Car Review: 2015 Toyota RAV4 XLE

2015 Toyota RAV4 red

The Toyota RAV4 was the first compact crossover SUV, debuting over 20 years ago. This popular vehicle is now on its fourth generation in a very crowded and growing segment. We tested the XLE model with the Dynamic Torque Control All-Wheel Drive system.

Over the years, the look of the RAV4 has evolved considerably, as it now sports more of a lower, car-like stance. This sleeker design is becoming more common in this category, and we suspect many buyers will use design as a differentiator in making their decision.

One of the reasons the compact crossover segment is growing has to do with the roominess you get for a smaller vehicle. Like others in this segment, the RAV4 comfortably seats five adults, and we filled up the vehicle several times during our test. It also has plenty of cargo capacity with 38.4 cubic feet behind the rear seats. With the 60/40 split rear seats folded, the space expands to 73.4 cubic feet. This practical feature plus the roominess for passengers in a smaller, affordable vehicle makes the RAV4 and other options in this segment irresistible to many buyers.

The RAV4 sports a 2.5-liter direct-injection four-cylinder engine along with a standard 6-speed automatic transmission, generating 176 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 172 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,100 rpm. With front-wheel drive, the RAV4 has EPA-estimated fuel economy ratings of 24 mpg in the city and 31 mpg on the highway. With Dynamic Torque Control All-Wheel Drive, the EPA estimates are 22/29 mpg on regular-grade gasoline.

We love the trend towards different driving modes, and the RAV4 offers Sport and Eco modes. If you’re looking for some extra kic,k go with Sport mode to sharpen shift timing, throttle response and steering feel. Downshifting will “blip” the throttle, as the driver in a stick-shift vehicle might do to maintain driving smoothness. And on RAV4 models with Dynamic Torque Control All-Wheel Drive, Sport mode also alters torque distribution to enhance agility by reducing understeer. Then in slow, boring city traffic, you can go with Eco mode for better gas mileage. The Sport option makes this vehicle so much more fun to drive, and the all-wheel drive system also came in handy through some bad weather.

There are so many choices available now in the compact crossover segment years after the RAV4 started it all off. But even with the competition, the RAV4 offers plenty of value, and it’s still worthy of strong consideration.