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2017 Toyota RAV4 Platinium AWD Review By Steve Purdy

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Review by Steve Purdy
The Auto Channel
Michigan Bureau

Our flavor-of-the-week review car, the 2017 Toyota RAV4, awaited us at the airport as we flew back from a week exploring South Texas and the San Antonio area. The attractive little thing caught our eye in the parking lot with its classy “Magnetic Grey” color and modern good looks with sporty black trim. The complex, wedge-shaped front fascia with deep cheek vents features a prominent Toyota badge within a horizontal grille piece at the leading edge of the wedge. Distinctive sculpting along the sides move smoothly up and rearward keeping the eye moving. Taillights jut decisively from the rear flank for a bit of extra drama around the rear. Big wheels and tires help give it a confident stance.

We were surprised to see over 37-grand on the sticker’s bottom line but this Platinum AWD version is pretty well loaded. You can get the basic RAV4 without any options for less than 25, and that one is pretty well equipped for an entry level, mainstream small crossover. This Platinum trim level comes with two-tone leather, LED head and taillights, 18-inch alloy wheels, power liftgate, power moonroof, dual-zone HVAC, navigation with 7-inch touchscreen, smart key with pushbutton start, heated front seats and steering wheel, bird’s-eye camera view, tons of safety and driver assistance features, a whole lot of premium trim and other extras.

In spite of being a compact crossover we had plenty of room in back for our luggage – a nearly-class-leading 38.4 cubic-feet with seatbacks in place. Lowering the rear seat backs is easy but returning them to upright position takes two hands. In addition to the seat backs folding, the seat bases disengage from their mooring and rock forward and down a bit for a little extra utility. Ingress and egress from the cabin was easy. Not so with many small cars and crossovers.

Inside, we find typical Toyota thoughtful design in terms of handiness, comfort and conservative aesthetics. We’re not expecting a luxury car experience but materials, fit and finish are mostly excellent. I was not impressed with the seat leather, but being two-toned adds substantial visual appeal. The seat itself was surprisingly comfortable even for a big guy like me. A small shelf across the right side of the dash and another at the base of the center stack make excellent use of limited space. The USB, auxiliary and power outlets are right where they ought to be in that base-of-the-center-stack slot. We found the multifunction touch screen quite easy to manage and about as intuitive as any. Fit, finish and materials are good but certainly stops short of luxury car pretense.

The relatively lithe, 3,500-pound RAV4’s powertrain is a tepid but adequate 2.5-liter, naturally-aspirated, four-cylinder making just 176 horsepower and 172 pound-feet of torque. The conventional 6-speed automatic transmission is calibrated to make it quite responsive on the low end. Acceleration is good on full throttle though it can be a bit wheezy. The EPA estimates you’ll get around 22 mpg in the city and 28 on the highway and 24 mph combined. That’s just about what we experienced. Lots of competitors do better in this category and many have turbos for extra power and torque. The 15.9-gallon fuel tank means you’ll have a range of 400 miles or more.

Driving dynamics are as good as anything in its class. We wouldn’t expect it to be particularly sporty, quick or agile, but it scores decently in all these categories. Suspension is of conventional design and tuning. Only someone with heightened skills in the evaluation of chassis dynamics would be able to find fault. I found it a pleasant and modestly entertaining car to live with.

Toyota’s new vehicle warranty covers the whole vehicle for 3 years or 36,000 miles and the powertrain for 5 years or 60,000 miles. You also get two years of scheduled maintenance. While this warranty is near the low end of the competition Toyota’s legendary quality and dependability will carry the day for many buyers.

We don't think of Toyota vehicles being in the “near-luxury” category but this one’s price approaches that. Here is a list of SUV’s that have an MSRP of $35-40,000 so you can compare what you can buy in that price range and EVERY OTHER. In terms of quality, design and ambiance the RAV4 can compare itself to those but interior elegance and powertrain sophistication hold it back. Still, matching content, performance and dependability make it deserving of a spot on your shopping list.

© Steve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions, All Rights Reserved