This review was conducted in various areas of beautiful Duluth, MN. I wrote this because I love automobiles and love driving and writing about them.
When it comes to small 4x4s like the Toyota RAV4 or Honda CRV, there isn't much of an enthusiast following for them. They're bought for simple transportation/utility uses. However, if there was an enthusiast following for third gen RAV4s, guys at a meet would come and ask, "That gotta V6?"
I'd answer, "Hell yes."
Not just any V6, but the super mega awesome 2GR-FE V6!!
Woah! Look at that beast!
Okay, okay. Yes it's in many of Toyota's other vehicles so it's no unicorn. But nevertheless, it's a lovely engine. 269 horsepower at 6200 RPM make gunning it and watching the RPMs climb way more fun than it should be in vehicle like this. Once it gets around 3500-4500RPM and beyond, it's hard not to smile. Zero to sixty takes somewhere just past six seconds. Knowing all this, it kinda makes sense why Lotus uses this engine in the Evora.
The engine is mated to a five speed automatic and a noticeably smart four wheel drive setup. The transmission is responsive to throttle input and will downshift as needed when the throttle pedal is depressed. The throttle itself is kinda funky. It has a very small mush zone when the pedal is first depressed so you don't lurch forward on starts, but it seems inconsistent. Most of the time I was able to start smoothly from stops but on occasion I would push the pedal down slightly different from before and the thing would lurch forward like a horse. The pedal is responsive enough when called, but lacks response when it's released. Lifting off from hard acceleration may not yield the desired result right away. The engine will seem to keep going for a bit after you lift off the throttle. That "bit" is a very short amount of time, but it's noticeable.
Taking the RAV4 into the twisties of Skyline Parkway was way more fun than I expected. The electric power steering gave me all the info I needed about how far I was pushing it around the corners. The effort builds nicely with input and feels very natural at speed. The suspension smoothly transfers the weight when transitioning through corners. There's body roll but not nearly as much as expected. For a 3700lb small SUV, it's impressive.
Entering a corner, the vehicle understeers a bit and feels kinda nose heavy (which it is). However, apply some throttle and the car magically neutralizes itself. I really mean it when I say "magically." Enter the corner and it veers toward the outside. Give it some gas and it smoothly tucks in and goes where you want it.
Around town the RAV4 moves about effortlessly and smoothly. Starting is almost always smooth and stopping is even smoother. The discs at each corner work great. The pedal is responsive and has a very tiny deadzone at the top of travel but is otherwise firm and progressive enough for quick changes in braking force if it's needed. The suspension keeps the wheels planted and is rarely upset by bumps. The ride is very nice. Bumps can be felt and heard, but it's always in a smooth way.
Going down Duluth's steep Piedmont Avenue was very easy, requiring less than expected levels of effort to keep the vehicle at a relatively constant speed. Getting on the interstate and cruising up to Duluth's east side was a quiet and smooth experience. At highway speeds, the V6 hums along at a low RPM and wind flowing over the vehicle is fairly quiet. Going up the steep hill on 21st Avenue East was a breeze. The transmission downshifts and powers up the hill like it's nothing.
All in all, the RAV4 is great to drive.
The exterior of the car is far from striking but also isn't boring. It's a nice conservative look. The spare on the back is on the boarder of looking out of place but doesn't really detract from the look in my opinion.
The interior is simple. Boring colors adorn the seats and trim, but all the materials feel fairly solid. The front seats are comfortable and adjustable enough for me and probably most drivers. The stereo is not very good. It's easy to use and can easily sync to a phone via Bluetooth to talk or play music, but it just doesn't sound very good. The instrument cluster is simple and easy to read.
The backseat is spacious and should be comfortable for most. There's adequate legroom and decent headrests. The trunk has a lot of space and is very easy to load once you open the door. The rear door is hinged on the right side of the car, making curbside loading somewhat tricky. However, this was easy for me to get used to.
It's also worth noting that with the optional towing package, the V6 RAV4 can tow up to 3500lbs. Very handy.
The RAV4 is very practical and will serve just about every need for the everyday driver and even enthusiasts (for the most part). Whether you're looking for something fun and practical or you're a parent looking for a vehicle that serves as a great family do-all vehicle, consider the RAV4 V6.
2012 Toyota RAV4 Limited V6 4x4 ~14,000 Miles
Seats 5 (Including Driver)
Engine: 2GR-FE, 269HP@6200RPM, 246lbft torque@4700RPM
Transmission: 5-Speed Automatic
EPA Gas Mileage Figures: 20 City/27 Highway
Thanks for reading.
Photos by TheJacobJones