You’ve seen RAV4 after RAV4 Review for the last 5 years, now that I’ve had a chance to drive one for a while, it’s time for me to weigh-in and add additional insight to the many other reviews on the RAV models. To begin with, I leased a 2011 Toyota RAV4 for a couple of reasons:
- The Lease Deals on Toyota RAV4s are phenomenal
- The RAV4 V6 Model provides outsanding horsepower for roughly the same gas mileage as other, less inspiring 4 Cylinder SUVs for the same price: For example, the Honda CRV.
- I read the RAV4 Reviews from 2006-2011
It’s what You Like
While these were the two factors that led me to look this SUV, the reviews from Magazines and Consumers convinced me I’d be happy driving one for the next 3 years. When the current generation of the RAV was released 5 or 6 years ago, I test-drove a 4 Cylinder model at my local dealer before I even looked at any of the brand new reviews. Like all Toyotas, the RAV4 had a solid, quiet ride with great handling. . What I didn’t care for was the anemic power of the 170HP 4 Cylinder engine and the outrageously high lease payment from $400 – $500 per month. The RAV reviews consistently fail to mention that the upgrade in price from the 4-Cyl to the 6-Cyl is not too steep and uses up very little extra gas. The salesman at the dealership accurately stated that because the new model had just been released, the resale value had not yet been established resulting in a higher than average lease payment for a car in the $23,000 to $27,000 range. This was something the very positive review would soon help. Raising the demand and raising the residual value. I decided to wait for those new reviews to pile up before going back for another look.
Five years later, the 2006, 2007 and 2008 rendition of the RAV4 is now at the end of its lifespan. For the last 18 months, 2009, 2010 and 2011 RAV4s have had some of the best lease deals going. I opted for the 269HP Base V6 model. The Base Model MSRP is around $25,460. Mine came with the upgraded value package which adds 6-Disc, in-dash CD Changer, 17” Wheels, Rear Privacy Glass, Full Size Spare, Day Time Running Lamps, Tonneau Cover and some other minor accessories. Something you don’t see in RAV4 Reviews, is too much of an explanation on these confusing options, but I digress. This brought the MSRP up to around $27,000 including dealer handling fees. My Lease payment is $280.00 a month before taxes and with nothing down. Actually, I got a check back from the dealer for $547.00 to cover the termination fee and last payment on my 2009 Subaru Legacy Lease. With the check figured into the deal, my real Average Monthly Lease Payment is only $265.00. As the Monthly Car Lease website indicates, a 36 month lease payment for under $300.00 is almost unheard of for a $27,000 Car. A 2011 Subaru Outback V6 model equipped and priced the same, would put me in the $400 a month payment range. There is something else the RAV4 Reviews don’t tell you. They make amazing Lease Deals. I love Subaru, but didn’t want to pay that much extra for one. And gets even better than that: The dealer threw in a 24-month maintenance package which includes free tire rotation and oil changes. That’s with the expensive, Mobile 1 Oil, too! So, now that you know what the car is going to cost me to drive for the next three years, it’s time to tell you how it drives and what I like and don’t like about the 2011 Toyota RAV4. Rav4 Reviews aside, here is my take.
What I Like about the RAV4
- V6 Performance
- Sporty Handling
- 6-Disk CD Changer, MP3 and Auxillary
- Great Gas Mileage for a V6
- Cargo and Storage Capacity
- AWD / Traction Control
- Sporty Looks
What I Don’t Like about the RAV4
- Lacking in Features and Amenities
- Some unknown rattles here and there
- Too many RAV4s already on the Road
Performance and Fuel Economy
By far, the most impressive thing about this car is the engine. The 269HP not only feels lightening-quick from 0-60, but is very smooth and quiet doing it. The power of the engine and transmission work flawlessly together to give you very quick, smooth and quiet acceleration. When the RAV4 is at a stop, I can barely hear the engine running. Here’s what really sets the performance version of the RAV4 apart from the competition. It’s V6 engine gets reasonable gas mileage; 19/26MPG. This is only a MPG or two below what the 4 Cylinder RAV4s and Honda CRVs are getting. With 100% city driving, my wife is averaging around 21MPG to and from the school where she works. Acuras, Mazdas and Foresters use a turbo engine in their performance models. Not only do they get worse gas mileage, but they require the significantly more expensive premium fuel. Due to such lousy, cold, snowy weather, I have not had the opportunity to drive the RAV4 west on I70 to the mountains of Colorado.
