As I get older, I realize the value of experience and age. I’m also very aware that I’m not down for the count. If anything, I’ve never been comfortable with who I am and what I can do. We’re always very quick to point out something that is “old” and this is especially true in the car business.
Yes, the 2017 Toyota RAV4 is already four years old which makes it ancient by new car standards. On top of that, the segment in which it toils is one of the most competitive and important on the North American car-scape. The compact crossover category is quickly replacing run-of-the-mill family sedans as the ideal mode of transportation. Have doubts? Step outside for a moment and consider your neighbourhood and the cars that occupy the driveways.
Given its age, can and should the RAV4 continue to be taken as a serious contender? It would appear so given that it still sits at the top of its segment in terms of sales. But with new or all new arrivals such as the Honda CR-V, Ford Escape and Chevy Equinox, can the Toyota still make a case for itself beyond simply its namesake and reputation?
Facelifted and upgraded
A large portion of the buying public likes to get the latest newest things. Carmakers are well aware and this explains why updates can be expected every 18 to 30 months. The RAV4 was recently renewed for the 2016 model year and the upgrades were welcomed. Once known for milquetoast designs, the Japanese giant has gone gaping-grille crazy but thankfully the RAV4 was spared, at least for now.
The news for 2017 is the addition of the tested Platinum package. If on the outside it’s difficult to tell that this is the ultimate RAV4 beyond the badge and the full body colour, it’s the level of interior kit that makes it known.
We consumers have become fairly demanding when it comes to creature comforts, especially those once reserved for luxury cars. Niceties such as a heated steering wheel, intelligent cruise control, high-end audio and true leather are now attainable in a regular vehicle.
At just shy of $40k, the RAV4 Platinum leaves you wanting for little more. The front seats are far more comfortable and supportive than you would imagine and then there’s the immense amount of interior room. The boot is ginormous to say the least and a great feature is its low lift-over level for easy loading and unloading.
Despite being the top model, the RAV4 is somewhat behind the times where gauges and the location of some commands are concerned. Funny thing is that it’s all very Toyota so in a way, it’s exactly as it should be. Fit and finish are genuinely good (built in Canada, eh!), but presentation definitely looks dated.
Daily power and handling
The presence of a hybrid version on the RAV4’s roster makes it all the more interesting however the majority of purchasers will go for the 2.5L 4-cylinder powertrain. Its 176-horsepower and 172 lb.-ft. of torque are adequate for a vehicle that exceeds 1,600 kg (3,520 lbs.) but it’s the transmission that makes most of the difference.
The standard 6-speed autobox is aggressively geared and programmed to compensate for the relative lack of low-end torque. This is a common trick among Toyota products and it works wonders without thoroughly affecting fuel economy; I averaged just over 10L per 100 km. I did toggle through the three drive modes (Normal, Sport and ECO) but they are essentially pointless. Leave it in Normal and go.
The RAV4 also rides better than one would expect. As part of the changes brought forth in 2016, the compact Toyota crossover’s suspension was re-tuned for a smoother drive. The days of float-y Japanese appliances are behind us. The electric power steering provided a dash more involvement than what the recently reviewed Lexus RX did which was a bonus.
Overall handling and driving experience are far more entertaining than previous. I wouldn’t go so far as compare it to a Volkswagen Tiguan of the aforementioned Escape but it’s certainly good. The AWD system is a reactionary type, which means that the vehicle functions primarily as a front-wheel driver. In other words, the system’s fine for snow and icy surfaces (when properly equipped with winter tires) but it’ll never take you as far as say a Subaru Forester could.
Good old dog
I’m being a little rough with the age thing as the RAV4 is no older than a number of its competitors. Be that as it may, the majority of them will be fully revamped in the next year to 18 months. Should Toyota be worried?
Not even in the slightest. The RAV4 remains one of the best-selling crossovers in North America and will likely stay there for a while to come. The content is present, as is the Toyota’s ability to fulfill owners’ needs and the brand’s reputation for making better than average products certainly helps.
Specifications 2017 Toyota RAV4
Starting Price: 27,395 $
Engine: 4L 2,5 litres – 176HP, 172 lb-ft of Torque
Fuel Economy: 10,0 l/100 km City, 7,6 l/100 km Highway
Cargo Space: 1,090 litres
Competition: Ford Escape, Honda CR-V, Nissan Rogue, Mazda CX-5, Kia Sportage, Chervrolet Equinox
Images 2017 Toyota RAV4