I drive a 2007 Toyota RAV4 when I’m not driving other press cars — or riding my scooter, or sitting at home. I acquired this RAV4 through marriage; I was not responsible for choosing it. It’s a fine vehicle; it carries our dog and our kayaks, and occasionally tows a pair of jet skis. It’s even been hit several times and survived.
The current 2017 RAV4 would’ve probably been the top contender to replace our old one, but my husband hasn’t really liked the RAV4’s looks since Toyota ditched the exterior spare tire in 2013. Still, we were eager to check it out. Our 2017 Toyota RAV4 Platinum AWD arrived, in Silver Sky Metallic finish, and ready for the fate that comes to most of my review cars — a trip to IKEA.
The 2017 RAV4 starts at $24,910 for the base LE. This gets you a decent runabout with a 176-horsepower 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine, and while a V6 option would be nice, it’s really not necessary as long as you figure out the driving modes (more on that below). It’s rated at 22 mpg city and 28 mpg highway with all-wheel drive, which is about average in the class. This trim level includes a rearview camera, cloth upholstery, and other basics.
The XLE adds navigation and some other features (as well as the availability of the Toyota Safety Sense active safety package), and Limited adds features such as upgraded upholstery and a 7-inch touch screen interface.
MSRP on our Platinum tester came out to $36,150, which seemed a little high. This includes the well-designed and efficient Toyota Safety Sense package, a 360-degree camera, an 11-speaker sound system, and a proximity key. It has the same 4-cylinder engine, though, and there’s still no leather on the seats.
The first few miles behind the wheel were slow — in fact, I was amazed by how sluggish it seemed, and how the sluggishness seemed to impact everything I tried to do. It took a while to notice the small green light on the cluster that indicates the SUV is in Eco mode (probably because I didn’t put it in Eco mode myself). When I pushed or held the Eco button, the light went away and then came right back. If I turned on Sport mode, the Eco mode button went away and a separate area of the cluster (near the top, where the selected gear is indicated) glowed red (guilting me for burning extra fuel). If I turned off the vehicle in Sport mode, it went back to Eco mode when I turned it back on.
Toyota really wants you to drive the RAV4 in Eco mode. For what it’s worth, the user manual implies that Eco mode should be the driver’s choice rather than the default, which would have let me enjoy my 128 miles with the RAV4 much more.
Sport mode was fine — solid acceleration, good responsiveness, and surprisingly deft handling during a heavy rainstorm. I have no idea what Normal mode is like. I’ve driven a lot of new Toyotas in the last six months or so, and they’re pretty easy to get along with. It’s unusual, in my experience with the brand, that my tester’s driving modes were so awkward.
The RAV4’s infotainment system has one big bonus — it can be used while the vehicle is in motion, unlike some competitors. However, it wouldn’t pair to my iPhone SE via Bluetooth (though my husband’s iPhone 6 worked) and my USB-connected iPod kept freezing. (It’s an ancient iPod, but it’s recently worked fine in other vehicles.) Notably, the RAV4 doesn’t offer Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, since Toyota is one of the lone holdouts in this area. Under most circumstances, it’s not that big of a deal because Toyota’s system usually pairs pretty well with whatever gadget you have, but it’s understandable that a lot of consumers, particularly in the RAV4’s target demographic, consider this a “must-have” these days.
The fabric upholstery, even at the top-end trim level, might throw off some potential buyers. It didn’t bother me, but I already know I’m weird because leather just doesn’t matter to me that much. Toyota calls the material SofTex, and it’s rather comfortable and seems like it’ll hold up well for a long time. The seats themselves are supportive, and I liked the steering wheel, too — there’s padded material on the back where your fingertips land in the 3- and 9-o’clock positions. The rear row reclines, too.
The rest of the cabin is more functional than fancy, which seems like the smart approach for the RAV4. However, I was not a fan of the patterned trim pieces on the doors. It was supposed to look like wood (I think) but the weird swirls seemed out of place and reminded me instead of a pair of marked-down lululemon leggings.
The RAV4 is a great size. No kids here, but we go away a lot of weekends and tend to bring lots of stuff, which would be wicked easy with this vehicle. Our tester got a workout on our IKEA trip, carrying a bunch of fixtures for a bathroom renovation, a table for our backyard, two benches, and two (already assembled!) chairs. The rear seats are close to the floor and are easy to fold flat, which helps maximize cargo space. And this sounds goofy, but the proximity key has perfect proximity. With some other vehicles, the proximity doesn’t work that well and you might as well just take the key out, but the RAV4 was super convenient, especially when loading cargo.
If you need leather, branded smartphone integration, or a V6, skip the 2017 RAV4 entirely. If functionality is key and you’re happy with a 4-cylinder and cloth, you’ll do well with one of the RAV4’s lower trim levels, but you’ll pay too much for the top-end Platinum that lacks top-end features and finishes.
Photo Credit: © 2017 Toyota