2017 Toyota RAV4 AWD Limited Review and Road Test

2017 Toyota RAV4 AWD Limited

Toyota’s smallest SUV receives the Platinum treatment after taking the segment’s crown as sales champ

Words by: Adam Allen


The RAV4 is something of a pioneer, isn’t it?

It was back in 1995 when Toyota unleashed the RAV4 complete with its spindly rear control arms on the Canadian car buying public who until that point had been getting their SUV fix from the top sellers of the era, namely the Ford Explorer, Chevy Blazer and Toyota’s own 4Runner. The RAV4 was really the first CUV as we know it, cribbing its platform and parts from cars rather than use the popular body-on-frame construction methods and beefier componentry that were ideal for off-road use, not so much for highway slogs and trips to the hockey arena. People began to catch onto how much more sense the RAV4 made over its truck based counterparts’ and since then it has been warmly welcomed into many Canadian driveways over the years. The Woodstock, Ontario built RAV4 has consistently racked up impressive sales numbers, but not more impressive than 2016 where it became the best selling CUV in the country with 49,103 units sold.

Let’s hear more about the Platinum treatment you mentioned.

If your goal is driving off the dealership lot in the most lavishly equipped RAV4 possible, you’ll have to step up to the Limited model. That includes all kinds of kit that used to be available only on its corporate twin, the Lexus NX200t- stuff like a heated steering wheel, Dynamic Radar Cruise Control and automatic high beams. Those wanting to add further bling can now select the Platinum Package ($1,460) which includes a power rear liftgate, monochromatic body colour throughout and ambient footwell lighting plus a plethora of badges to show the world that the Limited on its own simply wouldn’t do. The Platinum package does help in the looks department- our Galactic Aqua Mica painted example looked particularly fetching- but it really amounts to a simple appearance upgrade. Most of the high-end hardware comes standard anyhow in Limited trim.

Is the RAV4’s driving experience affected by the Platinum treatment?

Not at all. All the chassis and drivetrain bits are the same no matter the trim level. About the only significant difference is tire and rim size, with the Platinum model offering marginally wider tires mounted on slightly bigger wheels than some of its downmarket counterparts. The handling benefit is negligible, but there is a difference in ride quality- the larger rolling stock incurs a slight penalty in comfort compared to the smaller versions. Since all models are powered by the same 2.5 litre four cylinder engines mated to 6-speed automatic gearboxes (except the Hybrid models, of course) there is no difference in how the RAV4 drives whatsoever. Obviously all-wheel drive models are more capable in inclement weather than front-wheel drive examples but their differences when simply commuting aren’t detectable.

Is the RAV4 still at the bleeding edge of the segment?

The CUV that started it all is regrettably no longer leading the pack where innovation is concerned. It’s four cylinder/6-speed auto combination might have been special when it made its debut motivating the RAV4 is now outdated. Many competitors have since adopted turbocharging or simply downsized their engines that while smaller, make as much or more power than their predecessors and are more efficient to boot. The 2.5 litre is shared with the Camry, and a few other Toyota products, and it’s no less stirring in the RAV4 than it is in other applications. The 170 horsepower it produced doesn’t feel particularly strong, and it sounds and feels strained while going about its business. Even the fuel economy it returns is mid-pack; it retuned 11.7L/100km in our hands which can best be describes as so-so. Most people will be happy that both engine and transmission are seriously reliable and will only ask for gasoline and oil changes.

What might go wrong?

Not much, considering the RAV4 trounced all its competitors where it really counts- generating an endless stream of cash back into Toyota’s coffers. Folks that buy the RAV4 will simply shrug at the kinds of things enthusiasts don’t care for- an anemic engine that never sounds happy, steering that gives you no real sense of what’s happening at the front contact patches and a structure that wobbles slightly over gnarled asphalt. None of these things matter to those shopping this segment because the RAV4’s virtues far outweigh any gripes. We just wish Toyota would give us a RAV4 that has the same cool factor as the one that started it all 22 years ago.

Should I buy a RAV4 Platinum?

If you view look at CUVs as appliances that exist simply to get you from Point A to B in nasty weather with your gear in tow, you’ll love the RAV4. Now that it’s possible to add an extra dollop of luxury to a Limited model by checking off the Platinum package on the option sheet, those buyers who insist on loading their CUV choice with every available bell and whistle will have a look at this Toyota where maybe they wouldn’t have in the past. Whatever the case may be, the RAV4 won’t show any signs of abating its torrid pace in lighting up the sales charts.


2017 Toyota RAV4 AWD Limited — Specifications

  • Price as tested: $41,503
  • Body Type: 5 passenger CUV
  • Powertrain Layout: Front engine/all-wheel drive
  • Transmission: 6-speed automatic
  • Engine:  2.5 litre inline-4, DOHC, 16 valves
  • Horsepower:  176 @ 6,000 rpm
  • Torque (lbs-ft.): 172 @ 4,100 rpm
  • Curb weight: 2,105 kg (4,640 lbs)
  • Observed Fuel Consumption: 11.7L/100km (20 mpg)