The Toyota RAV4 delivers a smooth, stable ride. In the Sport variant, the suspension is tuned toward handling over smoothness. Steering response is confident, there's moderate body lean in corners, but dive under braking and squat when accelerating are well controlled. The brake pedal feels firm.
Depending on the engine, response to the gas pedal is either prompt or borderline overwhelming. The four-cylinder engine produces 179 horsepower at 6000 rpm and 172 pound-feet of torque at 4000 rpm. Designed specifically for low internal friction and high fuel efficiency, the 2.5-liter engine applies Toyota's Variable Valve Timing with intelligence (VVT-i) to both intake and exhaust valves, rather than the intakes only.
The four-cylinder engine is partnered with a four-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission that is compact, lightweight and efficient.
The EPA estimates for the four-cylinder RAV4 are 22 mpg city/28 mpg highway with FWD, and 21/27 mpg city/highway with 4WD.
The optional V6, with its head-of-the-class 269 horsepower and 246 pound-feet of torque, is a different story. With its impressive acceleration comes torque steer, particularly in front-wheel drive models. V6 sounds much better than a four. In addition, the V6 is matched to a five-speed automatic transmission.
The RAV4's on-demand four-wheel-drive system uses an electronically-controlled center coupling to distribute torque between the front and rear wheels, depending on road conditions and driver input. The system can continuously and seamlessly switch from front-wheel-drive to four-wheel-drive mode, maximizing fuel efficiency.
A 4WD manual locking switch will disengage the Auto mode, maximizing torque to the rear wheels. When vehicle speed reaches 25 mph, Lock mode will disengage, reverting back to Auto mode. Lock mode also disengages when the brakes are applied, optimizing operation of the ABS and electronic stability control (VSC) system. FWD models come equipped with an automatic limited slip differential.
Hill-start Assist Control provides additional control for on-road and off-road driving by helping to keep the vehicle stationary while starting on a steep incline or slippery surface. Downhill Assist Control is designed to enhance low-speed descending ability by helping to hold the vehicle to a target speed with minimal intervention from the driver.
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