Variance

Edmunds: 2006 Toyota RAV4 Review

27 posts in this topic

Jumbo Shrimp
By John DiPietro
Date posted: 11-28-2005

Ten years ago, before the flood of current compact SUVs washed over the market, Toyota's RAV4 offered the Gen X and Gen Y folks an SUV that suited their supposedly active lifestyles.

Something that could handle foul-weather driving as well as a trip to the slopes or mountain bike trailhead. Something that had relatively small dimensions for an SUV, making it easy to park in the city. Something that had a frugal four-cylinder engine that promised 20-somethings 20-something miles to the gallon. Something journalists dubbed the "cute ute."

Well, this is America, the Land of Supersizing, so it was inevitable that the RAV4 would get bigger. And that's exactly what happened with the 2006 Toyota RAV4. Although this new RAV also debuts in Europe this year, they'll be getting the shorter-wheelbase version shown at the 2005 Frankfurt International Motor Show. The difference in length is most noticeable by looking at the rearmost side windows. North America gets a third-seat option, Europe does not.

Would this upsizing kill the lovable, agile demeanor of the RAV4? Or would it take Toyota's entry-level SUV to new heights? We couldn't wait to find out so we got hold of a preproduction unit, a V6 Limited that was loaded to the roof rack with options.

Grow up already

At 181.1 inches in length, the 2006 RAV4 is over a foot longer (14.5 inches) than the outgoing model. It is also arguably more handsome than its forebear. The grille sports Toyota's signature trapezoidal shape, the oversized rub strip on the side is gone, and the greenhouse has a more elegant appearance with its reverse-canted D-pillar. Width is up 3.2 inches, adding to the more aggressive stance.

Compared to its chief competitors, the new RAV4 is about the same length as a Honda CR-V (181.3 inches), about 11 inches longer than the Hyundai Tucson and about 8 inches shorter than the midsize Chevrolet Equinox. A lower coefficient of drag (0.33 versus 0.35 previously) promises a quieter ride and better fuel-efficiency at higher cruising speeds.

Three trim levels will be available: base, Sport and Limited. Base versions are anything but strippers as the following features are all standard: air conditioning, cruise control, tire-pressure monitor, power windows, power locks, tilt/telescopic steering wheel, keyless entry, an AM/FM/CD system with auxiliary input jack, 215/70/16 tires (V6 versions get 225/65/17s), a six-way (manual) driver seat and a split/reclining/sliding second-row seat.

Step up to the Sport and added to the mix are a sport-tuned suspension, alloy wheels wearing 235/55/18 performance tires, foglights, rear privacy glass, spare-tire cover, and color-keyed mirrors, door handles and fender flairs.

Limited models feature dual-zone climate controls, heated/power mirrors, a six-disc CD changer and steering wheel controls for the audio system, anti-theft system, chrome grille, color-keyed bumpers, door handles and rear spoiler, power driver seat, alloy wheels with 225/65/17 tires, rear cargo net and leather wrapping for the steering wheel and shift knob.

The Safety dance

A comprehensive active safety package is standard on all RAV4s and as such, all the high-tech acronyms apply here. Antilock brakes, BrakeAssist, Electronic Brakeforce Distribution, traction control and Vehicle Stability Control provide peace of mind as well as the ability to save your butt while dealing with the daily risks of urban and suburban driving. Side-impact and side curtain airbags are optional.

Come on in and get comfortable

Compared to the '05 RAV4, the '06's difference in interior space is immediately noticeable. Toyota claims a 21-percent roomier cabin, and that seems no exaggeration. With the wheelbase stretched 6.7 inches, space for second-row passengers is plentiful — at 38.3 inches, rear legroom is 2 inches greater than a Ford Escape's and an inch less than the Honda CR-V's. And that second-row seat slides fore and aft to cater to passenger and cargo needs — it's not an original idea (Chevy has it in the Malibu Maxx and Equinox) — but a great one nonetheless.

