of the more powerful fours in this segment, while the latter, pumping out a claimed best-in-class 269 horsepower, is good for zero to 60 miles per hour bursts in slightly under seven seconds. The four-cylinder engine drives through a four-speed automatic transmission and the V6 is fitted with a five-speed automatic.
2.4-liter in-line 4
166 horsepower @ 6000 rpm
165 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 21/27 (2WD), 20/25 (4WD)
269 horsepower @ 6200 rpm
246 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4700 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 19/27 (2WD), 19/26 (4WD)
By David K on Wednesday, April 02, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 29,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Excellent in snow, no major issues."
Cons: "Spare tire on rear door."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"This is my second RAV4. It has never given me any problems beyond the normal wear. The only problem I have with this model is the spare tire on the rear gate which blocks the view when backing up and sometimes squeaks when there is moisture in the attachment to the the door. Excellent in snow, especially with traction control."
2 people out of 3 found this review helpful
By Mister nice guy on Tuesday, April 01, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 42,000overall rating 3 of 10rating details
Pros: "Looks nice with lots of built in storage areas."
Cons: "UNBELIEVABLY POOR GAS MILEAGE. NOT Comfortable."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 3
"First of all let me say that my wife and I are not hot rod kids. Were 70 & 71 and know how to drive a car to achieve the best mileage possible. We bought this as a compromise/replacement unit for my large F-150 Ford(which I sold)and wife's 2006 Buick Lucerne. Long and short trips with an occasional need for a towing vehicle for my small boat. (short distances) The Rav-4 Limited looks great and has lots of different compartments for personal and extra spare articles but that's about the only positive things I can say for it. The following issues are my complaints on this vehicle. The #1 issue is gas consumption. I am simply amazed at the gas usage of this 4 cylinder engine. We have owned mostly Buick's with the 3800 6 cylinder engines and have always got anywhere from 26-32 Highway/trip MPG with the LeSabres and even got 24-28 MPG with a Olds Aurora 8 cylinder. Our current 2006 Buick Lucerne still runs but has a high 162K miles on it and still gets around 22-24 AVERAGE MPG and 26-29 Highway. We have taken trips with this Rav-4 ranging from 60 miles, 200 miles and a 800 miles trip back and forth to WI and this vehicle barely averaged 23 MPG. Now these trips are almost non-stop (no Towns/mostly Interstate) so it's just set the cruse and go. On one trip I really milked it staying below the speed limit (60-65) and tried my best to get the best possible mileage out of this. I got 25.1 MPG one way but was back down to 24+ by the end of the 200 mile trip. There must have been a tail wind the one way. NO Power and if there are ANY slopes or hills the car downshifts and you know it is really laboring & sucking gas. I have taken the time to watch the instant mileage and know this for a fact. They claim it is suppose to get 27 MPG highway. NO WAY! The gas mileage that this vehicle gets is actually shameful especially for a small 4 cylinder car. Shame, Shame! Another item that I thought was missing was that the car doesn't have safety locks so when you get in to drive it the doors don't lock by themselves. I thought that every vehicle had these now days. The next thing that I found was there is NO leg room for an average size person. I am only 5'9" and can't come near to stretching out my legs periodically to be more comfortable. Just really cramped up! The electric seat does go WAY forward. if your a midget you got it made. You could almost squeeze a softball against the steering wheel going forward but very little adjustment back for anyone with average leg length. One more complaint is that this vehicle does NOT have a built in compass which is commonplace in most all newer cars. Last issue with this car is the drivers seat where the horizontal and vertical portions come together, your tailbone seems to be hitting or rubbing on a hard frame area. As with other honest reviews I can also agree that there is a great deal of road noise. Sounds like there is NO type of under body insulation at all. This is my FIRST foreign car purchased and can only sum up this review by saying this! Biggest Disappointment in a vehicle in my lifetime. We could NOT recommend this for anyone. The gas usage will kill you. Sincerely presented with total honesty by just another one of those everyday working guys that feel he has been drastically short changed on a major purchase."
4 people out of 6 found this review helpful
By DEB on Sunday, March 30, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 100,000overall rating 7 of 10rating details
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"The size is perfect for me - I can get 5 in if I need too, and I can fit almost any large item (furniture, etc). I like the side opening back door the best, and having an actual, real spare tire. It rides well in all kinds of weather. Plenty of cupholders and storage in the front and back seats, plus extra hidden storage in the back - perfect if you want to leave your purse and go for a jog! Two negatives are first, the ergonomics. It is literally impossible to get both the legs and the arms at the right length to the steering wheel and pedals and be comfortable. Driving long distances I have to bring pillows and take ibuprofen for the aches. Its a hard car for commuting any distance. Second, the car has bad blind spots on both sides. Fixable when I attached small round mirrors to both side mirrors. Everything else I love about the car."
1 person out of 2 found this review helpful
By Norman on Monday, March 24, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 97,000overall rating 8 of 10rating details
Pros: "Love the visability, ease of lowering 2nd row seat"
Cons: "Noisy inside. Needs 6 cylinder"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 6
"I would buy another today, but they stopped making 6 cylinder. Drove the new 2014 RAV4 with a 4, and it was boring to drive and sounded noisy when I tried to accelerate."
By Halfpast6 on Sunday, March 23, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 40,000overall rating 4 of 10rating details
Pros: "looks nice on the outside, good acceleration"
Cons: "loud, rattles, squeaks, outdated"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 1
"This could have been a great car, but some issues keep it from even coming close. For one, this is the loudest car I've ever owned. It rattles, creaks, and squeaks like no other. On a typical drive I'll hear rattles from the sunroof, dashboard, some random panels on the drivers side, and the cargo area. The breaks make a grinding noise every morning when I depress the pedal. Some of the noises are so loud it makes the driving experience miserable, especially for a 2011 model. If you're considering one of these, I highly suggest driving with the stereo off so you can hear for yourself. I'll likely never buy a Toyota again after this experience. I've driven 15 year old cars quieter than this."
By JENLIB on Friday, March 14, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 100,346overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "drives smooth, no engine problems, wonderful car!"
Cons: "sad they took tire off back of new ones"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I have always driven a sedan or mini-van (have three kids now grown) until I bought this Rav4. I usually trade in cars around 50-75k miles, however the Rav has held tight and only service work I have done in 100k miles is one tune up and oil changes at 3-5k miles. It's steering is amazing! Usually cars have tighter pull, but the Rav allows you to get into tiny spots. The reason my car ranked a 8.6 is because I have had two wrecks- both being hit from behind. (I live 3 miles from a school) I would recommend this car to ANYONE. No engine problems, no issues with fading paint going on 8 years, and the upholstery is still like new. I do clean it with my rug cleaner to keep the dirt out and scotch guard it. No smoking in my car either. :) great car for anyone."