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2007 Toyota RAV4 Limited 4x2 Review

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2007 Toyota RAV4 Limited
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2007 Toyota RAV4 4x2 Limited

When the Toyota RAV4 first appeared here in 1996, it unknowingly heralded a revolution. It was the first SUV based on a car platform, and the timing was right. SUV popularity was booming, but most were still old-school trucks at heart, with comfort sacrificed for off-pavement ability. The "Recreational Active Vehicle with 4-wheel drive" was the first "crossover", the first vehicle to combine the look of an SUV with the comforts of a car, thanks to its unit construction and fully-independent suspension. It wasn't meant for serious off-road use, but even then most SUV buyers didn't go for serious off-road operation. With its greater ground clearance, the RAV4 could handle fire roads and winter driving better than a car, and was more comfortable and economical in daily use than a truck-based SUV.

By the time the second generation RAV4 debuted in 2001, the two-door model had disappeared, leaving only a four-door body style. The engine was still a 2.0-liter four-cylinder, and buyers had the choice of front- or single-range four-wheel drive. It was a little larger inside and out, and had a more mainstream look, more sport-ute than sport-cute. When the third generation RAV4 showed up last year, it didn't look all that different. But it was, and significantly. Styling changes were evolutionary, and hid a new platform with a longer, wider stance that seriously increased interior space - enough so an optional third-row seat could be outfitted. The four-cylinder engine increased in capacity to 2.4 liters, with 166 horsepower to the old 2.0-liter's 148. For the first time, a V6 was offered - and with 269 horsepower, a RAV4 so-equipped was no longer "cute but slow". Both powertrains were available in front- or single-range four-wheel drive form.

For 2007, the RAV4 is unchanged with one major exception: front seat-mounted side airbags and first- and second-row roll-sensing side curtain airbags, formerly optional, are now standard equipment. Three grades are offered - Standard, Sport, and Limited. Sport models get larger wheels and tires and sporty-looking trim; Limited models have more standard interior comfort and convenience items and a longer list of available comfort equipment.

I've just spent a week with a 2007 RAV4 in front-wheel drive, V6 Limited trim. It had all of the expected comfort, and plenty of interior space for passengers or cargo, with fore-and-aft adjustment of the second row and useable space in the third row - and cargo space behind with the third row up. It had all of the expected refinement in its ride comfort, quiet, and fit and finish. It also had an unexpected amount of raw power, something never experienced in a four-cylinder RAV4. It's almost as big as a Highlander now, but, especially in V6 form, has a much different and sportier character. With the full complement of modern electronic traction aids, the RAV4 V6 should be capable of dealing with all sane road conditions even in front-wheel drive form, and even light-duty dirt duty.

APPEARANCE: There is nothing radical about the newest RAV4's restyle. It's a little more angular, with emphasis on little, with less sculpting on the sides. It's also longer, by almost six inches in wheelbase and sixteen inches overall, which enhances its leaner, more toned look. Large, bright headlights, an upside-down trapezoid grille, chrome-trimmed for the Limited, and prominent wheel arches integrated with lower side molding give it the Toyota SUV family look. The rear is defined by large taillights and a side-hinged tailgate for easy access. The spare tire is mounted outside, on the tailgate, but does not significantly impede vision.

COMFORT: Design, construction, and judicious use of soundproofing materials keep the RAV4's interior noise levels pleasantly low. The interior restyle is similar to the exterior - evolutionary - and there is noticeably more leg, head, and shoulder room for everyone. Standard upholstery is a grippy middle-class synthetic cloth, although leather is available in the Limited; the steering wheel rim and shift knob are leather-trimmed. Bright "Optitron" instruments (in all models) are easily visible in all lighting, and there are plenty of storage spaces and cup and bottle holders throughout the cabin - even for third-row passengers. Both the standard and optional JBL sound systems play MP3 and WMA CDs and accept input from an external audio player via a jack in the console box. The Limited gets dual-zone automatic climate control. The high-eyepoint seating position gives everyone a good view, helped by a "theater-style" increase in cushion height toward the rear. The front buckets provide good comfort and support. The second row is split 60/40, with each side separately adjustable fore-and-aft and for back angle. Each side also folds flat, with the cushion automatically moving down and forward for a flat floor. With the second row seats fully back, legroom is excellent, although nonexistent for the third row. All the way forward, and three medium-sized people can fit in row two, with two more in row three. Still, as in any three-row vehicle under extra-large size, the third row is best thought of as seating for small people and short distances. With the third row down, there is plenty of cargo space. The seats can be raised and stowed easily and quickly from the rear, and when up, the wells in which they are stored are available for cargo storage.

