2020 Toyota RAV4 Auto Channel Review by Chicago Car Guy Larry Nutson
Five generations and holding strong
By Larry Nutson
Executive Editor and Bureau Chief
The Auto Channel
It seems like the RAV4 has been around forever. Actually, it’s been around since 1995.
It was the first of the compact crossover SUVs to come onto the U.S. automotive scene. Last year the RAV4 was the best selling compact crossover SUV in the U.S. Toyota’s Recreational Activity Vehicle is its best-selling model and the best-selling non-pickup small SUV vehicle in America for the past two years.
For 2019 it got a complete redesign. Now for 2020 a new TRD Off-Road model has been added for the adventurous type. Android Auto had been added to Apple CarPlay and Amazon Alexa compatibility across all trims.
The RAV4 2020 lineup includes an array of different trims with a choice of a conventional gasoline engine or a hybrid powertrain, as well as both front-wheel or all- wheel drive. Seating is for five. Around 181 inches long with 37.5 cu.ft. of cargo space, the RAV4 is a versatile SUV suitable for urban and, of course, suburban use. RAV4’s capabilities can be pushed a bit further with a max. cargo room of 69.8 cu.ft. with the rear set folded, a ground clearance of around 8.5 inches for occasional unpaved road excursions, and a towing capacity of 1,500 lbs., with two trims capable of 3,500 lbs.
A 203-horsepower 2.5-liter 4-cylinder with an 8-speed automatic transmission powers the conventional gasoline engine models. The RAV4 Hybrid uses a 176-horsepower 2.5-L engine paired with an electric motor for a combined system 219-horsepower. The Hybrid is offered in AWD only and a CVT automatic transmission gets the power to the wheels. Of note, the Hybrid is both the better performing and better fuel economy RAV4 and can tow up to 1,750 bs.
EPA test cycle ratings for gasoline engine models range from 25 to 28 city mpg and 32 to 35 highway mpg depending on FWD or AWD as well as trim level. The Hybrid is rated at 41 mpg city and 38 mpg highway.
Trim levels with the conventional gasoline engine are LE, XLE, XLE Premium, Adventure, TRD Off-Road and Limited. Hybrids are offered in LE, XLE, XSE and Limited trims. Base prices start at $25,950 and run up to $36,880 plus a $1,120 destination and handling charge.
For my Chicagoland RAV4 experience I drove a Limited AWD model with a base price of $35,780. A Weather package for $1,015 added heated front and rear outboard seats, a heated leather-trimmed steering wheel, and rain sensing wipers with de-ice function. An Advanced Technology package for $1,025 added smart key system, hands free liftgate, wireless smartphone charging, and 360-degree camera. Panoramic glass roof was another $200, plus there were a few more options. Running boards for $549 caught my attention, since even at 8.5 inches of ground clearance the step-in and -out is not that high. Although, for someone with mobility challenges they may help out. The bottom line on this Limited AWD totaled $40,385.
Toyota’s Safety Sense suite of advanced driver-assist safety (ADAS) features is standard across the board. More information and details can be found at www.toyota.com.
I liked the looks of the RAV4 in its latest iteration. The bolder, more distinctive styling is pleasing. The interior is more refined and exudes a bit of elegance in look and feel., especially with the Nutmeg trim of my test car. There’s an abundant use of soft-touch materials on the dash and armrest. I really liked the entire center stack set up. There’s plenty of room inside, both front and rear, along with decent cargo space. The 11- speaker JBL audio in the Limited cranked out some nice sounds.
A bit more get-up-and-go than the 203-horsepower engine provides would be nice to have, making the Hybrid a consideration from this point alone. Overall noise level inside the cabin is not objectionable, except the engine does become a bit more noticeable when pushed hard.
I’m interested to drive the new for 2020 TRD Off-Road model that has specific upgrades to its suspension, wheels and tires designed for off-roading. It also has an enhanced all- wheel drive system with dynamic torque vectoring and driveline disconnect.
Coming back to that first model RAV4 from 25 years ago. I remember driving that as part of a strategic analysis program I was a part of doing work for another automaker.
We’ve come a long way. SUVs have evolved to crossover SUVs (XSUV) with more car like and refined design and features along with lower fuel consumption. The RAV4 of today certainly is a good example of a competent entry in the marketplace. No wonder it’s a best seller.
And, a bit more excitement is coming in the form of the 302-horspeower Toyota RAV4 Prime, a 2021 model that will arrive in summer 2020. It’ll be the most powerful and quickest RAV4 ever while also being the most fuel-efficient. © 2020 Larry Nutson, the Chicago Car Guy