Review: 2015 Toyota RAV4 Limited

The RAV4 has long been a favorite for families. How does the latest model stack up against the competition in an ever-changing market?

Under the Hood

The 2015 Toyota RAV4 comes standard with a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine that makes a satisfactory 176 horsepower and 172 lb-ft of torque. That horsepower is sent to the front wheels via a 6-speed automatic transmission. All trim levels of the RAV4 feature ECO and Sport mode options. ECO mode configures accelerator input and climate control operation to increase fuel efficiency while Sport mode sharpens steering, throttle response, and shift timing while altering torque distribution to limit understeer.

2015 Toyota RAV4Exterior

In a vehicle class that can tend toward vanilla or straight-up unattractive exterior design, the 4th Generation RAV4 stands apart from its competitors with a strong appearance. Compact crossovers often look too much alike and require finding the brand logo or some other badging to figure out what you are looking at. There’s no real danger of that happening with the RAV4.

The tall front end contributes to an overall stout look while a little bit of slope in the grille area adds some variety and an element of sleekness. The sportiness of the RAV4’s profile is aided by a slight downward curve of the roofline toward the rear. Toyota has recently moved to a design theme in their crossovers that has strong creases running along the beltline to taillights at the rear that jut out a little on the side. This element helps to communicate the idea of strength and sportiness. The creases along the RAV4 profile are no exception and work well with wheel wells that bulge a little over the tires.

2013ToyotaRAV4035Interior

Inside the RAV4 is a contrast of modern and dated. The seats in our test vehicle were fantastic dark gray trimmed in a color similar to that of natural leather; a color Toyota calls Terra Cotta. The steering wheel and other interior trim pieces were the Terra Cotta color. The modernity of the interior is in the material used to cover these pieces.

The interior upholstery material was a synthetic leather alternative called SofTex (a thermoplastic polyurethane for those of you who speak science). SofTex has been around for a few years and is recently becoming a popular replacement for leather and other synthetic leathers. Toyota claims production of the material generates 85% less CO2, and 99% less Volatile Organic Compounds than other synthetic leathers. The material is touted as being cooler than other alternatives as it reflects the sun’s infrared rays which are apparently the seat heating culprit.

We can’t really attest the ability of SofTex to battle the fanny warming infrared or its ability to save the planet, but we can say we really liked it. It looks good (a lot like leather) and is spill and stain resistant. The stitching around the seams was even and as far as we could tell flawless. Fit and finish of the other materials and interior parts was to the high standard we have come to expect from the Toyota family of vehicles.

2013ToyotaRAV4026Seating/Storage

The seats were comfortable enough to ride around town most of the day and all four seats were plenty roomy—leg roomy and hip roomy. That does say all four seats. Toyota, like all auto manufacturers likes to claim seating for more than they reasonably accommodate. They claim the RAV4 seats five, but we don’t recommend trying it.

Cargo room in the rear was pleasing with plenty of room for a family of four to stow their day-to-day necessities. The person in charge of grocery getting will appreciate the room for a weekly grocery haul and plenty of space for a reasonable amount of warehouse club loot. The liftgate is a winner when it comes to loading your purchases as it spans almost the entire width of the RAV4’s back end. When open it allows for maximum side-to-side clearance for loading and unloading cargo.

2013ToyotaRAV4033Infotainment

The Limited trim line comes standard with the Entune Multimedia Bundle. This includes an appropriate for its space 6.1” touchscreen with split screen display, CD player, a USB port, an auxiliary audio jack, and iPod connectivity. The screen accesses the Entune Premium Audio with Navigation App Suite which is also standard equipment in our test vehicle. As always, Toyota’s Entune system is easy to use with intuitive controls.

The touchscreen was mounted high in the center stack to help keep eyes on the road. The stack was set in a dash made up of what looked and felt like high quality plastic with some parts trimmed in that delightful fake leather. The rest of the dash and stack area provide the dated portion of the interior contrast.

Steering wheel controls and the buttons surrounding the touchscreen looked dated. They don’t necessarily look ancient or from a bygone era, they just look stale compared to the freshness the other surrounding materials provide. Other elements of the interior design were a hodgepodge of materials collected from other Toyota vehicles with no apparent rhyme or reason. Two of the HVAC vents were round and two were rectangular, and a trim piece in the console around the cupholders and shifters was a plastic carbon fiber lookalike that didn’t match anything else in the vehicle. To Toyota’s credit, there was not that ring of faux chrome we have grown to hate for its ability to reflect sun into our eyes.

2013ToyotaRAV4030The console did feature a couple of useful elements. A small indentation served as a shallow tray served as a spot for small items. An odd triangular well took advantage of extra space and held a medium sized smartphone nicely. A cupholder was mounted in each end of the console proved useful with one even featuring an easily removable insert that allowed a level of customization for cups being held. The top of the console was a SofTex wrapped armrest which served as a lid for an average sized storage bin.

The Drive

Most drivers will be happy with the RAV4’s 176 horsepower. It is adequate to drive around town, and is enough to get down an interstate access ramp with confidence to safely merge into speed limit traffic. The RAV4 does that scooting around town and down the interstate while sipping fuel. We experienced MPG’s high 20’s with our combined driving and expect we could have crossed the 30 mark with a solid stretch of highway driving.

The RAV4 has a nice turning radius for a vehicle its size, and is easy to maneuver through parking lots and city streets. Highway driving is a different story altogether and turned an otherwise vanilla driving experience into a chore. Trying to drive in a straight line at highway speeds required constant input to keep us centered in our lane. The steering wheel felt as if it was constantly trying to return to center, but to a center that wasn’t on center. It was odd, and tiring.

Important Numbers for Families 

  • 2 – When purchased or leased new, the RAV4 comes with a complimentary maintenance plan. For two years or 25,000 miles, whichever comes first, every new Toyota will be covered for all normal factory scheduled service, as well as 24/7 roadside assistance.
  • 2016 – The new model of the RAV4 debuted at the New York International Auto Show earlier this year which means you’ll soon be able to grab this model on the cheap.

Family 5 Test

  1. Car Seats –  The RAV4 was made for hauling around families and its two-car seat capacity works swimmingly.
  2. Coffee Cups – The purposefully positioned cupholders- one near the front of the center console for the driver and one toward the rear for the passenger makes sense. They’re functional and fit in nicely with the rest of the console’s design.
  3. Luggage –  The RAV4 is a classic case of “it fits more than it looks like it should.” When it comes to families, that’s HUGE but the storage space isn’t HUGE so keep the dimensions of your pack ‘n play and lacrosse bag in mind when you’re testing if it will work for your family.
  4. Golf Clubs – There’s room in the cargo area for the golf sticks but you’ll want to play around with their positioning if you’re expecting to fit more than one bag. Lower the second row seating and that problem is solved.
  5. Groceries – Feeding your family? Unless you’re serving as the head caterer for a wedding, you’ll find there’s plenty of space for everyday shopping needs.

The Bottom Line

The RAV4 provides good looks, excellent for its class fuel economy, and the utility expected in a compact crossover. If you are looking for these attributes as a city dweller, we recommend it. If your commute/regular driving has you spending time on an interstate, test drive the RAV4 on such a road to be sure you are ok with the arm workout.

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To see more pictures and video from this vehicle test and future tests, follow Drive My Family on InstagramTwitterFacebook, and Vine (@DriveMyFamily).

images courtesy of Toyota
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