KBB Editors' Overview
By KBB.com Editors - Updated Date: 6/28/2011
The 2011 Toyota RAV4 has come along way from the cute little two-door pop-top of 1996. Toyota's smallest SUV has left its long-time rival, the Honda CR-V, in the feature-content dust by offering seating for seven, a low-cost navigation option 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 Kia Sorento, for example), none have the RAV4's impeccable quality, reliability reputation or strong resale value.
You'll Like This Car If...
If you want a small-to-mid-size 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 2011 Toyota RAV4 is a good choice.
You May Not Like This Car If...
If 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.
What's Significant About This Car?
For 2011, base models can be equipped with a Upgrade Value Package that includes among other things a six-disc CD changer, steering-wheel-mounted audio controls, XM Satellite Radio, 17-inch alloy wheels, Daytime Running Lights (DRL), a power moonroof, a roof rack and privacy glass.
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 179-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.
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.
The 2011 RAV4 offers slightly more rear seat head room than the Honda CR-V, and 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.
The 2011 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 split-grille's trapezoidal opening flows into the front bumper, with the available fog light housing sculpted into the lower side fascia. 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. Customers who opt for the new Sport Appearance Package lose the rear spare and gain a set of four run-flat tires.
Notable Standard Equipment
All three trim levels have an automatic transmission, electronic stability and traction control, 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, Smart Key entry, 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.
Notable Optional Equipment
Options for the base model include,a rear camera with built in rearview mirror monitor, third-row seat, cargo area net and a tow package that increases towing capacity to 3,500 pounds. An Upgrade Value Package with six-disc CD player, moonroof, 17-inch wheels and roof rack is also on the table. Available options on the Sport include a power moonroof with sunshade, leather seats, heated front seats, DVD navigation and a JBL six-disc CD changer with nine speakers, Bluetooth 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. Unlike many competitors, the RAV4's navigation system can't be paired with the top-of-the-line audio system – in this case the JBL upgrade.
Under the Hood
Toyota provides a choice of a 179-horsepower 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine with Variable Valve Timing with intelligence (VVT-i), or a potent VVT-i V6. The former is one of the most 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 recently introduced four-speed automatic transmission with uphill/downhill shift control to reduce gear hunting, while the V6 is fitted with a five-speed automatic.
2.5-liter in-line 4
179 horsepower @ 6000 rpm
172 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 22/28 (2WD), 21/27 (4WD)
269 horsepower @ 6200 rpm
246 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4700 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 19/27 (2WD), 19/26 (4WD)
The base RAV4's Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starts around $23,000 for the front-drive model and right around $24,500 for the four-wheel-drive model. The four-wheel-drive version with the V6 engine lists for about $25,500. The Sport trim starts around $25,000 and a fully loaded four-wheel-drive V6 Limited tops out around $33,000. That price range isn't too far from such rivals as the Kia Sorento, Honda CR-V and Mitsubishi Outlander. Prices consumers are actually paying can differ substantially, so click on the RAV4's Fair Purchase Price on kbb.com to compare. Given Toyota's strong reputation, resale value should be as good as or better than any competitor's, except for the Honda CR-V which outshines even the RAV4.