Toyota’s got these TV commercials featuring the Muppets, who assert the vehicles aren’t boring.
But is boring bad?
What if boring works?
I’ve owned (and driven) a lot of vehicles that didn’t work – which can be exciting, in good ways and bad – depending on when and how they stop working. Toyotas hardly ever stop working. They are relentlessly reliable (ask anyone), pleasant to drive, unobjectionable to look at and rarely surprise you with things you didn’t expect.
In other words – boring.
That works for a lot people.
Which is probably why Toyota sells a lot of cars like this RAV4.
The RAV4 is Toyota’s compact (two rows, seats five) crossover SUV – exceptional in no particular way but extremely competent in every way.
Base price is $23,550 for a front-wheel-drive LE trim. A top-of-the-line Limited trim with all-wheel-drive comes in just under $30k at $29,720.
All trims comes with the same engine – a four cylinder engine – and are automatic-only.
Competitors include models like the Jeep Cherokee – which is a bit more rugged and available with a V-6 engine – and the Ford Escape, which is sportier and available with three different four cylinder engines (two of them turbocharged). Another possible RAV4 cross-shop is the Honda CR-V.
An “all new” 2015 version of this model is due in a couple of months.
The RAV was updated for the 2013 model year, so the 2014 is mostly a carryover.
There are some new features and options, though – including a new Technology Package (Limited trims) that bundles a blind-spot monitor with Lane Departure Warning and automatic high beam control that dims the brights for you.
Easier to turn around (and parallel park) than many others in its class, thanks to much tighter turning radius than others in this class.
Outstandingly comfortable seats.
Simple, easy-to-use controls.
Blue chip brand = high resale value.
WHAT’S NOT SO GOOD
Your pulse will not race.
No optional engine (In export markets, Toyota offers a turbo-diesel engine in the RAV… but not here).
Toyota keeps things simple, drivetrain-wise.
Every RAV4 comes with Toyota’s workhorse 2.5 liter four cylinder engine, rated at 176 hp and teamed up with a six-speed automatic and your choice (in each trim, base LE, mid-trim XLE and top-of-the-line Limited) of either FWD or AWD.
There is no optional engine, no optional transmission.
Acceleration – and fuel efficiency – are solidly middle of the road: Zero to 60 takes about 9.1-9.2 seconds (FWD vs. AWD) and fuel economy stands at 24 city, 31 highway for the FWD version and 22 city, 29 highway for AWD-equipped models.
You can get a much more powerful V-6 in the Jeep Cherokee (3.2 liters, 270 hp and 0-60 in 6.4 seconds) or a more fuel efficient turbo four in the Ford Escape (1.6 liters and 33 MPG on the highway).
But neither of these two are exceptionally better in either respect – especially when cross-compared on a price-equivalent basis and with their standard engines.
The Jeep, for example, comes standard with a 184 hp, 2.4 liter four – and so equipped, takes about 9 seconds to get to 60 and rates 22 city, 31 highway with FWD.
Dead heat with the RAV.
The Escape’s standard 2.5 liter, 168 hp four (the one four of the three fours Ford offers in this vehicle that isn’t turbocharged) is actually less powerful than the RAV’s four – and so equipped, the Ford is slower to 60 and no more fuel efficient (22 city, 31 highway). Buyers should also be aware that Ford only sells the base S version of the Escape with the 2.5 liter engine in FWD form. If you want AWD, you have to buy the extra-cost engine first – and then buy the AWD in addition to that.
The soon-to-be-here 2015 Honda CR-V will probably use an updated version of the current CR-V’s 2.4 liter four – which produces 185 hp in the 2014 CR-V, gets the Honda to 60 in about 10 seconds and delivers 23 city, 31 highway.
AWD-equipped RAVs feature a driver-selectable lock function (button to the left of the steering wheel) which – when engaged – sends more power to the rear wheels, to give more traction in snow and mud.