SAFETY: The RAV4 has a full complement of active and passive, mechanical and electronic safety equipment. Its unibody structure is built with a reinforced cabin and front and rear crumple zones and energy-absorbing materials in the doors and roof. All seating positions feature adjustable headrests and three-point safety harnesses. The front airbags are designed to deploy according to crash severity, with an occupant classification system determining front passenger presence and weight. Seat-mounted front side and first- and second-row side curtain airbags are now standard, as is the STAR SAFETY SYSTEM(tm), which includes Vehicle Stability Control (VSC), traction control, and antilock brakes (ABS) with electronic brake force distribution (EBD) and brake assist (BA).

RIDE AND HANDLING: With its longer wheelbase, wider track, and improved structural rigidity and suspension, the new RAV4 feels stable and secure on the road. Its fully-independent MacPherson strut front, double wishbone rear suspension is tuned moderately firmly, for comfort and car-like handling. Electronic power steering allows variable assistance, for the right touch at any speed,and contributes to a turning circle that is smaller than that of the previous generation. Four-wheel antilock disc brakes stop well.

PERFORMANCE: Although the four-cylinder engine's additional power is offset by the new RAV4's increased size and weight, the V6 puts it in a new class. With 269 horsepower (at 6200 rpm) and 246 lb-ft of torque (at 4700 rpm), it's anything but weak. Typically for a Toyota engine, copious torque is available right off idle, and injudicious throttle application will give quick acquaintance with the traction-control system. The engine is a dual overhead cam, 24-valve alloy unit with Toyota's VVT-i variable cam phasing on both intake and exhaust cams for a broad spread of power with lower emissions and fuel consumption. It drives the wheels through a five-speed automatic transmission with uphill and downhill shift logic to hold lower gears on hills for optimum performance. It works very well. There is enough torque to be noticeable through the steering wheel during hard acceleration in the front-wheel drive model; the automatic single-range four-wheel drive system could reduce this, and add a measure of security in slippery conditions.

CONCLUSIONS: Toyota's RAV4 is growing up.

2007 Toyota RAV4 4x2 Limited

Base Price		 $ 25,020
Price As Tested		 $ 27,688
Engine Type		 dual overhead cam, 24-valve V6
			 with dual VVT-i
Engine Size		 3.5 liters / 211 cu. in.
Horsepower		 269 @ 6200 rpm
Torque (lb-ft) 		 246 @ 4700 rpm
Transmission		 5-speed electronically-controlled
Wheelbase/Length	          104.7 in. / 181.1 in.
Curb Weight		 3547 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower	 13.2
Fuel Capacity		 15.9 gal.
Fuel Requirement         	 87-octane unleaded regular gasoline
Tires			 P225/65 HR17 Yokohama Geolander
Brakes, front/rear	 vented disc / solid disc, ABS, BA, EBD,
			 VSC standard
Suspension, front/rear	 independent MacPherson strut /
		          independent double wishbone
Ground clearance           7.5 inches
Drivetrain             transverse front engine,
		              front-wheel drive

EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon
    city / highway / observed		22 / 29 / 23
0 to 60 mph				6.9  sec
Towing capacity, pounds		        2000 standard, 
                                        3500 with tow package

Option Package B: includes - 
  JBL 9-speaker AM/FM/CD audio with MP3 and WMA CD
  playback and auxiliary jack, satellite radio capability, and
  Bluetooth compatibility; third-row seat package; tow prep
  package			     	$ 1,500
Mudguards	                        	$    89
Rear bumper applique    	         $    75
VIP RS3200 security system      	$   359
Delivery charge			$   645