2018 Toyota RAV4 Review & Compare in Lemon Grove, CA

The Toyota RAV4 holds tightly to its crown as the best all-rounder compact SUV

Look at any top ten SUV list that's judging on design, performance and engines, interiors, capabilities, or ability to get one for cheap, and you probably won't find the Toyota RAV4 in the #1 spot. Easily in the top five, of course, but the RAV4's commitment to being such an incredible all-around great crossover means that it hasn't really had the time or energy to become the absolute best at any one thing--well, almost. If you're checking a list for best resale value, best durability, or Most Likely to Last Over 200K Miles, the RAV4 will probably be all of the top three in the running.

Can a "jack-of-all-trades" SUV step up to be a top choice of savvy drivers? It's very possible. If you wanted the most powerful SUV, you'd probably hunt down a premium turbo that got crap fuel economy. If you wanted the most spacious SUV, you'd shell out for a big, bulky vehicle that took up a lot of space in the driveway. If you wanted a crossover that could go rock-crawling without breaking a sweat, you'd probably opt for one of those bare-bones boxes that barely give you seats all, much less comfortable and ergonomic seats.

So, what if you want an SUV that might not do anything best, but can do... everything? Then, you want a RAV4. Available trim levels in the new (gas-powered) lineup include the RAV4 LE, XLE, Adventure, SE, the RAV4 Limited, and the top-of-the-line RAV4 Platinum, and they all offer a pretty unique set of options.

The outside 

At first look, you might not be able to tell the difference between RAV4 trim levels. One of the few exterior distinctions come from unique wheel designs exclusive to each trim, and Toyota's newer "S-Code Paint Treatments", that splash some attractive silver lines on the lower side of the vehicle and to the front/rear bumpers. But similarity is not a weakness for the new RAV4, because every model in the new lineup gives you the same solid look and feel, and the same classic shape of an iconic compact SUV. The Toyota RAV4 was one of the first real competitors among utility vehicles, and it's been able to maintain a pretty steady style.

There is one RAV4 that does stand out pretty loudly, though--the new RAV4 Adventure trim. This surprisingly bold and aggressive-looking exterior design features black bezels, bigger fender flares, 18-inch wheels, and black roof rails. The ride height has been raised by 0.4 inches to now offer a total ground clearance of 6.5 inches. It's not the best-in-class, but it's an improvement for this practical, utilitarian crossover. The RAV4 does have some surprises, though, including a standard Tow Prep Package and a luxurious Cold Weather Package as an option.

The inside 

Don't expect luxury plushness on the base-model RAV4 SUV, but don't count it out as a solid competitor in comfort, either. Base models give you smart bolsters on the front seats to help support and cradle you on long drives, and even the most affordable RAV4 gives you some nice standard features. Upgrade, though, and things start to get good. Higher trim levels up the ante with multi-stage heated and power-adjustable front seats trimmed in Toyota's durable SofTex upholstery. An available power tilt/slide moonroof with a built-in sunshade lets you decide just how much nature you want inside of the vehicle.

Upper-level trims also give you dual-zone auto climate control for customized temperature comforts--this has saved many a friendship or marriage. Basic or advanced rearview cameras come standard on every new RAV4, and specific tech package options can even add Toyota's Bird's Eye View Camera, a 360-view perimeter scan feature that makes navigating tight spaces a lot easier.

If you're not traveling with passengers, the versatile interior of the RAV4 gives you up to 73.4 cubic feet of storage space, that can be configured to your please with 60/40 split seats. Going from carpool to cargo needs is easy, with quick-folding seats and cargo net hammocks to help you manage whatever you're bringing along.

The powertrains

The Toyota RAV4 is about equal to the rest of its class for standard performance, making 176 horsepower and 172 pound-feet of torque from a practical 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine paired to a six-speed automatic. Two standard options--called ECO Mode and Sport Mode--can tweak the ride quality and engine performance of the RAV4 to optimize for fuel efficiency or agility, respectively. Unlike other competitors in the class, though, the RAV4 doesn't offer any additional engine options--some key rivals like the Forester and the CR-V give the option of a turbo.

However, the RAV4 does have the advantage of a hybrid vehicle lineup: the RAV4 LE Hybrid, XLE Hybrid, SE Hybrid, and Limited Hybrid. Each model runs on the Toyota Hybrid Synergy Drive system, which is composed of a 2.5-liter gas engine, electric motor, and hybrid battery, the power collective paired to a CVT for increased efficiency. The system as a whole bags 194 net horsepower, and delivers 12 mpg more in the city from normal driving than the gas-only RAV4. Exclusive to the RAV4 Hybrid is an EV Mode that gives you the freedom to drive on pure battery power alone. For low speeds. For half of a mile before you run out of juice. But, still cool.

Toyota's All-Wheel-Drive (AWD) System with Dynamic Torque Control can be found as an option on the full lineup of new RAV4 crossovers.

Compare the Toyota RAV4 vs the Competition