The Toyota RAV4 was the original "cute-ute" that started the crossover craze back in 1996. But it sure has grown since then. The third and current incarnation of the RAV4 is the largest model yet, measuring over 15 feet in length, and its wheelbase -- the distance between the front and rear tires -- is nearly nine feet. Compare that to the 2008 Toyota RAV4 which measured just shy of 14 feet in length and a wheelbase of eight feet.
Extra length means extra space, and the Toyota RAV4 offers optional third-row seating on Base and Limited models. The Toyota RAV4 offers 73 cubic feet of cargo space when second and third row seats are folded down. Toyota RAV4 crossovers with two-row seating are equipped with two storage units under the rear cargo flooring. All RAV4 comes equipped with dual glovebox; a large storage bin below the center stack; and good-sized driver and front passenger seatback pockets and rear door storage pocket.
The Toyota RAV4 carries over largely unchanged from the 2011 model, where Toyota added the Upgrade Value package for base RAV4 models equipped with an inline-4 engine and all V-6 models. Two engine choices, available front and all-wheel drive, and third row seating offers a dizzying array of options for RAV4 buyers, though prices escalate rapidly once you start adding options.
Body style: Crossover SUV
Engines: 2.5-liter inline-4; 3.5-liter V-6
Transmissions: 4-speed automatic, 5-speed automatic
Models: Base, Sport, Limited
Changes are minimal for the 2012 Toyota RAV4, which received two significant upgrades -- a brake override system and the Upgrade Value package -- in model year 2011. Changes for 2012 include a standard upgrade stereo system and the availability of Entune, a hands-free infotainment system able to interact with smartphones via voice command and steering wheel controls. Entune is available on Sport and Limited models only.
An electric RAV4 is tentatively scheduled to debut in 2012.
Design-wise, the 2012 Toyota RAV4 (which stands for "Recreational Active Vehicle with 4-wheel drive" by the way), is in its third generation. Toyota revamped the RAV4 in 2006, giving its present rugged yet sporty look with a new grille and headlight design, plus the signature triangular side window though maintains a more traditional SUV rear especially with the external full-sized spare tire.
The Toyota RAV4 is carried largely unchanged in the 2012 model year. The base, Sport, and Limited models are distinguished externally by tires; coloration like the body-color on the RAV4 Sport; and the use of chrome, which shines prominently on the Limited's wheels and grille.
Like virtually all Toyota vehicles, the interior of the Toyota RAV4 is roomy, and engine and wind noise are well-controlled. Loading a RAV4 is a breeze thanks to the low cargo floor, which expands to 73 cubic feet with a simple flip of the second row seating. The crossover's dash and center stack are simple to figure out and use, and seating in all rows are sturdy and comfortable.
Performance & Handling
The 2012 Toyota RAV4's V-6 engine pulls strongly and the stiff suspension gives the crossover a surprisingly near-sporty feel. The ride, like almost all Toyota vehicles, is smooth, and engine and wind noise is well-suppressed with road noise sometimes intrusive. Toyota RAV4s equipped with the four-cylinder engines will meet most daily needs, though the V-6 offers nearly the same fuel economy but greater horsepower.
The 2012 Toyota RAV4, like all current Toyota vehicles, comes standard with the Toyota STAR safety system which includes anti-lock brakes (ABS), electronic brake force distribution (EBD), brake assist, Smart Stop (SST), traction control (TRAC), and vehicle stability control (VSC). Other safety features include standard dual front airbags, front side-mounted airbags, front and rear side curtains, and a driver knee airbag.
EPA Fuel Economy
RAV4 Inline-4: 22 mpg city/28 mpg highway (front-wheel drive); 21 mpg city/27 mpg highway (all-wheel drive)
RAV4 V-6: 19 mpg city/27 highway (front-wheel drive); V-6 19 mpg city/26 mpg highway (all-wheel drive)
- Interior space
Potent available V-6
You Won't Like
- Pricing of higher models
Standard for spacious compact crossovers
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