The 2011 Toyota RAV4 remains one of the top choices in the small-to-midsize crossover SUV segment due to its spacious cabin, solid fuel economy (even with the V6), nimble handling, compliant ride, useful flat load floor and optional third-row for the kids.
The RAV4 actually originated this segment about 15 years ago and has been a leader ever since. And while its dimensions have grown over the years from a compact size to close to a midsize, Toyota has managed to maintain its appealing gas mileage performance while adding both passenger room (up to seven) and cargo space.
A great attribute of the RAV4 is its ability to function as both a family vehicle as well as one with some fairly serious cargo hauling capabilities. It offers more passenger space than one would normally expect from an SUV this size, plenty of storage spaces throughout the interior, flip-down rear seats that expand total cargo room very generously and even an optional third-row. Overall, it's just a highly functional vehicle. And when outfitted with its efficient V6 engine and the optional towing package, the RAV4 can haul up to 3,500 pounds.
As good as the RAV4 is, however, it's always a good idea to check out the competition to help make an informed decision. And there are some very good ones out there. The Chevy Equinox is a bit more upscale and has a roomier backseat,. The Honda CR-V has an edge when it comes to responsive handling as well as a somewhat higher quality interior, while the Kia Sorento also earns high marks for handling. In addition, the Nissan Rogue has perhaps the highest quality interior in the segment as well as the most engaging drive.
Trims, Standard Features And Options:
The 2011 Toyota RAV4 straddles the line between a compact and midsize crossover SUV and is available in three trims: base, Sport and Limited. All trims are offered with either a four-cylinder or V6 engine as well as a choice of either front- or all-wheel drive.
Even the base RAV4 is well-equipped with standard features including power windows, power doorlocks, power mirrors, cruise control, keyless entry, air conditioning, 16-inch steel wheels, a limited-slip differential (front-drive models only), a height-adjustable driver seat, a tilt/telescoping steering wheel and a 6-speaker audio system with a CD player and an auxiliary audio jack. The V6 base with 4WD also comes with 17-inch cast-aluminum wheels.
Moving up to the RAV4 Sport adds a sportier-tuned suspension, color-keyed bumpers and 18-inch cast-aluminum wheels. Both four-cylinder and V6 Sport 4WD models also have an optional Sport Appearance package that drops the cargo-door-mounted spare tire (these models have run-flat tires) and adds heated exterior mirrors, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and exterior chrome styling accents.
The top-of-the-line RAV4 Limited comes with the regular suspension and 17-inch cast-aluminum wheels, plus a hard spare tire shell-cover, keyless entry/ignition, automatic headlights (optional on the Sport), dual-zone automatic climate control, heated mirrors, roof rails and an upgraded sound system with a 6-disc CD changer and satellite radio (optional on base and Sport models). In addition, V6 RAV4 Limiteds come with hill-start assist and hill-descent control (these also come with the RAV4 four-cylinder with the third-row).
Most available options vary by geographic region and are grouped into packages. The third-row seat and a back-up camera with a rearview mirror display are available for all models. There's also an Upgrade Value package for the base model that adds a sunroof, a 6-disc CD changer, roof rails, steering-wheel mounted audio controls, a cargo cover, 17-inch cast-aluminum wheels, upgraded cloth upholstery and privacy glass. Optional features for the Sport and Limited include a 9-speaker JBL audio system with Bluetooth, touchscreen navigation and a sunroof.
The available Premium package for the Sport and Limited (not those with the third-row) includes an 8-way power driver seat and leather upholstery. A tow package is also available for V6 RAV4s.
Engines, Powertrain And Gas Mileage:
The standard engine for the 2011 Toyota RAV4 is a 2.5-liter inline-4 that produces 179 horsepower and 172 pound-feet of torque. It's paired with a four-speed automatic transmission. The EPA-estimated gas mileage for this engine with front-wheel drive is 22 mpg city and 28 mpg on the highway. With 4WD, it dips only slightly to 21 mpg city and 27 mpg highway.
Also available is an optional 3.5-liter V6 that's good for a robust 269 horsepower and 246 pound-feet. It's mated with a 5-speed automatic transmission. In performance tests, a V6 4WD model was timed from 0 to 60 mph in just 7.2 seconds, a very quick time for this segment. The EPA gas mileage for the V6 is also impressive, coming in at 19 mpg city and 27 mpg highway with front-wheel-drive. With 4WD, these numbers change by only 1 less mpg on the highway.
Standard safety features across all 2011 RAV4 models include traction control, stability control, antilock disc brakes (ABS), front-seat side airbags, whiplash-reducing front headrests and full-length side curtain airbags. V6 models as well as those with the optional third-row seats also are equipped with hill-descent control and hill-start assist.
In government crash testing, the 2011 RAV4 received the highest rating of five stars for both front- and rear-occupant protection in side impacts. In front impact tests, it received five stars for driver protection and four stars for front passenger protection.
The new RAV4's cabin is attractive, user-friendly and roomy. However, while its overall materials quality is adequate, the RAV4 has fallen somewhat behind the Chevrolet Equinox and Honda CR-V in this regard.
That said, the RAV4's interior is extremely practical and functional. The seating is comfortable and supportive both front and rear, while the rear seats both slide and recline, increasing passenger space as well as cargo room. While the optional third-row is children-only, it boosts passenger capacity to seven, rare for this segment.
And a flat load floor can be created by simply flipping a second-row lever, without having to fold up seat cushions or remove headrests. This expands cargo capacity to an impressive and very useful 73 cubic feet.
The 2011 RAV4 is a capable daily performer thanks to its fairly tight suspension and responsive steering. The ride is also comfortable and smooth, although road noise can become elevated at times.
Most drivers will likely be satisfied with the overall power of the four-cylinder versions for daily driving tasks, but for those who can swing it in the budget, the V6 produces about 100 extra horses than most of its inline-4 segment competitors while basically matching their fuel economy.
How To Get The Lowest Price:
Best Negotiating Tactic: Well, there's definitely a 'best way' when it comes to new car buying. If you want to get the best bottomline, out-the-door price you need to know exactly who to talk to at the dealership, how to make the contact and how to make this person eager to quickly drop prices as low as possible to get your sale.
Those of you in the market for a used car may want to check out this article about how to buy a used car at the lowest price. It details a super effective buying method, one that often beats down prices to wholesale levels.
And somewhat related to this, here's another excellent method that identifies Price-Distressed Cars Right On Dealer Lots. These are vehicles they are so desperate to unload they would welcome your wholesale offer.
In addition, you can also try Wholesale Auctions in your own geographic area. While there can be a lot of junk vehicles at these auctions, there are often absolute gems sprinkled in as well. This article reviews what to expect at open-to-the-public car auctions and how to locate them at no cost in your own area.
Prices: 2011 Toyota RAV4
FWD Base 4-cylinder: list price: $21,925, invoice price: $20,499
FWD Base V6: list price: $23,960, invoice price: $22,402
4WD Base 4-cylinder: list price: $23,325, invoice price: $21,458
4WD Base V6: list price: $25,360, invoice price: $23,330
FWD Sport 4-cylinder: list price: $23,625, invoice price: $22,088
FWD Sport V6: list price: $25,555, invoice price: $23,893
4WD Sport 4-cylinder: list price: $25,025, invoice price: $23,022
4WD Sport V6: list price: $26,955, invoice price: $24,798
FWD Limited 4-cylinder: list price: $24,915, invoice price: $23,295
FWD Limited V6: list price: $26,835, invoice price: $25,089
4WD Limited 4-cylinder: list price: $26,305, invoice price: $24,200
4WD Limited V6: list price: $28,235, invoice price: $25,974