2018 Toyota RAV4: Adventure is the key for this compact SUV

By Mike Blake Carlisle Events
Thursday, October 18, 2018

The No.5 best-selling vehicle in America this year is the Toyota RAV4. With an all-new RAV4 just around the corner, arriving as a 2019 model, the 2018 RAV4 remains the top compact SUV chosen by buyers to take its owners on countless urban, suburban and off-the-beaten-path adventures. And for 2018, Adventure is a buzzword.

Next year, RAV4 is expected be sportier with an entirely re-imagined design and new performance parameters, thanks to the implementation of its new Toyota New Global Architecture platform and two new powertrains. But this year, RAV4 still adds onto last year’s model with significant safety upgrades, a new sporty Hybrid level, and a new Adventure grade with rugged styling and increased ground clearance.

Considered by Toyota as “the original small SUV that created the segment,” RAV4 was launched in 1994, as the baby-ute was named for its mission as a “Recreational Active Vehicle with 4-wheel drive.” In the seventh and final year of its 4th generation, the 2018 RAV4 adds a fifth trim level -- the Adventure grade, and RAV4 Hybrid is now available in five grades. The Adventure identity pays off inside, with such unique and exclusive features as carbon-fiber-like trim panels, leather-wrapped shift knob, “RAV4 Adventure” logoed door sill protectors, and all-weather floor and cargo mats with “RAV4 Adventure” badging. A 120V/100W power outlet in the cargo area is convenient for operating a portable air compressor or other equipment. RAV4 has been the “cool” SUV for 24 years, and its sleek and dynamic stance includes a bold front fascia, flowing profile and sporty attitude. RAV4 keeps its compact dimensions with a 104.7-inch wheelbase and 181.1-inch length. Height is low enough for relative niche stability at 65.9 inches (the new Adventure trim is higher at 66.3 inches), while width is 72.6 inches. Curbweight remains in the range of 3460 to 3630 pounds depending on trim (3605 for the Adventure) and ground clearance comes in at 6.1 inches (6.5 for Adventure).

Non-hybrid RAV4 grades are powered by an efficient 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine that delievers176 horsepower and 172 lb-ft of torque. The dual-overhead cam plant teams dual VVT-i (Dual Variable Valve Timing with intelligence) with a standard six-speed automatic transmission for EPA fuel economy estimates of 23mpg city/30mpg highway/26 mpg combined. My mixed-use tests garnered an average of 26.2mpg.

Driver-selectable operating modes let the RAV4 driver set the mood on the road. With Eco mode selected, RAV4 optimizes powertrain operation to help maximize fuel economy. Sport mode delivers sharpened shift timing, throttle response and steering feel. Downshifting will “blip” the throttle, as the driver in a stick-shift vehicle might do. On RAV4 models with Dynamic Torque Control All-Wheel Drive, Sport mode also alters torque distribution to enhance agility. Fun to drive and cozy behind the wheel, RAV4 is a confident drive with slow, but steady acceleration. On the highway, passing is easily accomplished, and on the track my 2018 RAV4 completed a zero-to-60mph sprint in 8.5 seconds, during a slow, but entertaining 16.1-second quarter-mile.

RAV4’s electric power assisted rack and pinion steering was predictable with good feedback and entertaining understeer. The MacPherson strut front suspension with stabilizer bar and hydraulic shocks, works with a double wishbone multi-link rear with coil spring, stabilizer bar and hydraulic shocks for good road-softening and a minimum of lean and topwobble.

The RAV4 cabin is sporty and accommodating and filled with infotainment including a 6-speaker Entune™ Audio system with 6.1-inch touchscreen. Special attention was directed toward improving cabin quietness with the addition of sound insulation. Front headroom is niche-roomy at 39.8 inches, with 38.9 inches in row two. Legroom is accommodating at 42.6 inches in row one with 37.2 inches for second-seat passengers and there is a wide-body 57.3 inches of shoulder room in front with 55.4 inches for the back row.

The 2018 RAV4 is equipped with the Star Safety System™, a profusion of enhanced occupant protection and crash avoidance systems that starts with energy-absorbing crumple zone construction and includes Traction Control, Electronic Brake-force Distribution, Enhanced Vehicle Stability Control, Brake Assist, Anti-lock Braking System and Smart Stop Technology. Eight standard airbags consist of dual stage advanced driver and front passenger airbags; front seat-mounted side airbags; first and second row side curtain airbags; driver’s knee airbag and a front passenger seat cushion airbag. Whiplash Injury Lessening front seats are designed to help support the driver’s and front passenger’s heads during certain types of rear-end collisions.

The base RAV4 starts $24,660 for the base LE trim in FWD and runs through five trims, topping out at the Limited at $32,555. The RAV4 Hybrid starts at $27,385 and also runs through five trims, ending at the Limited Hybrid at $34,280. My test RAV4 Adventure (third trim up) started at $28,650. In AWD with 6-speed automatic transmission, my Adventure added Roby Flare Pearl (Red) exterior paint for $395. Mated to a Black fabric interior, the heavily safety-oriented Heated Fabric Front Seats package was added for $1760. Running Boards added $549 and a Remote Engine Starter was $499. With Delivery and processing fees of $1045, My test RAV4 Adventure stickered at $31,537.

> Visit www.CarlisleEvents.com for more on the automotive hobby.

Mike Blake, former editor of KIT CAR magazine, joined Carlisle Events as senior automotive journalist in 2004. He's been a "car guy" since the 1960s and has been writing professionally for about 30 years.

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