Cargo, Storage Capacity and Interior Features
The RAV4 not only hold a great deal of cargo for an SUV this size, but it is easy to get your cargo in there. The rear seats fold flat in a heart beat. Underneath, the back floorboard, by the lift gate is a lid which reveals a hidden, 12” high compartment for storage of small items.(Very Handy). I also love the size of cup holders. The front ones even come with an extra attachment for holding skinnier sized glasses and cups. The are roomy side pockets by each seat, and a extra-large, two-compartment console between the driver and passenger. The in-dash, 6-Disk CD Player was simple to use the first time I tried it. One of my 6 disks was a collection of MP3 songs which the CD Player had no problem recognizing. There is also an auxiliary jack for connecting the stereo to your MP3 Player or iPhone/iPod, etc. The controls are very easy to learn. I’m not an XM Radio fan, but it is equipped with a 3 month trial. The Sunglasses compartment above is nice to have.
AWD/Traction Control and Handling
The RAV4 steering wheel feels very good in your hands when you’re on the road. If not for the higher clearance, this SUV handles very much like a nimble, mid-sized car. I’ve had the good fortune of being able to use it in three snow storms so far, and the RAV4 really does well on ice. While, the RAV4 is AWD, with the push of a button it can be locked into 4WD mode so both axels turn simultaneously in situations that require extra traction. V6 RAVs are also equipped with a hill-descent control button which I have yet to try.
Some have referred to the RAV4 as being somewhat bland. I thought the minor cosmetic changes which began with the 2009 models, make it a pretty attractive Compact SUV. I much prefer its looks to the Honda CRV and those crazy tall vertical tail lights in back.
What is the RAV4 Missing?
There are a few things I really miss from my previous 2009 Subaru Legacy SE:
The built-in Homelink Garage Door Opener was very useful. Not only does the RAV4 lack this feature, but the thickness of the sun visor makes it impossible for my garage genie door opener to clip to it. I have to keep it stored in front inside the little coin change holder where it’s difficult to reach. I’m surprised that the RAV4 doesn’t come with a trip computer for telling how much gas you’ve used and how much gas is left in the tank. Fortunately, the RAV4 is equipped with somewhat of a crude trip computer which provides you with the outdoor temperature, gas mileage and instant gas mileage. My favorite feature of all that I dearly miss from the similarly priced Legacy SE was the automatic engine starter. Don’t underestimate the convenience of being able to safely start and warm up your car on a -10 degree day. Now, here’s the biggest complaint from my wife so far: The RAV4 does not have automatic headlights. The salesman told us that the lights will shut-off by themselves if left on too long, but I have yet to test his accuracy on that claim. The Daytime Running Lights do provide you with some additional safety in the event you forget to turn your lights on, but the downside is that they can fool you into believing you’ve actually turned your headlights on. Gotta be careful with the headlights on this car!
Other, Minor RAV4 Quirks
I’ve noticed some very subtle vibration coming from the dash; almost like a rattle. I’ve yet to discover what is causing this. The interior of the RAV4 seems very susceptible to rattles caused by items placed within compartments and consoles. This is strange considering the V6 engine is so smooth and idles and accelerates so quietly. We’ve also noticed some squeaking of the brakes.It could be they need to be broken in, but if it continues, I will have to take it into the dealer and have it checked out.
Overall Driving Impressions: RAV4 Reviews Itself
Car and Driver, which rates the RAV4 very highly, suggests that the V6 engine might be overkill for most people. I could not disagree with them more. The V6 RAV4, which outperforms a number of sports sedans, is where this car really shines and serves its purpose on hilly mountain roads with 4 or 5 passengers and luggage. For the same price, I realize I could have leased a leather-trimmed, more fully equipped 4-Cylinder RAV4 with a few of the bells and whistles that are missing on the V6 Base Model / Value Package. I have never given it a second thought. The V6 RAV4, with its acceleration, traction, handling and high clearance gives me a feeling of confidence and authority both on wet and dry roads. All of these virtues will become even more greatly appreciated when I take the RAV4 on that first road trip. If there is one thing RAV4 Reviews and other Car Reviews don’t measure, it’s how the car feels the first time you take it up to the hills.