2009 Toyota RAV4 Limited 4x4 Review


2009 Toyota RAV4 (select to view enlarged photo)
2009 Toyota RAV4

MORE: Toyota Specs, Comparisons and Prices-Toyota Buyers Guide

THE AUTO PAGE
By JOHN HEILIG

SPECIFICATIONS

Model: 2009 Toyota RAV4 LTD 4X4
Engine: 2.5-liter I4
Horsepower/Torque: 179 hp @ 6000 rpm/172 lb.-ft. @ 4000 rpm
Transmission: 4-speed automatic
Wheelbase: 104.7 in.
Length/Width/Height: 181.9 x 71.5 x 68.7 in.
Tires: P225/65R17
Cargo volume: 37.2/73.0 cu. ft. (rear seats up/down)
Fuel economy: 21 mpg city/27 mpg highway/25.1 mpg test
Fuel capacity: 13.2 gal.
Sticker: $26,550 (includes$745 delivery, processing and handling fee and $3,303 in options)
The Bottom Line: As one of the original crossovers, the RAV4 offers utility, sportiness and excellent ride quality with some new exciting technology. However, the fuel economy from the inline four cylinder engine left a lot to be desired, especially since we drove the RAV4 primarily on Interstates.

The Toyota RAV4 is a well-designed crossover/mini SUV that offers a great deal in a smaller package. For example, we found that the RAV4 offered roominess all around – the front sweats, the second row seats and the cargo area. Since we used the RAV4 for some extensive long-distance commuting, we found the ride quality to be excellent.

New to the RAV4 lineup this year is a 2.5-liter inline four cylinder engine that’s rated at 179 horsepower. While we felt the engine was peppy enough for most driving situations, and was strong enough to make entering highways a non-threatening situation, we fe lt the overall economy was poor. We drove more than 900 miles with more than 75 percent of that on Interstates, yet we could only achieve 25.1 mpg overall. Granted, this was close to the EPA estimate of 27 mpg highway, we still felt it was lower than we expected. We all expect fours to be noisy on acceleration, but this engine had a buzz to it most of the time.

We also felt the engine was noisier than it should have been, especially in highway conditions.

But that’s the only serious complaint with the RAV4, which is a fun vehicle to drive and comfortable.

For example, the rear cargo area has some practical and unique advantages. While there’s a normal empty space waiting to be filled, there’s also a “hammock” with a net that holds cargo above whatever is on the floor of the cargo area. For example, we used it to carry a birthday cake that we20didn’t want sliding all over the rear cargo area. The frame of this hammock is aluminum and we had some problems storing cargo underneath it, but it wasn’t so difficult to take away from its general utility.

The rear door to this cargo area opens like a door, not a hatch. Moving the door isn’t a problem, even with the external mounted spare tire.

Like many vehicles these days, the RAV4 is equipped with a back-up camera to give the driver an extra eye to show what’s behind the vehicle when backing up. The “screen” for this camera is not in the navigation system screen, but occupies the left side of the rearview mirror. While this location is unique, it did take some getting used to. I also thought the quality of the picture wasn’t that great, but it did show where the garage door was when I was backing up to prevent my damaging it. This is a $475 option.

The touch screen navigation system with the audio system is a $1,240 option. While the nav system was good and helped us find different locations, we were happiest with the audio system, which accepted AM/FM/CD/satellite radio and auxiliary inputs.

The steering wheel was comfortable and easy to hold onto on long drives. It’s a smart wheel, with audio and HVAC controls. The standard Toyota cruise control stalk was mounted behind the wheel on the right side and contributed to better fuel economy.

The front seats offer excellent ride comfort, even for long rides. The driver’s seat was 8-way power adjustable ($440 option).

The next most costly option was the tilt/slide moonroof ($900) that we didn’t use at all, even with some early spring warmth in the weather. Floor mats and cargo mats added an additional $248 to the cost of the RAV4.

On the interior, there’s a small cubby on the left side of the dash that’s ideal for a cell phone. There’s another deep cubby ahead of the shifter at the base of the center stack, and a small console beneath the center arm rest.

The RAV4 incorporates a pushbutton start/stop system. At one time I didn’t shut the engine off and walked away from the car. IT was only when another driver who was parked next tome called that I realized the problem. There’s a constant “beep” when you do this, but it’s like all the other beeps, I foolishly ignored it. The engine idles quietly.

All in all, the RAV4 is a nice vehicle with a lot of features that make it attractive. With high gas prices, I was concerned about the economy of the new four-cylinder engine, but other than that, the RAV4 met or exceeded all my expectations.

MORE: Toyota Specs, Comparisons and Prices-Toyota Buyers Guide

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