CROSSING OVER THE MOTHER ROAD
2014 Toyota RAV4 XLE AWD
This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!
Published on Tue, Apr 15, 2014
By: The LACar Editorial Staff
By Roy Nakano
Believe it or not, it’s the 20th anniversary of the compact crossover. Although it didn’t make it over to the States until 1995, the RAV4 became the first compact crossover SUV when it was introduced in Japan and Europe in 1994. With the RAV4 now into its fourth generation, what better way to celebrate the anniversary than to take it onto one of the pioneering highways on the U.S. Highway System—the Mother Road itself: Historic Route 66.
When one of the editors heard this, concerned was raised whether the RAV4 would be up to the task. “Why not take something like a Lexus or Mercedes SUV?” In other words, would the RAV4 be sufficiently comfortable for the long Mother Road haul? The concerns were taken seriously, and we had our doubts about the RAV4. The one thing the vehicle had going for it, and the one that ultimately tipped the decision in its favor: The RAV4’s good fuel economy—particularly for a non-hybrid SUV.
Toyota delivered an XLE AWD version of the RAV4, which provides the added assurance of all-wheel drive. With all the news about the Polar Vortex, one couldn’t be too careful. As things would have it, our stretch of the Mother Road is enjoying record warm temperatures.
Our route through the Mother Road covered the popular song in somewhat reverse order: San Bernardino. Barstow, California. Kingman, Williams and Flagstaff, Arizona (see LA Car’s “Best Songs About Driving in LA”). The landscape along Historic Route 66 looks awfully familiar. And then it dawns on us: These are the scenes straight out of the Disney movie “Cars”—the old gas station in Needles, Mr. D’z Route 66 Diner in Kingman (looking very much like Flo’s Diner in the movie), the winding roads in Kaibab National Forest, and the various rock formations along the California-Arizona border.
All told, we were on Historic Route 66 for around 20 hours—including rest stops and meals. That’s a long time to be in a vehicle, and the new RAV4 acquitted itself well. The concern about whether the Toyota could provide sufficient creature comforts never came to pass. While the RAV4 is no luxury vehicle, it proved to be up to the task of keeping us in comfort for the long haul.
The RAV4 dashboard has a well-executed swath of stitched leather-grained soft-touch vinyl—a nice, upscale touch that it shares with some of the newer Toyotas. Elsewhere, however, there’s hard plastic—and lots of it. It’s not unattractive, but you won’t mistaken the RAV4 XLE interior for a Lexus (however, check out the Limited interior in the gallery below). Being one of the newer Toyota designs, however, affords the RAV4 with the company’s latest offerings in the area of connectivity.
On the twisties, the RAV4 handles like the good crossover it is. It’s no sport sedan, but it’s also no pickup truck parading as a car—it’s predictable in the turns, and doesn’t offer any undue surprises. The RAV4’s new electric steering provides moderately good road feel. All-in-all, this newest RAV4 is a step up in handling compared with past models and is among the better handlers in its class.
In the get-up-and-go department, the 2.5 liter DOHC 16-valve four cylinder with Dual VVT-I is agile enough for everyday driving. Some may miss the passing power of the V6 (which is no longer offered), but the RAV4’s 6-speed automatic transmission provides sequential shifting, making it easier to find the right gear. Even without the manual mode engaged, the automatic transmission does a decent job of shifting when it needs to shift, and stays in gear when it doesn’t.
After several days on the Mother Road, we conclude that the fourth-generation RAV4 passes the Route 66 livability test. Whether ascending Oro Grande, descending on Daggett, cruising through Claremont, or gliding Glendora, the fourth generation RAV4 is as easy to wear and take care of as a pair of old Levi’s. Comfort and reliability never go out of style.
It’s the Mother Road of compact crossover SUVs
For more information about Toyota products, go to toyota.com
Name of vehicle:
2014 Toyota RAV4 XLE AWD
$23,550 (base model)
$25, 690 (XLE AWD model)
$28,149 (XLE AWD, as tested with Display Audio with Navigation and Entune, VIP RS3200 Plus Security System, carpet floor mats and carpet cargo mat)
2.5 liter DOHC 16-valve four cylinder with Dual VVT-i
EPA fuel economy estimates:
22 city/29 highway miles per gallon
176 @ 6000 rpm
172 pound-feet at 4100 rpm
6-speed automatic with sequential manual mode
Electronic power rack-and-pinion steering system
Four-wheel independent, with front MacPherson struts and stabilizer bar, and rear double wishbone with stabilizer bar
Wheels and tires:
17 x 6.5 in. wheels and P225/65R17 all-season tires
Overall length: 179.9 inches
Overall width: 72.6 inches
Overall height: 65.4 inches
Curb weight: 3,435 pounds