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2018 Toyota RAV4 Review

2018 Toyota RAV4 Review
The 2018 Toyota RAV4 has a lot going for it, including a hybrid model, but you’d be wise to cross-shop its rivals as well.

The 2018 Toyota RAV4 is one of the world's most popular cars thanks to its popularity. It's at home around town, on dusty trails, or in driveways—many, many, many driveways.

It deserves its popularity, at least for the most part. We’ve rated the 2018 RAV4 at 7.1 out of 10 points because of its roominess, its ride quality, and its high level of standard safety equipment.

The 2018 RAV4 is offered in LE, SE, Adventure, XLE, Limited, and Platinum trim levels with a choice of front- or all-wheel drive.

This year, the RAV4 can look a little tougher if the right options are selected. The new RAV4 Adventure trim level adds a modest suspension lift to both front- and all-wheel-drive versions. It’s not actually any more buff than before, but the roughly half inch of extra clearance should help it tackle trails—and maybe curbs—a little better than before. It’s joined by newly optional heated seats on the XLE trim level. Additionally, a Ruby Flame Pearl paint color has been added to the palette.

All versions of the RAV4 come standard with a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine mated to a 6-speed automatic, while the sporty SE and swanky Limited are available with a more powerful and efficient hybrid powertrain that pairs to a continuously variable transmission. Gas-only RAV4s are offered in front- and all-wheel drive, while all hybrids are fitted with a sophisticated electronic all-wheel-drive system to send power to each wheel.

The RAV4 rides comfortably and muffles out most road and wind roar, but non-hybrid models can feel pokey compared to rivals’ turbocharged engines.

RAV4s are available in a wide array of trim levels to fit any budget, but a fully loaded model can top $35,000. No matter how much you spend, you’ll net some important safety tech as standard like automatic emergency braking, automatic high-beam headlights, and adaptive cruise control.

The 2018 Toyota RAV4’s confused styling isn’t its biggest selling point.

The 2018 Toyota RAV4 is distinctive, but not altogether cohesive. This year’s Adventure trim level further muddies the waters. We figure it sets the bar for average in its segment, leading it to a 5 out of 10 for styling. 

The 2018 RAV4’s basic shape dates back a few years—to the 2013 model year, which means it has become a familiar sight on the road. It was updated for 2015 and carries into 2018 unchanged. A pinched front grille and narrow headlights give the RAV4 an avian look. From the side, its belt line swoops upward after the rear door to create a large rearmost roof rail that adds bulk but also cuts into visibility from the driver’s seat.

It’s the RAV4’s rear that seems most disjointed. There’s almost a shelf created by its chunky taillights that jut outward above a bulging rear end.

Even base model RAV4 LEs look reasonably dressy with their standard 17-inch alloy wheels, but only the RAV4 SE and Platinum trim levels are available with a monochromatic look instead of the unpainted rocker panel and wheel flare trim seen on the rest of the lineup.

Inside, the RAV4 is similarly cluttered. Its dashboard is upright and puts climate and audio controls at the top of the center stack, but secondary switches are tucked low and are hard to reach. A range of interior shades are on offer, but none elevate the RAV4’s inner trappings to those of the Honda CR-V or Mazda CX-3.

The Toyota RAV4 boasts a comfortable ride, but acceleration is hardly breathtaking.

The 2018 Toyota RAV4 offers a tepid, but relaxed driving experience. It’s not especially fun, but it’s fairly quiet and delivers composed, confident handling.

We’ve rated it a 6 out of 10 for its good ride quality. 

Most RAV4s feature a 2.5-liter inline-4 rated at 176 horsepower, but a 194-hp hybrid is also available. The non-hybrid RAV4 pairs its 4-cylinder engine to a 6-speed automatic. It’s smooth and refined unless pressed hard, but it doesn’t offer the oomph of extra-cost turbocharged engines in rivals like the Ford Escape and Subaru Forester.

The RAV4 Hybrid can scoot to 20 mph on electric power alone, but only if driven gingerly. It’s a fairly high-tech two-motor setup that combines a 2.5-liter gas engine similar to the non-hybrid with a 50-kw (67-hp) electric motor that powers the rear wheels when needed. It’s a boon for both wintry and slippery conditions and for straight-line acceleration since its 8.1-second 0-60 mph sprint is the fastest of any RAV4.

Generally speaking, the RAV4 Hybrid is just as refined as the standard model, but its engine does emit a tortured howl under heavy acceleration. Still, it’s the only hybrid crossover on the market.

Gas-only RAV4s are available with sunbelt-friendly front-wheel drive. All-wheel drive is an option on all models, even the new, raised-suspension RAV4 Adventure. All RAV4 Hybrids are all-wheel drive.

The all-wheel-drive system on gas models can split power between the front and rear axles at the press of a button at speeds below 25 mph, something that’s useful if you’re headed to work and the snow plows haven’t reached your street yet. With 6.5 inches of running ground clearance, the new RAV4 Adventure is not meant for heavy duty off-road use like some competitors.

All versions of the RAV4 ride well, especially LE and XLE models with their 17-inch alloy wheels. The RAV4 SE boasts a slightly stiffer suspension than other models, but it’s hardly punishing. We’ve not yet driven the RAV4 Adventure but will update this space when we know more.

The RAV4’s three-spoke, thick-rimmed steering wheel hints at handling tenacity, but no model is especially entertaining. The RAV4’s steering is light on center and delivers little road feel to the driver.

Comfort & Quality
The Toyota RAV4 isn’t flashy inside, but it is well-organized and quiet.

The 2018 Toyota RAV4 offers good interior room and solid build quality. It merits an 8 out of 10 on our scale. 