The six-speed automatic also has driver-selectable modes, Eco and Sport. The chief noticeable difference between the two is that in Sport mode, overdrive is locked out and – as a result – the engine spins at higher RPMs and feels/sounds a bit more aggressive.
Several competitors – including (if the leaks are accurate) the ’15 CR-V – have gone over to Continuously Variable (CVT) transmissions. Or – as in the case of the Jeep Cherokee – have gone with more than six-speed conventional automatics (the Jeep comes with a nine-speed transmission).
The RAV could probably benefit from a CVT – or a more than six-speed automatic. Toyota has been a little behind the curve as far as getting the latest n’ greatest onto the market, transmission-wise. But, there’s nothing wrong with the RAV’s box. A CVT or seven-speed might notch the mileage up a little. But it’s not a big deal.
Much less a deal-breaker.
The RAV’s understated goodness grows on you the longer you drive it.
Or, just sit in it.
The seats are exceptionally comfortable – pillowy and just firm enough at the same time, such that your back- and butt – still feel good even after a five hour non-stop highway haul (I did two such hauls in the same day, up to DC and back from our place in The Woods of rural SW Virginia). All too many modern car seats are overly firm – done in the name of “sportiness.” The RAV’s are soft, but not too soft. They are just firm enough in the right way – and in the right places.
Further enhancing the relaxing/de-stressing vibe of this car are controls that aren’t trying to be clever – they just work. Easily. And can be understood – immediately. Want to lower (or raise) the temperature? Rotate the large knob on the cleverly designed “shelf” above the center console to the left – or right. Turn the radio on? Push the button, then turn the knob to increase or decrease the volume. There are redundant/secondary volume controls on the steering wheel, too.
Change the station? Turn another knob, to the left for down – to the right for up.
Utterly idiot proof – and that’s why it’s brilliant.
Last week, I reviewed the 2015 Cadillac Escalade. It had a bridge like the Battlestar Galactica, with flat screens and pretty lights abounding. But changing radio stations – or even adjusting the volume – was often a two steps forward, one step back process that got old and aggravating long before my weeklong test drive was over. Is the object of the exercise to try to dazzle you with what is technologically possible?
Or is it to turn the radio on?
Drivetrain-wise, we are dealing with a steady Freddy. A simple, effective tool for the task at hand. The 2.5 liter engine will not rock your world, but it will get you where you’re going – and probably will do that for a long time without asking for much from you except occasional oil and filter changes. There is no rush of turbocharged acceleration, true enough – but there will also be no palpitations that attend $4k repair bills for a new turbo eight or so years down the road, either.
Even the shoes are sensible. Seventeen-inchers are standard, shod with long-lived, easy-riding all-season tires. The Limited comes with larger 18-inch wheels, but the tires are still gentle all-seasons, not performance-compound (and harsh riding) “sport” tires with short sidewalls and a commensurately short life.
The RAV is soft-riding, complementing its seats. If pushed, it will slide – but always gently, never abruptly. An autocrosser, it’s not. But who cares?
Horses for courses.
It does have a much tighter turning radius than all its rivals: 34.7 feet vs. 37.6 feet for the Jeep, and 37 feet for the Escape and 2014 CR-V. It’s not something you notice looking at these cars on the dealer’s lot. If anything, you’d suspect the rakish-looking Jeep and Ford to have tighter turning circles. But, they don’t. And you’ll discover the difference living with these crossovers rather than looking at them.
The RAV is like the girl you (hopefully) marry. She may not be as flashy as some of the girls you’ve dated. Might not make your pulse jump just to look at her. But she’s the one for the long haul, because you never get sick of having her around, because she’s pleasant and helpful, doesn’t let you down – and isn’t high-maintenance.
The RAV’s styling is vanilla – and while many people prefer rocky road or black raspberry swirl, few people hate vanilla.
Another reason for the RAV4’s success.
