2017 Toyota RAV4 AWD Platinum Review

The crossover that appeals to many and offends virtually no one


Amos Kwon, Editor-In-Chief



Positives: Good steering and chassis, quite attractive in silver with premium wheels, remarkably comfortable, easy to drive, an almost perfect crossover.
Negatives: Front fascia still looks pinched, strange dash design, no available leather seating, infotainment system is in need of a design update, audio tuning knob is too far from the driver.
Bottom Line: In top trim, the RAV4 is a truly appealing crossover that gives you just about everything you want in the segment. It not only looks great and provides a high level of occupant comfort, it drives better than you'd expect from a mass market crossover that's not geared towards enthusiasts. It's one of those vehicles that provides excellent everyday utility and drivability.
The Toyota RAV4 has established itself has one of the most popular vehicles on the planet, and it's surprisingly been around for almost a quarter of a century. This year so far, it's the 9th best-selling vehicle in America, outpacing even the once dominant Honda Accord and eclipsing other crossovers like the Ford Escape and the Jeep Cherokee. The reason why? It's one of the best all-around vehicles on the planet, and it has the still bulletproof Toyota reputation to back it up.

Driving Experience

7

 

The RAV4 is one of those crossovers that's just about perfect for the car owner who wants ease. There's nothing difficult or challenging about the way it drives. In a word, the driving experience is a soft, comfortable one. This is also a big reason why the RAV4 has been a huge success since its inception. It won't quicken the pulse due to its soft nature, but it might just calm the nerves due to its true ease with which it drives.

Ride Quality: If an affordable midsize crossover could feel luxurious in its ride, the RAV4 does it masterfully. It absorbs bumps and bad pavement incredibly well with its soft suspension.

Acceleration: The throttle response is pretty good, but the RAV4 is on the slower side. The 2.5-liter four-cylinder churns out 176 horsepower, which is sufficient for most daily driving situations. Highway passing can be a challenge, though. The CVT and engine combo is noisy, but both work well together.

Braking: The brakes are progressive, and pedal feel is good. Though they're not powerful, stopping distances are respectable. Standard pre-collision braking certainly helps mitigate this in emergency situations.

Steering: Steering is predictable but feels dull and light, which shouldn’t be a big deal for the average driver.

Handling: There's some body roll, but the RAV4 manages turns decently and without drama or concern. Just don't push it too hard into the curves, and you'll manage just fine.

Technology

6.7

 

Like just about everything else in the RAV4, the tech is useful but a bit generic. In the XLE, however, just about everything you'd need comes standard. The system works pretty seamlessly, and it's all very intuitive in its use.

Infotainment System: The 7-inch touchscreen is clear, but the graphics are a bit on the dull side, though it's pretty easy to read everything, even in bright sunlight. We would like to see more vivid colors, which would only help the visibility.

Controls: Knobs for audio are a good thing, but the tuning knob is too far from the driver. Everything else is accessible and easy to use, though a bit plain in terms of design.

Bluetooth Pairing: Toyota's Entune system is pretty much one of the quickest. We had no problems pairing our smartphones.

Voice Call Quality: Clear and unobstructed transmission. Phone calls were never a problem.

Styling

6.5

 

The RAV4 has a generic crossover shape, but Toyota did a good job of cleaning up the front and rear of the car last year. The XLE trim, especially with silver paint and upgraded wheels, actually looks quite good.We just wish the interior would get more attention, despite its functionality and build quality.

Front: Toyota doesn't do a big grille on its small crossover the way it does on its bigger cars like the Avalon, but the front end of the RAV4 looks better than the previous version despite the "pinched" look.

Rear: The RAV4's tail section is generic but not unattracive. The wraparound taillights give it width, and there's nothing overstyled about it.

Profile: The RAV4's most prominent feature in profile view is its nicely sloping roof that gives it a more sporty look. In XLE guise, the dark trim around the base of the doors and the wheel wells gets matched to the body color, which gives the RAV4 a decidedly more upscale appearance. We even got a few compliments from the neighbors.

Cabin: It's the RAV4's biggest design demerit. The odd, amorphous dashboard has a somewhat useless shallow storage section, and the overall design of the interior is in need of a redo. We won't call it an eyesore, but competitors like the Honda CR-V and the Mazda CX-5 (especially for 2018) are far better.