Front seat passengers are treated to chair-like thrones that offer good support. We like both the fabric and synthetic leather options, but find that the base LE’s manual adjusters can be a little cumbersome. A new addition this year is the option of heated and power-adjustable fabric seats on the RAV4 XLE; they’re highly recommended.

Only a steering wheel that doesn’t telescope far enough to the driver stands as a demerit up front.
The RAV4’s second row offers decent space for outboard passengers, but they’re flat and not particularly well-contoured. Unlike a handful of rivals, there’s no third row in the RAV4—although the previous generation of this crossover offered one that was suitable for children.

A low load floor makes tossing cargo aboard easy. There’s 38.4 cubic feet of space available with the second row upright and a hefty 73.4 cubes with the second row folded.

The RAV4 is nicely screwed together, but few of its materials impart an upscale feel. That’s all right at LE and XLE price points, but the $35,000-plus commanded by the RAV4 Platinum should at least deliver real leather upholstery and a few more soft-touch panels.

On the other hand, the RAV4 does an admirable job of muffling the outside world. Since this generation’s introduction, Toyota has added more sound-deadening and installed acoustic glass around the front passenger compartment.

Lots of safety equipment makes the 2018 Toyota RAV4 a good choice.

A strong safety record and lots of standard collision-avoidance tech help elevate the 2018 Toyota RAV4’s safety score to an admirable 8 out of 10 on our scale. 

There are some caveats, but not too many. All RAV4s come with a high degree of safety equipment in addition to the federally mandated airbags, every trim level has a rearview camera, forward-collision warnings, automatic emergency braking, automatic high-beam headlights, and adaptive cruise control.

Certain trim levels can even be fitted with a surround-view camera system that offers a bird's-eye view of the RAV4's surroundings. That’s helpful considering over-the-shoulder visibility isn’t tops among small crossovers. Blind-spot monitors and rear cross-traffic alerts are also on the options list.

The IIHS scores the RAV4 exceptionally well—as high as its Top Safety Pick score, although that figure is only applicable certain trim levels with LED headlights. The halogen beams on lower-spec RAV4s rate only “Marginal.”

Worryingly, the passenger side, small overlap protection is rated as "Poor" in the RAV4.

Meanwhile, the federal government rates the RAV4 at five stars overall, albeit only four stars for side-impact protection and four stars for rollover.

There are many trim levels available on the 2018 Toyota RAV4, but none feel especially decadent.

With nine available trim levels, the 2018 Toyota RAV4 lineup is one of the broadest among compact crossovers. Base models are well-outfitted with decent equipment and we’ve awarded more points for a large infotainment screen and myriad trim configurations available.

That brings the RAV4 to an 8 out of 10—but don’t look for conveniences like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

The 2018 RAV4’s story begins with the entry-level RAV4 LE, which includes few surprises: power windows and locks, Bluetooth integration, a 6.1-inch touchscreen infotainment system, and a USB port. Smartly, even the entry-level infotainment system can be paired to a smartphone for on-screen navigation.

The RAV4 XLE adds some niceties like a moonroof, automatic climate control, and fog lights. The XLE trim level is now available with heated and power-adjustable front seats, as well as a package that combines keyless ignition, a power liftgate, blind-spot monitors, rear cross-traffic alerts, parking sensors, and navigation.

Next up is the new RAV4 Adventure, which pairs the XLE’s equipment level with some racier styling bits and a roughly half-inch suspension lift.

The RAV4 SE goes in a different direction with a firmer suspension, paddle shifters, LED headlights, a black-accented interior, and 18-inch alloy wheels in place of other models’ 17s, and a power driver’s seat. Monochromatic paint is optional, as is a JBL audio system.

Next up is the dressier RAV4 Limited, which features synthetic leather upholstery, keyless ignition, a power tailgate, and a 7.0-inch infotainment screen with integrated navigation. JBL speakers and a surround-view camera are on the RAV4 Limited’s options list.

Topping the lineup is the RAV4 Platinum. In addition to its body-color rocker panels, it features a surround-view camera system, a foot-activated power liftgate, and a heated steering wheel.

Toyota offers the RAV4 SE and Limited with both gas and hybrid powertrains. RAV4 Hybrid models’ equipment essentially mirrors that on the gas models.

A few features aren’t available on any RAV4 but can be found in a slew of rivals: real leather upholstery, cooled front seats, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto.

The base 6.1-inch and optional 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment systems are easy to use but we’ve found that some rivals have crisper, larger displays. However, kudos to Toyota for offering app-based navigation that runs off of a connected phone’s data plan at all trim levels. It’s not the best system, but the price is right and we’d rather have a navigation display on the dash than on our smartphones.

Fuel Economy
The 2018 Toyota RAV4 delivers decent, but not exceptional, fuel consumption.

The 2018 Toyota RAV4 offers competitive, but not class-leading fuel economy—unless you opt for the pricey RAV4 Hybrid. 

We’ve rated the 2018 RAV4 lineup with 7 out of 10 points for its efficiency, but you’ll want to shop carefully if it’s a miserly crossover you’re after. Some versions of the RAV4 are less thirsty than others.

RAV4 LE and XLE trim levels are the most efficient among non-hybrids at 23 mpg city, 30 highway, 26 combined with front-wheel drive and 22/28/25 mpg with all-wheel drive.

Higher-spec versions with larger wheels rate 23/29/25 mpg with front-wheel drive and 22/28/24 mpg with all-wheel drive.

Toyota hasn’t yet released fuel economy figures for the RAV4 Adventure, but we will update this space when we know if its suspension lift has any impact on the EPA’s test.

Predictably, the RAV4 Hybrid is the greenest of the pack at 34/30/32 mpg with its standard all-wheel drive.

All versions of the 2018 Toyota RAV4 run on regular unleaded gasoline.



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