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.
Here in Duluth where I live and conduct reviews, practical four wheel drive vehicles dominate the automotive population. Among the most popular is the Toyota RAV4. Yes, I already reviewed one but that one was barely two years old and has less than 20,000 miles on it. Here's one that (if you're like me) you'll be more likely to be able to afford or even find.
So, the 1998 Toyota RAV4. This particular example has an experienced 179,000 miles and the standard two liter 3S-FE inline four.
The 3S-FE was never known for its looks. In fact, upon first glance/drive, some people might think this engine is a looser. It hauls around a 2800lb vehicle with 127 horsepower and 132lb-ft of torque. Far from impressive figures but not bad. I have one phrase that sums up the engine: It's adequate.
Sure, zero to sixty in thirteen seconds might make you think otherwise, but after driving it, the "adequate" label starts to make sense.
The engine's characteristics are very tame. The power doesn't really seem to drastically climb or fall at any particular part of the rev range. This makes it pretty easy to modulate and would be handy for winter starts. However, a sticky throttle pedal can sometimes make for some jerky starts.
A four speed automatic transmission sends power to the wheels through a fixed center differential. It works well enough. Sometimes it takes far too much throttle input for it to downshift making climbing steep hills or overtaking a bit clunky at times. Otherwise it pretty much goes along with my saying for the engine: It's adequate.
Upon first driving the RAV4, the drivetrain probably wont impress you, but the steering will. Taking simple turns at intersections tells you more than you'd expect. The steering is a bit heavier than I'm used to but the extra heft felt right. It has great on center feel and weighs up exactly how you'd think it would in the sharper turns. Bumps and other road imperfections can be felt through the wheel just enough where I noticed them but wasn't distracted by it. And with this kind of vehicle, I think that's exactly how it should be.
This first generation RAV4 handled Skyline parkway well for 15 year old. Entering a corner the vehicle initially understeers and if pushed too hard can even start to lose grip up front. But the understeer can be quelled with by lifting off the throttle or pushing it in a bit more depending on the situation. After a turn or two, I was able go through the rest of the corners with little difficulty. Like the previously reviewed 2012 RAV4, I was impressed by how this little machine went through the bends.
Normal in-town driving is very relaxed for the most part. The ride is smooth. The front end feels buttoned down nicely but the rear can clunk around going over some of the harsher imperfections. Moving through residential streets, the engine seems to be thrumming along fairly easily trough starts and stops, but it can seem strained when climbing even some small hills. The front discs and rear drums stop the vehicle well. The brake pedal is nice and firm, with a small but noticeable dead zone at the top of travel.
The RAV4 doesn't coast very well, probably due to its four wheel drive system, but this makes descending down steep hills great. Going down the steep Piedmont Avenue was very easy because I could coast almost the whole way down holding a fairly steady speed. Going up steep hills like Duluth's 21st Avenue East wasn't much of a challenge, but the engine was screaming most of the way up.
On the highway, the RAV4 cruises in between 2000-3000RPM depending on your speed. That's a bit high, but after cruising for a minute or two I stopped noticing it.
In the end the '98 RAV4 is a great driver. It's slow and seems to put a lot of effort into climbing hills but it makes up for that in the twisties.
The outside of the RAV4 is very simple. Nothing special about the styling but I've never heard anyone say it's ugly or a bad looking vehicle. The spare on the back fits the vehicle's style well.
Gotta love that flower spare cover!
Inside, the seats are kinda small and are adorned with some interesting looking cloth. They're not very comfortable. Lumbar support is non-existent and there isn't much for an armrest on either side of the driver. The instrument cluster is simple and easy to read. The backseats are cramped and also not very comfortable. However, on the upside, visibility is fantastic. The back has plenty of storage space, but like the 2012 RAV4 that right-side hinged door is weird at first when loading from curbside.
Even though it's almost 15 years old, this little RAV4 is still a very capable vehicle. Yeah it's slow and doesn't have a ton of features, but it gets the job done and is still more practical than most vehicles its size.
1998 Toyota RAV4 L ~ 179,000 miles
Seats 5 (including driver)
Engine: 3S-FE, 127HP@5400RPM, 132lb-ft torque@4600RPM
Transmition: 4-Speed Automatic
EPA Gas Mileage Figures: 21 Ctiy/26 Highway
Thanks For Reading
Photos by TheJacobJones