2017 Toyota RAV4 Review

2017 Toyota RAV4 - 2017 RAV4 builds on reputation built over last two decades


For 2017, the Toyota RAV4 crossover SUV wears a sleeker, more dynamic exterior styling, and buyers will be enjoying more power and their choice of front-wheel or all-wheel drive.

Toyota's RAV4 is not alone when it comes to value in the four-door, five-passenger compact class of unibody crossover vehicles.

Competition includes Hyundai Santa Fe Sport, Ford Escape, Kia Sportage, Mazda CX-5, Buick Encore, Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain.

All these vehicles share in good fuel economy, cargo space, occupant comfort and power amenities. Plus the pricing is comparable ranging from the mid-$20,000s to the mid-$30,000s.

RAV4 prices range from the $25,000 LE to the $36,000 of the newly introduced 2017 Platinum model. Between the LE and Platinum are the XLE and Limited.  RAV4s are front- or all-wheel-drive with automatic or continuously variable transmissions. Among the models offered is a recently tested XLE hybrid.

Two electric magnetic synchronous motors, front and rear, drive the four wheels of this all-wheel-drive hybrid. The battery pack type is nickel-metal hydride and it is located under the rear seats. Essentially the electric componentry provides the power at lower speeds and assists at higher speeds. Braking regenerates the battery pack. The electric componentry combines with a 2.5-liter, 176-horsepower, inline four-cylinder gasoline engine to produce a net 194 horsepower. The transmission is continuously variable. The powerplant easily passed slower traffic on interstates and accelerated quickly from stop signs. The two possible drive modes are Eco and Sport. When properly equipped, the RAV4 has a 1,750-lbs maximum towing capacity. Non-hybrid RAV4s are limited to a towing capacity of 1,500 pounds.

During the test weeks, the 3,925-pound hybrid with two adults aboard in combined city and highway driving averaged 33.7 miles per gallon of gasoline in the Eco mode. Regular fuel is recommended. This hybrid had zip accelerating from 0 to 60 miles per hour in a media tested 9.2 seconds. Braking (discs) back to 0 required a distance of almost 130 feet. Not terrific and a few feet shy of several competitors.

Seats are big and comfortable. Leg room is good front and rear for six-footers. The 42.6 inches in front and the 37.2 inches in the rear are average for vehicles in this compact class of crossovers.

A major body change to the RAV4 is the switch from its traditional side-hinged rear door to a roof-hinged liftgate with spare tire stored under cargo floor. The cargo area is deeper, larger and easier to access than in than earlier generations. It excels at 70.6 cubic feet with the rear seat folded flat and 35.6 cubic feet with it upright.

Besides the Platinum model debut, new this year is making Toyota's 'safety sense' system standard across the model lineup. This feature has collision warning and mitigation, automatic high beams (halogen on the XLE) , lane keeping assist and adaptive cruise control.

There are two power outlets in front and one in the rear. The tested vehicle came with a $49 optional cargo net and a $90 removable cargo cover. Other storage space is with roof rails, which will safely carry 150 pounds of cargo.

Audio and climate controls are easy to understand. A navigation system is standard but SiriusXM satellite radio is only free for three months. A comprehensive $2,060 "convenience" package includes three years of free satellite service. That package includes more than 30 other upgrades. Worth checking out at a dealership.

With cutting edge safety technologies the RAV4 comes equipped with pre-collision system (with forward collision warning and automatic emergency brake), lane departure alert, pedestrian pre-collision system, dynamic radar cruise control, traction and stability controls, antilock brakes, airbags in front, on front sides, overhead for the two rows and for the driver's knee.

In addition to TSS, RAV4 LE gas and XLE gas and hybrid models will feature a standard blind spot mirror and the SE gas and Limited gas and hybrid grades have a standard blind spot monitor with rear cross traffic alert.

Primary niceties on the tested XLE are power door locks, express windows, moonroof with a manual shade, driver's seat and foldable and heated blind-spot exterior mirrors with turn signal insets. Niceties also include smart start, remote keyless entry and Entune Audio Plus, Toyota's information and emergency system.

The RAV4 might have it over the competition in regard to reputation for reliability. It has had more than 20 years to develop it as the vehicle came to market in 1994. The hybrid model was introduced in April 2015. Toyota leads in sales of hybrids worldwide. The company's  most famous hybrid is the Prius.

Vehicle: hybrid XLE model of 2017 Toyota RAV4
Type: all-wheel-drive, four-door, five-passenger compact crossover
Price: $28,370
Powerplant: 2.5-liter dual overhead cam four-cylinder with battery pack, net 194-horsepower
Transmission: continuously variable
Towing: 1,750 pounds
Ground clearance: seven inches
Fuel: regular
Fuel tank: 14.8 gallons
Weight: 3,925 pounds
Wheelbase: 104.7 inches
Length: 183.5 inches
Width: 72.6 inches
Height (with standard roof rails: 65.9 inches
Leg room: 42.6 inches front, 37.2 inches rear
Cargo: 70.6 cubic feet rear seat folded flat, 35.6 cubic feet rear seat upright
Suspension: independent, struts front, double wishbone rear with trailing arms, coil springs, hydraulic shock absorbers and coil springs front and rear
Alloy wheels, 225 tires: 17-inch with P165 spare
Brakes: discs, ventilated front, solid rear
Turn circle, curb-to-curb: 34.8 feet
Warranty: three years or 36,000 miles with roadside assistance, six years or 60,000 miles on powertrain, eight years or 100,000 miles on hybrid componentry, free scheduled maintenance two years or 24,000 miles
Information: www.toyota.com/rav4hybrid

M.J. Frumkin and J.E. Kuyper

M. J. Frumkin and J. E. Kuyper covered the auto industry for decades. Frumkin was with Consumer Guide for 14 years, has authored four books and co-authored three more. He is also the historian/archivist for the Chicago Automobile Trade Association/Chicago Auto Show. Kuyper has been an automotive writer, editor and columnist for newspapers in the Chicago area the past 25 years. His reviews currently appear in the daily Northwest Herald newspaper. Frumkin and Kuyper are founding members of the Midwest Automotive Media Association.