A 179-horsepower, 2.5L 4-cylinder engine is standard on the RAV4, with a 269-hp, 3.5L V6 available. The 4-cylinder utilizes variable valve timing for both intake and exhaust valves, along with a variable induction system to assure good low-RPM torque. The 4-cylinder includes a 4-speed automatic transmission, while the V6 is matched to a 5-speed automatic; both transmissions have a grade logic that reduces the frequency of shifting on steep, curvy roads.
Both engines can be paired with either front-wheel drive or a 4-wheel-drive system that includes an auto mode that automatically sends torque to the wheels that can better use it; a "lock" mode maximizes the torque going to the rear wheels for use at low speeds. V6 models and 4-cylinder models with the third-row seat, also get Hill-start Assist Control and Downhill Assist Control devices that help maintain control when negotiating steep, slippery slopes.
Fuel economy is quite good with either engine. A 4-cylinder RAV4 equipped with front-wheel-drive returns 22 mpg in the city and 28 mpg on the highway. The front-wheel-drive V6 is rated at 19 city, 27 highway, yet it is still capable of propelling the RAV4 to 60 mph in under seven seconds.
The RAV4's interior is more on par with mid-size crossover SUVs. Third-row seating is available, and helps the SUV accommodate seven. Models without the third-row seat get an added under-floor storage compartment, while the third-row seats fold neatly into the floor. The RAV4's 60/40-split second row slides fore and aft to reach a compromise for passengers and cargo, and they tilt forward and fold flat to further expand cargo space.
Safety features include front seat-mounted side airbags, front active headrests and roll-sensing side-curtain bags that cover the first and second rows. Anti-lock brakes with brake assist are also included, as is a sophisticated electronic stability control system that is integrated with the RAV4's electronic power steering.
The RAV4 is offered in Base, Sport and Limited trims; all are offered with either engine and drive system. Equipment even on the Base model is generous, including keyless entry, cruise control, air conditioning and a 6-speaker MP3-compatible sound system with Bluetooth connectivity. The Sport brings a sport-tuned suspension, larger alloy wheels, fog lamps, roof rails and other appearance extras, while the Limited steps up to a power driver's seat, dual-zone climate control, steering-wheel audio controls, chrome interior accents, integrated satellite radio and a 6-disc CD changer. Top options include a moonroof, leather upholstery, heated seats and a 9-speaker JBL sound system with Bluetooth hands-free interface.
Toyota also offers an Appearance Package which significantly changes the RAV4's look, omitting the spare tire that otherwise hangs off the back door and replacing it with a redesigned rear door and run-flat tires. The package also includes chrome accents throughout, a bright exhaust tip and unique steel doorsills, plus color-keyed power heated side mirrors with turn signal indicators.