For it to fail, Toyota would need to make the mistake of giving buyers already Toyota-inclined a reason not to like the RAV. And that’s a mistake Toyota hasn’t made.
Footprint-wise, the RAV is slightly larger than the current (2014) Honda CR-V and Escape (just barely) but smaller than the Jeep Cherokee. It has 42.6 inches of front seat legroom – more than all but the Ford Escape, which leads the segment with 43.1 inches of front seat legroom. Second row legroom is a similar story. The Toyota’s 37.2 inches is a bit more than the Escape’s (36.8 inches) but not quite as much as ther CR-V’s ((38.3 inches). On this count, the Jeep leads the pack with 40.3 inches.
The relevant point here, as regards the RAV, is that it’s not seriously deficient in either row relative to any of its rivals. No reason to complain.
Pop the hatchback and you’ll find 38.4 cubic feet of cargo capacity with the second row setbacks up. Lay them flat and the total real estate expands to 73.4 cubic feet. This is slightly more cargo capacity than the current CR-V (37.2 and 70.9 cubes, respectively), a bit more more than the Escape (34.3 and 68.1 cubes) and – surprise, surprise – a lot more than the larger-on-the-outside Cherokee, which has a fairly paltry 24.8 cubic feet of cargo space behind its second row and just 54.9 cubes when they’re folded flat.
Limited models come with a power liftgate, but the non-powered gate is easy to deal with because the RAV is not overly tall – and the load floor is pretty low to the ground. Heated front seats are standard on LImiteds and you can order an 11-speaker JBL audio rig – bundled with GPS.
Toyota’s Entune suit of apps is included with all trims, but XLE and Limited trims get an enhanced version with Bing, Pandora streaming radio and traffic/sports/stock updates. The system connects wirelessly to your cell phone.
All trims get an LCD touchscreen monitor for the center stack.
There is a lot of elbow room under the hood – and Toyota has packaged the RAV’s engine to be very DIY-friendly. For example, the battery is not located partially under sheetmetal or bracing. It is “right there” – and easily removed/replaced. The air box – which houses the air filter – has a top held in place by two snaps. No tools needed to change the air filter. The serpentine belt that drives the accessories is also accessible, so it’ll be easy to change when the time comes.
One of the very few things I personally didn’t like about the RAV is something I personally don’t like about all current Toyota vehicles: You cannot turn the traction control off without first coming to a complete stop. Yes, there’s an “off” button – and yes, you can push it. But if the vehicle is moving, the traction control adamantly stays on – for “safety,” you know. Why is this objectionable – leaving aside the juvenile urge of a middle-aged car jockey to spin the tires? One word:
You want it in winter. And sometimes, to maintain it, you need to keep the hammer down even if the car is fishtailing (and the tires spinning). But with traction control, the power cuts cut, the ABS pumps – and you get slowed down. Sometimes, you get stuck. It does no good to turn off the traction control once you’re stopped on an ice-slicked grade. Good luck to ya.
So, I’d like “off” to mean off.
Whenever I – the guy who is driving and who signed the check – want it off.
Beyond this little gripe, I dig this unit.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Boring might not be dancing-in-the-streets fun, but it’s sometimes just what you want.
Throw it in the Woods?
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Enjoyable ride with good MPG around the city. Wind noise it bit high tough.
A simple turbo would have give the RAV4 some personally rather than be called an “also ran”
You and me, Matt!
But the typical buyer doesn’t care much about power – or personality. This seems to work for Toyota…
30k plus for a RAV4 Limited that has synthetic leather seats is not good.
It’s crazy, I agree.
But did you know that – as of last year – the average price paid for a new car exceeded $30k?
Wife bought the RAV4 2014 Limited. She likes it makes the monthly payments for it…………….what’s not to like about it 🙂
On a personal note after I drove it a few times I think it’s more than enough SUV for the the person whom does not get into the nitty gritty like 0-60 time, braking feet compared to what ever SUV they were going to buy.