Along with the upsizing came the availability of upscale features. Our Limited even had a DVD entertainment system in addition to the leather seating and moonroof. A third seat is optional, and though our test RAV4 didn't have it, we tried it out while at a press event. It should be fine for the kiddies, but adults bigger than 5 feet tall are going to feel cramped back there.

Simulated brushed-metallic trim adorns the dash, console and door panels, furthering the uptown image, as do the Optitron gauges and illuminated cupholders up front.

Most staffers found the seats supportive and comfortable over long drives, although our tallest staffer (at 6-foot-4), Richard Homan, just didn't fit no matter how much he fiddled with the eight-way power seat. The telescopic feature on the steering wheel was appreciated and rare in this class. The quietude of the cabin impressed everyone, as did the ease with which the second row folded (just flip a lever on the seat side and the seatback flops down, without requiring removal of the headrest in most cases).

Not just bigger, but faster, too

For the first time, a V6 engine is available in the RAV4. And this ain't no puny 2.5- to 3.0-liter V6. Borrowing a page from the Saturn Vue playbook, Toyota stuffed a burly 3.5-liter V6 (shared with the company's flagship sedan, the Avalon) into the RAV's engine bay.

With a forceful 269 horsepower (at 6,200 rpm) and 246 pound-feet of torque (at 4,700 rpm) on tap, this engine gives the RAV4 a decidedly aggressive personality. Coupled to a five-speed automatic and running through an electronic, "on-demand" four-wheel-drive system, our RAV4 scurried to 60 in just 7.1 seconds and was still going strong as it flashed through the quarter-mile in 15.2 seconds at 91.2 mph. This means it will lay waste to your snobbish friend's X3 3.0 by about a second in each category.

On the street, the RAV4 just moves out quickly whenever you toe into the throttle. The automatic tranny is never caught sleeping — no need to slam your foot to the carpet to coax a downshift. Gear changes are swift and smooth and our average gas mileage, at 19.3 mpg, is commendable given our leadfoot tendencies. Those with more self control should get closer to Toyota's estimates of 20 city and 27 highway. Two-wheel-drive V6 RAVs are rated 1 mpg higher on the highway.

The base RAV4 powertrain consists of a 2.4-liter four-cylinder with 166 hp (up 5 over last year) and 165 lb-ft of torque running through a four-speed automatic gearbox. As with the V6, no manual transmission is available. Mileage estimates are 24/31 (2WD) and 23/29 (4WD).

Disc brakes are standard all around, and aided by the best technology available to provide swift and short stopping distances. We scored a best of 120 feet from 60 mph, a performance just 2 feet shy of the highly regarded BMW X3's. Solid and progressive, the pedal feel provided confidence in all driving scenarios.

The available four-wheel-drive system operates in front-drive mode for optimum fuel-efficiency until a situation (such as quick acceleration from a stop or while driving on slippery roads) demands four-wheel drive, at which point up to 45 percent of the torque is transferred to the rear wheels. A "4WD Lock" switch allows one to manually select that maximum torque output to the rear wheels.

The V6 models come standard with Hill-start Assist Control (which prevents rolling back when on a hill) and Downhill Assist Control (which automatically keeps speed down without the driver having to brake while moving down a steep hill).

For those who tow and want to know, the four-banger can pull up to 1,500 pounds while a V6 model can tow up to 3,500 pounds.

No longer tiny, but still a dancer

With independent suspension at all four corners, the RAV4 incorporates McPherson struts up front along with a double-wishbone setup out back. With tuning set nicely between plush and firm, our Limited delivered a comfy ride over broken-up pavement while remaining responsive and secure on winding two-lanes. Surprisingly, the electric power steering feels well weighted and natural (take note, GM) with no slack at all on-center.

With a performance of 61.3 mph through our slalom course, the RAV4 felt confident and well planted. Toyota's overenthusiastic Vehicle Stability Control slapped our wrists and intervened while we were still playing with the RAV's good clean handling fun — we have a recent history of taking issue with Toyota/Lexus traction and stability systems. Overall, we're happy to say that the RAV4 retains its sporty dynamic even though it's grown considerably larger this year, a helluva feat for the chassis engineers.

