The Toyota RAV4 is a trendsetter. There are an overwhelming number of small SUVs on the road today, but it wasn’t like that nearly two decades ago when the RAV4 was introduced. Available all-wheel drive, excellent handling and superb fuel economy are just some of the reasons the RAV4 has so many copycats.
History of Toyota RAV4
The Toyota RAV4 was first introduced to the U.S. market in 1996. It was a cute, bug-eyed compact SUV, powered by a 2.0L 4-cylinder engine. Transmission options were either a four-speed automatic or 5-speed manual, with standard front-wheel drive or optional all-wheel drive. Early models could be had as either a 2-door or 4-door. A plug in electric version of the RAV4 was also built for fleet use between 1997 and 2003.
In 2000, the second generation RAV4 was introduced. It was larger and featured a mode angular exterior design. The 2.0L was the only engine offered at first, but a larger 2.4L was offered later on. Both engines got Toyota’s variable valve timing for better performance and improved fuel efficiency.
Third Generation Toyota RAV4 (2006 – 2012)
Model year 2006, introduced the third generation RAV4. Once again, the new RAV was bigger and more powerful than the previous generation. A new 3.5L 6-cylinder engine was also made available, as well as a 5-speed automatic transmission.
Three trim levels were available: base, Sport and Limited. Standard features included 16-inch wheels, air conditioning, cruise control, a height-adjustable driver seat, a tilt-and-telescope steering wheel, a CD stereo with MP3 capability and power windows, mirrors and locks. A long list of standard safety features was added as well, including four-wheel antilock disc brakes and Toyota’s VSC stability control system and traction control.
In 2012, the Toyota RAV4 got a new optional touchscreen audio interface and Toyota’s Entune suite of Internet-streaming technologies. Everything else was left unchanged in anticipation of the new model to be released the following year.
Fourth Generation Toyota RAV4 (2013 – present)
The fourth generation RAV4 hit dealership showrooms in 2013. Outside, the RAV4 took on a more aggressive appearance. Inside, there was more cabin space. The only available engine option was a 2.5L 4-cylinder mated to a 6-speed automatic. As usual, both front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive were available.
Three trim options were made available: LE, XLE and Limited. Standard equipment includes 17-inch steel wheels, automatic headlights, power folding mirrors, rear privacy glass, full power accessories, air-conditioning, cruise control, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a 60/40-split and reclining second-row seat, a rearview camera, Bluetooth connectivity, and a six-speaker sound system , a 6-inch touchscreen, a CD player, an auxiliary audio jack and an iPod/USB audio interface. Standard safety items include: antilock disc brakes, stability control, traction control, whiplash-reducing front head restraints, front-seat side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags.
For 2014, the RAV4 remained unchanged except for the addition of a Technology Package for limited models.
The RAV4 isn’t a big gas guzzling SUV and it doesn’t want to be. The RAV4 has lasted nearly two decades due to its winning formula, which Toyota doesn’t want to change. Each year the RAV4 becomes a little better than it was the year before, in keeping up with the Toyota mantra of continuous self-improvement.