Review: 2008 Toyota RAV4
By Evan Griffey of MSN Autos
Back in 1996 the RAV4 ignited the fire that is now the compact crossover SUV segment. For 2008 the RAV4, solidly in its third generation, marches forward with a high level of refinement and versatility at its side. The scope of the RAV4’s amenities, fit and finish, and inventive design touches make it a beacon to singles and families alike.
Available in three distinct trims (Base, Sport and Limited), all RAV4s can be configured with any combination of two- or four-wheel drive and four- or six-cylinder engines.
The Base trim includes 17-inch wheels, air conditioning and a CD stereo, but is shut out of many upscale options such as a sunroof, upgraded JBL sound system and color-keyed exterior. The Sport has more option boxes to check and includes an exclusive sport suspension and aggressive 18-inch wheels with performance tires. The Limited provides more standard-issue goods and more luxury options, such as leather seats, a wireless-headphone DVD system and seat heaters.
Under the Hood
The four is a 16-valve DOHC design with Toyota’s VVT-i variable cam timing system that is rated at 166 horsepower at 6000 rpm and 165 lb-ft of torque at 4000 rpm. The 2.4-liter puts up 21/27 city/highway fuel economy numbers in 2WD trim and 20/25 in 4WD guise. Four-cylinder versions feature four-speed automatic gearboxes.
The big motor provides 269 horsepower at 6200 rpm and 246 lb-ft of torque at 4700 rpm. The V6 uses a four-valve-per-cylinder design and Toyota’s Dual VVT-i that phases both intake and exhaust cams for optimum performance and economy. When it comes to fuel mileage the V6 compromises little, posting 19/27 in 2WD trim and 19/26 in 4WD. RAV4s with V6 engines feature five-speed automatic transmissions.
Two-wheel-drive versions are front-wheel drive, while 4WD RAV4s feature Toyota’s On Demand 4WD system, which defaults to front drive unless it senses slippage and then sends traction where needed. There is a manual lock button that sets the front/rear power-split at 50/50 for decidedly slippery conditions.
The RAV4 can also be equipped with third-row seating for seven-passenger occupancy. The third row folds into the floor when not in use, and even Toyota describes it as meant for children, so it must be small. Nevertheless, a family of four will certainly appreciate this option when grandparents visit.
On the Road
The first impression was the surge of power from the V6 when we jumped on the gas. From a standstill or at speed, the RAV4’s 269-horsepower V6 is ready to run. Coupled with crisp steering and a communicative suspension, and the RAV4 V6 is more thrill ride than family truckster.
On a charge from Long Beach, California, to Lake Arrowhead, the RAV4 took the high ground with enthusiasm, carving its way to more than 6,000 feet in the San Bernardino Mountains. The Toyota really stuck in the turns with relatively little body roll, making us wonder how much fun the Sport model and its performance suspension would have been.
The leather seats in the RAV4 Limited are comfortable and the DVD system a godsend on longer trips, keeping kids entertained. We would have liked more legroom around the knees to open up the feeling of the cabin a bit. A captain’s chair armrest would be helpful when rolling up big miles.
Right for You?
Evan Griffey served as an editor of Turbo & High Tech Performance, a pioneering publication about sport-compact tuning. Today Griffey freelances for Import Tuner, Sport Compact Car, Car Audio and Siphon.
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