Comfort

8

 

Comfort is the RAV4's strong suit, not just in terms of ride quality but also passenger space. Nice luxury features such as a heated steering wheel, a power liftgate, and a 360-degree-view camera system were all present on our tester, which ups the RAV4's appeal factor.

Front Seats: In a couple of words, just fine. Most occupants will feel at home in these seats with good cushioning and a modidcum of bosltering. Oh, one major gripe. Leather seats aren't even optional for this $30k+ crossover. Wha?? That being said, the SofTex vinyl is pretty good.

Rear Seats: The 2nd row seats provide excellent legroom and headroom, and the reclining feature for the 60/40 split fold seats provides additional comfort.

NVH (noise/vibration/harshness): The RAV4 also has a comfortable and quiet ride, with the only noticeable noise coming from the sometimes intrusive 4-cylinder engine when it's worked like a show pony.

Visibility: Visibility all around is pretty good, though the rear pillars are on the thick side.

Climate: The automatic climate control system is very good, and the heated seats and steering wheel work very well. We wish the top trim vehicle had a cooling function for the seats.

Safety

9.3

 

For an affordable crossover, the RAV4 is about as safe as it gets, nailing crash tests and providing a great set of safety features. What it lacks in looks and driving fun, it easily provides in terms of peace of mind when it comes to protecting you and your family.

IIHS Rating: It get the Top Safety Pick+ with "good" scores across the board for crash testing. For accident avoidance tech, it scores "superior", and gets "acceptable" with the XLE's headlights. Child LATCH system ease of use gets a "good", to the relief of parents of small children everywhere.

Standard Tech: The 2017 RAV4 now has a long list of active-safety equipment that's standard. The Toyota Safety Sense-P comes with forward-collision warning, lane-departure alert, lane-keeping assist, adaptive cruise control, and automatic high-beam headlights.

Optional Tech: None.

Storage/Cargo

8.6

 

Toyota is typically very conscientious about providing good storage and cargo space for most of its vehicles, even if their interiors could use a bump in style. The RAV4 is no different. It provides copious amounts of space for occupants and gear throughout the cabin.

Storage Space: The tray at the base of the center stack is flat and convenient for phones, etc., and the armrest, though short, has enough depth for larger items. The separated cupholders (one in front of the shifter, and one behind) is a bit odd but not inconvenient. The door pockets have good space but have some odd holes that seem to serve no purpose except to remind you that you left something in there.

Cargo Room: The RAV4’s cargo area has 38 cubic feet of easily accessible space with all seats in place and 73 cubic feet when folded flat. It's very useful space and one of the RAV4's strong points.

Fuel Economy

5.8

 

The RAV4's gas mileage won't set any enviro-hearts aflutter, but it's acceptable. We just wish the power delivery was stronger when efficiency is sacrificed a tad. The Hyundai Santa Fe 2.0t Sport gets 20/27 compared to the RAV4's 22/28, and the Hyundai has almost 100 more horsepower. Yeesh.

Observed: 24.6 combined.

Distance Driven: 243.2 miles

Driving Factors: We drove our tester for a full week in city and highway driving, typically with aggressive acceleration in Sport mode. Higher mpg numbers will be easily attainable with more conservative driving, but 28 mpg takes serious restraint.

Audio

8.6

 

The Entune Premium JBL audio system sounds great, providing clear and crisp music, whether streaming or via radio or satellite radio. It come standard on the XLE, which is a nice addition to a solid tech package.



Final Thoughts

Though the RAV4 isn't dynamic to drive or head-turning in terms of styling, it makes a great case for buying a crossover. All-wheel drive, real space and comfort, and premium safety scores make it an attractive buy. The RAV4 will easily satisfy most car shoppers who are looking for a truly useful, everyday crossover. In XLE trim, we liked the RAV4 far better than we though we would. Competitors like the Mazda CX-5 and Kia Sportage drive better and look better, but the RAV4 has the advantage in terms of mass appeal. We're sure the next-generation RAV4, whenever that's due to come, will amp up the styling inside and out, but Toyota needs to retain its hold on space and comfort if it plans to deliver a true contender as other manufacturers continue to improve their games.
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