First and foremost, what is the cost of the replacement vehicle and how much ya going to give me for my trade? Will I be comfortable?
First impressions of outside and inside. Some of these are just like dating a guy or girl for the first time 🙂
Toyota Fuel Cell Testing Vehicle – Hot Weather Test
Toyota Fuel Cell Vehicle Testing – Cold Weather Test
– Genchi Genbutsu – Go and See
Various technologies used in Toyota’s fuel cell vehicles
Toyota’s fuel cell car will go on sale before April 2015
Toyota Fuel Cell Cars – 300 mile range “refuel” in 3-5 mins
Toyota Fuel Cell Vehicle (FCV)
Good to hear Eric!
Though allegedly I am deficient in manners, know that I hold you in the highest regard and esteem.
1 you are one of the rare truly independent voices out there that isn’t guarded, self-censored, sponsor-beholden, or restrictor-plated in any way.
2 you might be the only highly mechanically-skilled and hands-on technically literate voice in the entire freedom family.
3 you’re always a standup Mensch of highest caliber. even with clover, you never give up on people, or stop believing that freedom might somehow be attained. if only we want it enough, we might still obtain it within our own lifetimes.
It’s good to be back on my feet…
Speaking of things you can’t unsee…
Toyota Auris Commercial
Toyota Yaris Commercial
Toyota fun to drive again
Toyota Brad Pitt Japan Only
Well, those are nice articles. But there’s a big difference between saying something is “confirmed” and seeing it produced. And you’re never going to see something like the red exotic in that first link inside any Toyota showroom.
I’m sticking to what I said before….. “if Toyota ever builds anything like this, I predict it will be under the Lexus label. It will have some meaningless alphanumeric name. And it will cost much, much more than any Supra ever did, even after inflation adjustment.”
Yeah I just looked for what was shaping up out there in the cloud.
Only Akio Toyoda knows what he’s really going to do.
Here’s from July 9 2014
I haven’t been able to post pictures or video because of an unresolved technical problem since we moved to the new server… looks like the only fix is to buy a new got-damned computer… we have tried everything….no dice. I am still being taken to the old server/site… unless I use this ancient laptop (typing on it now)… my desktop works great, no problems with anything… except it will not load/point to the new EPautos site/server.
-can you network the two computers together?
– trade with dom, some of your transportation machinery – for some working computer hardware?
give the whole newer setup to dom, and given time, he’ll get it working at his place – you stick to the old device?
-does someone live nearby you, that could drop off some equip they don’t need?
-try setting up a regular free wordpress blog
-stick with the crap computer, but upgrade keyboard etc as best you can?
– we can post pics and vids for now?
– is there a way to give someone a login that has rights to post needed graphics, and nothing else
1 try opera browser. this thing has worked on all kinds of jacked up computers/devices, it just seems to work no matter what
2 try logging in as just a wordpress regular user. create a new regular user id. create a new admin id
3 email this guy and buy used
4 try these guys: lynchburg. craigslist. org/sys/4567534409. html
lynchburg. craigslist. org/sys/4558626269. html
lynchburg. craigslist. org/sys/4551196312. html
lynchburg. craigslist. org/sys/4506891024. html
its cheesy, but if you do some meet and greets on craigslist, computer stores, the market, you’ll probably learn what you need to know. a potential buyer of hardware and computer expertise in this market is probably a hot commodity
We’re good, Tor!
About 45 minutes ago, I hooked up with a tech guy who knew Macs – and found/fixed the trouble.
Back to Clover crushing!
I agree, Mike.
Speaking of which: Note that Nissan is – according to solid rumor – seriously thinking about saying sayonara to the Z car….
That’s interesting about the Z Car. They stopped building it once….started again….and now maybe stop again. Well, it is getting old. Due for a whole new model.
Nissan may plan to move this higher priced, low volume model to it’s Infinity line. Then, they can rake a higher profit per unit. Ditto for Toyota, if they ever decide to re enter this segment.
