About 10 years ago, I went fishing with a buddy of mine who owned a ’98 Toyota RAV4. What I thought was going to be a rather dull trip turned into a very quick Rally stage through the hills. This thing had a snappy 5-speed manual and weighed less than a Camry.
Things have changed. Still, I had a good time with the newest of Toyota’s RAV4 Sports.
Check this out, 269 horsepower and 246 lbs feet torque – in a vehicle that weighs about 3,700 lbs. This same vehicle just flew through the 0 to 60 mph trap in a scant 7.2 seconds. Now, think about it; this RAV4 is as quick off the line as some sports sedans and it was built for foul weather – it’s got 4 wheel drive (4WD) and a nice amount of ground clearance.
The ‘Sport’ model is a package that comes with some nice amenities and without the tiny 3rd row seat. Now, for those who don’t need that 3rd row (plenty of people don’t), this is a good thing as the rear cargo area can hold more, there is a nifty hidden rear cargo bin and the RAV4 Sport is a bit lighter on its toes.
Now, the base price for the RAV4 Sport V6 4WD is $26,530 – add a few grand for some toys (option packages) and realistically keep the price well under $30,000. That’s not too bad for a vehicle like this. Best of all, you get that famous Toyota quality attached – which is a hell of a bonus when you drive like an idiot (like yours truly).
Right when our warm summer somehow became a Northwestern winter, I had the opportunity to put the RAV4 Sport through some hoops. As a kiddy transport, one would be hard pressed to find an easier vehicle to load. The loading height is ideal for anyone over 5’2”. Kids can fairly easily scramble into the back unassisted and there is a good amount of legroom for adults (2 fair sized adults and 1 kid can fit in the back comfortably).
Interior quality is not quite up to Toyota standards in my book. It’s not bad; I simply expected better feeling plastics and slightly better fitting. Most noticeable is the center stack’s plastics where the edges feel rough, sharp and cheap. As for the rest of the interior, seats are comfortable and well bolstered, switches, buttons and knobs are top notch and controls are logically placed.
I do wish the driver’s seat had another inch of travel, for comfort’s sake.
The exterior is about the same as before with one delightful difference, sweet looking, painted, 18 inch wheels look fantastic on the RAV4. The gray wheels matched the gray paint on my tester and the look is fresh and sporting.
Best of all, the meaty Bridgestone tires worked exceedingly well in nearly every terrain. Mud and dirt were easy enough as was good old asphalt when it came to grip. The little Toyota accounted for itself nicely when the roads near the South Platte River became rutted and gooey. The RAV4 never put a tire wrong and filled me with enough confidence to attempt a few sideways drifts on dirt and gravel switchbacks. Unfortunately, the traction control never truly shuts off to allow fools like me a measure of excitement.
The most notable flaw was the excessive highway/tire noise that filled the cabin. It is not horrible, although many competitors’ vehicles are quieter. The swing out rear door and rear mounted spare tire make for difficult to maneuver items when loading. Hatches are easier and wont compromise loading like the swing out door, especially when a vehicle is parked close to your tail.
Still, considering everything the Toyota RAV4 Sport does right, I think a glitch or two is more than acceptable.
(Sigh) I just wish they would allow a manual – like in the good-ol’ days.
Automotive media, racing, vehicle evaluation, wrecking yards, and car sales are just a part of Nathan Adlen’s vehicular past. He writes out of high octane passion! To read more reviews by Nathan Adlen or just to enjoy more of excellent writing please visit him on at his examiner.com page HERE. Photos by: N.D