2006 was a big year for the littlest Toyota truck. The RAV4 sport utility vehicle got a couple of extra cylinders and a third-row seat. I know, I know…a third-row seat in a mini-ute? I think we might justly term that overkill, eh? But the other addition, the V6 engine out of the Avalon was most welcome. But you know, as I have just written that last sentence, I’m not sure I completely agree because the standard four-cylinder unit in the RAV4 is so darned nice. But now, the whole shebang is infinitely better.
Let’s start with the basics. The RAV4 is bigger these days, ergo that third seat. It is now 14 inches longer and is only a little over 3 inches shorter than it’s bigger brother the Highlander. The overall shape and proportions seem the same so the size increase is deceptive, but it is rapidly becoming a pretty large little truck. That means it is a pretty roomy little truck. In fact, as I spent a week in the splendid little Toyota, I found myself wondering just who needs more? I know, if you have more than two kids or haul a lot of life debris on a regular basis, you might. But let’s all be brutally honest in this era of expensive gas. The class of vehicle represented by the RAV4 and its competitors is more than adequate for most of the sport ute buyers out there.
The shape is angular and quite attractive. Now, our Sport 4-wheel-drive model had the third seat, and frankly, it is mainly for bragging rights. It is tiny and eats into the cargo area that is part of the reason you buy an SUV. It will no doubt help resale, but as a practical matter, it’s just an upholstered cargo shelf.
The cabin of the new RAV4 is just plain gorgeous. The dash sloped down from both sides toward the middle and is a two-tiered affair. It is both futuristic and tasteful. All the seats were covered in very durable-looking cloth and were both firm and comfortable.
Power comes from the standard 2.5-liter dual-overhead-cam engine which cranks out 179 horsepower. Our test truck had the optional 3.5-liter V6 produces 269 ponies. No manual tranny is offered, and that’s a shame. A slick Toyota stick shift would wring all the performance out of either engine that you could ever want.
The RAV 4 ranges from a base price of $22,475 to just over $25,000 for the high zoot Limited model. That’s a lot of scratch, but the new Toyota RAV4 is now playing against bigger boys. It has become a legitimate competitor for what we used to call “mid-sized” sport utility vehicles.
So as you look at a Grand Cherokee or Explorer, you might just check it out and see if the RAV4 fits the bill. It certainly would rack up lower gas bills. And later this year, an all-electric model is coming.
It’s official now. This is all getting very confusing.