Another Toyota that’s boring, but works well. This utilitarian market segment does not require excitement in either aesthetics or performance. But there’s no reason Toyota or Honda couldn’t offer a car in this class some pizazz, while still retaining all the expected virtues.
Toyota is resting on its laurels, becoming a stagnant, complacent automaker. Sort of reminds me of GM, right before it’s multiple major mistakes caused cascading catastrophes.
But unlike GM, Toyota appears determined to retain it’s well earned reputation for QRD…Quality, Reliability and Durability.
It will be interesting to see how long Toyota can retain its market share if it continues to build uninspiring appliances, without current levels of sophistication in driveline technology. I’m guessing they can keep going for a Long Time……”IF” they maintain or even improve that QRD.
It will be a very slow depreciation of market share. Like you say, the ultimate thing people care about is the QRD. When more automakers establish the QRD reputation among the masses, maybe then people will start to care about excitement more.
They have it in them. This is the same company that brought us the Supra.
I don’t think we’ll ever again see anything like the Supra from Toyota. They have decided to shift all their performance and style efforts to the Lexus line, where they compete with varying degrees of success, depending on the model.
Well, Toyota did intro the “Scion” FR-S. Captured imaginations for a little while. But it’s fading fast.
The FR-S could be a whole different animal if Toyota gave it a major increase in horsepower. But I don’t think that’s going to happen
Rumor has it….
New Supra rumors have been out there for a very long time. Not holding my breath.
Again, if Toyota ever builds anything like this, I predict it will be under the Lexus label. It will have some meaningless alphanumeric name. And it will cost much, much more than any Supra ever did, even after inflation adjustment.
RE: “Rumor has it…. ”
Thanks for putting that song in my head, BrentP
The Supra,… first car I ever went 125 M.P.H. in.
…What a joy.
It was in the Summer, under a full moon on a clear night, on an empty hyway, at age 18, or thereabouts.
Them were the days.
RE: “Toyota’s got these TV commercials featuring the Muppets”
Oh mang, I’m so glad I don’t watch TV anymore.
Crap, now I’ve got this image of the Muppets singing that song.\
TV is insidious!
The first car I exceed 160 in was the Mitsu 3000GT VR-4… anyone remember that one?
I wish I could post pics to go with this review, but I have an intractable tech problem that we can’t seem to fix. The “fix” appears to be – blow $1,200 I don’t have on a new desktop Mac.
@Mike Agreed with the FRS. May be right for some people but I was never into it really. I can respect it for what it is though.
@Brent Yes they keep dangling that piece of meat in front of us. That rumor has been alive for over a year now. If it comes, I hope it comes as a coupe too and not just a convertible like the Z4… and less expensive.
All Japanese companies are extremely conservative — some more than others. This is because no one working there wants to lose face by promoting an idea that might not be successful. The only way significant change comes about is if a foreigner comes to work there and can push their ideas through (like Carlos Ghosn did at Nissan), or on the very rare occurrence that a Japanese manager is able to internally repress their ideas and thoughts until they get into a position where they can make them happen.
Hey Eric, thanks for the timely review.
My family is going to be getting an AWD CUV before next winter, because of how terrible the last one was.
Which one would be your choice?
Dad wants a Rav4, because its a Toyota, and obviously a good choice. Mom wants a Nissan Rogue because it has an optional 3rd row. Also considering an Outlander for its 3rd row and warranty, and a CX5.
Very glad to hear the Rav4 seats are comfortable, I seem to value that more than anything nowadays…
The CX and Rogue are good alternative choices; which one to choose comes down to personal preferences (as well as price, of course). The CX is sportier/more fun to drive. But the Toyota’s (my opinion) a better everyday ride. I’d be reluctant to buy the Outlander because of depreciation and because Mitsu is not in very good health ….
Thanks for the insight Eric. Will keep it all in mind.