This is how we do it

Not only has the 2006 RAV4 moved up in terms of size, it's also managed to broaden its appeal without losing any of its previous spunky and affable personality. Once again, Toyota has shown the automotive world how to build on a model's strengths while still making improvements where needed.

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Link: http://www.edmunds.com/insideline/do/Drive...rticleId=108153 Edited by VarianceJ30
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Sounds like Toyota has a class-leading product. I can't say I care for the looks inside or out.
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I think this is one of those vehicles that won't really spark any enthusiasm into me until I see it in person. I mean, looking at the photos I'm like, "okay". But seeing things in person usually makes or breaks my opinions on something.
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I think the outside is clever... builds on establishing Toyota design cues, but that interior looks chintzy. With 269 horsepower, it should be a rocket to drive.
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I think the exterior is just as bland as any Toyota, which isn't neccessarily bad at all. The interior definately looks techy. It may be too techno for some consumers, but I think it will really appeal to the younger buyers (and that doesn't mean only teenagers, probably late 20's and younger).
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Murano D-pillars are so old news its not funny anymore. Also, what's up with the asymmetrical steering wheel controls? And good God, Toyota, put a damn rear bumper on the thing.
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I'm liking the exterior design but the interior looks too busy. This thing will sell a lot more than the prev-gen Rav4. It looks better, handles better, has more power and is now the right size. I can't believe Toyota put 18" wheels on the sport edition.
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I'm with Empowah on this one. I'm not a fan of the exterior, but it does use and extend Toyota's existing exterior designs. The interior is just funky. Perhaps it's a design that pushes the boundaries a bit past comfortableness, but will grow on me with time. Perhaps I should shove a fork in my eye as well. Ahh, life's many mysteries.. 269hp in the vehicle should make it scoot. I think the Equinox and especially the Torrent (Pontiac=Excitement?) are left out of the sport-compact SUV market. They both need an upgraded powertrain. The "SS" models can't get here fast enough. Aren't they rumored to get the 3.9l? In current form, that's 240hp -- which helps, but IMO, the automotive press will find that 29hp gap too hard to not criticize (especially since the Malibu's 200hp 3.5l got ripped in comparison to Toyota's 210hp (oops, I meant 190hp) 3.0l.
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One thing I like about the interior design is the sloped components of the center stack. This has good ergonomic potential. With all the competition's offerings, GM's 4- and 6-cyl powertrains are really looking bad. :(
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Murano D-pillars are so old news its not funny anymore. Also, what's up with the asymmetrical steering wheel controls?

And good God, Toyota, put a damn rear bumper on the thing.

[post="49960"]<{POST_SNAPBACK}>[/post]


uhhh, it does have a rear bumper.

Here is the old Rav 4 (notice no rear bumper):

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Here is the new Rav 4 (with a rear bumper):

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I can't deny that this will be successful... especially with that engine. Styling wise, it is more mature looking, but it doesn't look as tight as the previous one. The rear is horrible and it is time for to find a new spare tire location. The front and the body are okay, but pretty basic. The interior looks better in that pic but it looks very busy.
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well, the equinox just got killed and made useless. otherwise, the bloated vibe styling is a C. Not an A. the interior looks pleasant although the mits eclipse dash is not flattering here. overall, i think this thing is probably a class topper tho. its a shame the new Grand Vitara didn't have this much motor because it has a nice interior. the escape is dated. Edited by regfootball
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well, the equinox just got killed and made useless.

otherwise, the bloated vibe styling is a C. Not an A.  the interior looks pleasant although the mits eclipse dash is not flattering here. overall, i think this thing is probably a class topper tho.

its a shame the new Grand Vitara didn't have this much motor because it has a nice interior.  the escape is dated.

