I don’t know how many people shopping for a small crossover really want a rip-snorting V-6 under the hood, but Toyota’s happy to provide the best one in the class.
Toyota‘s 269-horsepower engine makes the 2009 RAV4 equal parts all-weather utility tool and high-ground-clearance sport sedan.
Funny thing too, is that there’s not really much penalty in fuel economy: the all-wheel-drive RAV4 Sport with the V-6 manages 19 miles per gallon in the city and 26 mpg on the highway. Downsize to Toyota’s 2.5-liter four-cylinder and you lose a whopping 90 horsepower, but gain just 2 mpg in the city rating and 1 mpg on the highway.
In exchange for that minor hit at the gas pump, the optional V-6 propels the chunky 3,700-pound RAV4 with Supreme Court authority. Edmunds.com’s Inside Line enthusiast website got a V-6 RAV4 to scoot from 0-to-60 mph in just 7.3 seconds, a time that mixes it up with plenty of acknowledged sports cars. And in a test last fall against 4-cylinder versions of the Honda CR-V and Volkswagen Tiguan, Edmunds discovered the V-6 RAV4 got identical fuel economy, despite its prodigious power advantage.
If an optional V-6 with ridiculously more thrust, yet almost no fuel-economy penalty seems too good to be true, well then here’s the fine print: the all-wheel-drive V-6 RAV4 Sport costs $1,930 more than the same car with the 4-cylinder engine. I’d pay it.
A V-6 (particularly a good one) in a compact crossover is a luxury that can’t be overstated.
This engine never is overworked — and you’re all the more comfortable and relaxed for it.
The RAV4’s primary news for 2009 is a slight front and rear restyling and the addition of a new Sport Appearance Package, which earns a mixed grade. Available only for V-6 models with all-wheel-drive, the Sport Appearance Package costs a reasonable $577 and does a respectable job of visually “sporting up” the RAV4.
The good news: the package means the RAV4 loses the camel’s hump spare-tire hanging outside the side-hinged rear hatch of every other RAV4. The bad news: eliminating the spare tire means you get 18-inch run-flat tires that conspire with the Sport’s tighter suspension tuning (normally a good thing) to make this specific RAV4 ride something like an enclosed pogo stick. The run-flat tires, which by design have to be devilishly stiff, and the Sport suspension tuning are not a match made in heaven, and a jiggly ride is the result.
The Sport Appearance Package adds a radio upgrade and some well-executed chrome-look trim pieces to a RAV4 interior that is impressive for its solidity and large volume. Because the RAV4 was designed for an optional third-row seat, models that don’t have foldaway third row enjoy a rear cargo area that could comfortably winter a good-size grizzly bear, so it’ll have no trouble with family-vacation luggage, much less the proceeds of any grocery-store run.
Although the $30,000-plus price of this RAV4 should include automatic climate control — and you’d expect a “Sport” model to present a leather-wrapped steering wheel — you have to move up to the Limited trim for those conveniences.
Yeah, 30 large is a chunk of change for a compact crossover. But the all-wheel-drive RAV4 Sport is reasonably invigorating to drive while maintaining the foul-weather capability that makes these utility vehicles so popular. And considering there’s almost no efficiency penalty, the RAV4’s V-6 is the must-have option that helps make the RAV4 one of the best choices in the segment.
2009 TOYOTA RAV4 SPORT
VEHICLE TYPE_________________ 5-passenger AWD compact crossover
BASE PRICE___________________ $26,530 (as tested: $30,165)
ENGINE TYPE__________________ 24-valve DOHC V-6 w/SFI
HORSEPOWER (net)_____________ 269 at 6200 rpm
TORQUE (lb.-ft.)_____________ 246 at 4700 rpm
TRANSMISSION_________________ 5-speed automatic
WHEELBASE____________________ 105 in.
TRACK (front/rear)___________ 62/62 in.
OVERALL LENGTH_______________ 179 in.
OVERALL WIDTH________________ 72 in.
HEIGHT_______________________ 66 in.
TURNING CIRCLE (curb-to-curb) 37 ft.
CURB WEIGHT__________________ 3,699 lbs.
FUEL CAPACITY________________ 16 gal.
EPA MILEAGE RATING___________ 19 mpg city, 26 mpg highway
Copyright, Motor Matters, 2009