[post="50367"]<{POST_SNAPBACK}>[/post]



I don't think the Equinox will be killed and made useless by the new RAV4, but it will make people look twice. Beyond the interior and exterior, which are both different in the eyes of who looks at them, people will look at the hp and the mileage. That is what Joe Blow and Jane Blow looks at when it comes to the motor. I for one don't really care about running low 15s in the quarter in an SUV like the RAV4. What I do care about is the gas mileage and seemingly never ending power that you would be from that powertrain.

Is the 3.4 in the Equinox and Torrent going to recieve an upgrade next year? Maybe VVT? Is the 3.4 going to be dropped in favor of the 3.5 (pushrod not Honda's) with VVT? More gas mileage is more important than more hp right now. Is the 3.9 SS/GT really happening even after all the cuts GM has just announced? Edited by Derek77
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When the Suzuki XL-7 was the only mini-ute with a useless third row seat, all the journalist pop-pooed the idea. I think that this Rav4 will be harder on the honda CRV than the Equinox.
the car connection has a review of the Rav4. They show that this really is nearly the same size as Toyota Highlander. The new Highlander willl be even larger soon.
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Rumor has it a small SUV (as in prev-gen Rav4) will be given to either Toyota or Scion. Toyota really does need a truely small SUV. Edit: spelling. Edited by sciguy_0504
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Not only is it almost the same size as the Highlander, it looks like it was really designed to be the Highlander replacement:

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I don't think the Equinox will be killed and made useless by the new RAV4, but it will make people look twice. Beyond the interior and exterior, which are both different in the eyes of who looks at them, people will look at the hp and the mileage. That is what Joe Blow and Jane Blow looks at when it comes to the motor. I for one don't really care about running low 15s in the quarter in an SUV like the RAV4. What I do care about is the gas mileage and seemingly never ending power that you would be from that powertrain.

Is the 3.4 in the Equinox and Torrent going to recieve an upgrade next year? Maybe VVT? Is the 3.4 going to be dropped in favor of the 3.5 (pushrod not Honda's) with VVT? More gas mileage is more important than more hp right now. Is the 3.9 SS/GT really happening even after all the cuts GM has just announced?

[post="50575"]<{POST_SNAPBACK}>[/post]


the equinox's cargo area is useless/small. one stroller/large duffel and there's nothing left for anything else. Edited by regfootball
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When the Suzuki XL-7 was the only mini-ute with a useless third row seat, all the journalist pop-pooed the idea.  I think that this Rav4 will be harder on the honda CRV than the Equinox.
the car connection  has a review of the Rav4.  They show that this really is nearly the same size as Toyota Highlander. The new Highlander willl be even larger soon.

[post="50594"]<{POST_SNAPBACK}>[/post]


the next outlander is acquiring a third row as well, it should be about the same size as the RAV 4.
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the next outlander is acquiring a third row as well, it should be about the same size as the RAV 4.

[post="50643"]<{POST_SNAPBACK}>[/post]


I read that it was getting larger too, but hay what's the big deal.
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the equinox's cargo area is useless/small.  one stroller/large duffel and there's nothing left for anything else.

[post="50642"]<{POST_SNAPBACK}>[/post]


Useless? I will go along with smaller than the RAV4, you can still get more than a stroller and a large duffel bag in there. The Equinox and Torrent also have a redesigned cargo area too for this year. That redesign could have hurt the usefulness of the cargo area too. They lose big by not having the spare tire on the outside of the vehicle like the RAV4, but the liftgate on the RAV4 and the Equinox are totally different. Edited by Derek77
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I'm not one to beat this dead horse persistantly, but: If GM had put a 3rd row seat in the Equinox, they would've been lambasted about how useless and crappy it is. Yet, I bet this RAV4 will recieve kudos for the "ingenious" inclusion of a 3rd row. Everybody knows that, in a vehicle this size, it'll be pretty much useless unless you have small children (or gulllible friends). What's the point? Bragging rights? And another thing: These "Compact" SUVs are getting waaaaaaaay too big. Just put an Equinox side-by-side with a Tracker... the difference is phenomenal. I think GM should develop a new, true "Cute 'Ute", or, at the very least, a Subaru Outback style raised wagon.
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