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SUV Review: 2022 Toyota RAV4 Limited

Driving.ca logo Driving.ca 2022-06-27 Brian Harper
2022 Toyota RAV4 Limited © Provided by Driving.ca 2022 Toyota RAV4 Limited
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Twenty-five or so years ago, you could buy a Toyota RAV4 for less than $25,000, the then-subcompact-sized crossover — a new, car-based model on the market — available in two-door or four-door versions. A curiosity at the time, there was nothing in the way of competition, a situation that would change with Honda and Subaru quickly introducing the CR-V and Forester, respectively.

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These days, you can buy a fifth-generation RAV4 for less than $30,000 (but also pay the better part of $60K for the top trim RAV4 Prime XSE Premium Technology), the significantly larger-sized crossover earning well-deserved laurels as the best-selling SUV in Canada. There are at least 10 direct competitors, probably more, that would love to topple it from this lofty perch.

Without rehashing the obvious, namely the massive shift in consumer preference to crossovers and SUVs of all shapes and sizes, it is safe to say that beyond the reputation of near-bulletproof reliability all Toyota vehicles seem to enjoy, the built-in-Ontario RAV4 shares much of its popularity by offering said consumers a ton of choice, with no less than 16 configurations covering a trio of powertrains and multiple trims. When Toyota says “there’s a RAV4 for every Canadian driver” — and judging from the sheer number of them I see in my little slice of heaven, made easier by its distinctive, truckish looks — it’s less hyperbole and more a statement of fact.

I’m driving the 2022 Toyota RAV4 Limited ; at $42,850 it’s the second-most expensive trim of the seven offered for the gas-powered model. There are another six trims for the RAV4 Hybrid as well as three for the RAV4 Prime, a plug-in version of the Hybrid that Toyota added last year. (If you want your cake and eat it, too, which is to say some measure of performance to go with enhanced fuel economy, this is the one to get. The Prime’s plug-in hybrid system generates 302 net horsepower, allowing it to zip its way to 100 km/h in less than six seconds, which makes it, rather surprisingly, the second-fastest vehicle in Toyota’s entire model range after the GR Supra.)

The gas-only model will not offer a ripping good time for latent gearheads. The 1,642-kilogram crossover’s 2.5-litre four-cylinder is hooked up to an eight-speed automatic and, putting out a passable 203 hp and 184 pound-feet of torque, will need at least eight seconds to get to 100 km/h. This is by no means class leading, not with the turbocharged engines that competitors such as the Mazda CX-5 and Hyundai Santa Fe offer. And in giving the throttle a heavier push, one will discover the least pleasant aspect of the crossover — a distinctly loud and somewhat coarse note to the motor. It made me long for the smooth easy power of the 3.5L V6 that was offered in the third-generation version.

TAKE A DEEPER DIVE INTO RAV4 VS CX-5 VS SANTA FE SPECS

In most other regards, however, the RAV4 Limited is a cut above the norm, maybe not luxurious but most definitely business class, with excellent body rigidity, above average handling characteristics and a lo-o-o-ong list of bells and whistles that make spending time behind the wheel a pleasurable experience, especially on longer drives.

While the engine is discordant when pushed, it’s as quiet as most four-cylinders under light use or when cruising along at a steady rate of knots, allowing one to crank up the tunes on the 11-speaker JBL sound system and sing along to the oldies on 60s Gold. There’s a good, solid weight to the steering and the RAV4’s multi-link rear suspension does yeoman work in filtering out the worst of the bumps, lumps and potholes afflicting our winter-ravaged roads.

Toyota provides the crossover with three distinct drive modes (Sport, Eco and Normal), ostensibly to tailor driving dynamics to match the driver’s mood. Frankly, after switching between the three numerous times, the differences were not appreciable enough to warrant anything other than the default Normal mode.

Although the base, entry-level LE trim is front-wheel drive, the rest of the model lineup is all-wheel drive. And while the Trail and TRD Off-Road are set up for more adventuresome off-pavement activities, the other trims function best as four-season family transportation, which is fitting considering compact SUVs have become the de facto family vehicle in many Canadian households. Still the Multi-Terrain Select system, standard on all gas-powered RAV4 AWD models, will help to maximize traction when driving through snow, mud, sand or chewed-up dirt road. It tailors the crossover’s driving characteristics to the road conditions by adjusting the transmission’s shift points, throttle pedal sensitivity and brake force.

Moving inside, if you’re expecting a taste of luxury from the Limited, you will be disappointed, looking at something from the competition instead, such as the Mazda CX-5 Signature . Or forking over more bucks for the pricier NX, the RAV4’s near-twin from the upscale Lexus line. The RAV4 offers a relatively simple layout with emphasis on soft-touch materials where as well as stitching on the door and instrument panel, but nary a hint of wood or chrome.

Still, the Limited is well fettled, everything from an 11-speaker JBL audio system, nine-inch touchscreen display, heated and ventilated front seats and heated rear seat to embedded navigation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, bird’s-eye view monitor and the Intelligent Clearance Sonar system with rear cross-traffic braking, just to touch on a few. And not that the crossover is tech adverse, but the dash layout focuses on numerous and logically placed buttons and controls, not so much the touchscreen and distracting layers of menus and sub-menus.

 2022 Toyota RAV4 Limited © Brian Harper 2022 Toyota RAV4 Limited

Being on the leggy side myself — 6-foot-1 with a 34.5-inch inseam — I was pleased to find plenty of legroom and headroom not only from behind the wheel, but also when sitting behind myself in the rear seat, not a given with some of the Toyota’s rivals. Also, for family excursions that require throwing everything but the kitchen sink into the cargo area, know that the RAV4 offers a very generous 1,065 litres of capacity behind the rear seats, 1,976 litres with those seats folded.

As for what’s actually new for the RAV4 for 2022, the answer is not much. Models from the XLE trim and up get updated headlamps, the Limited also being fitted with new LED foglamps.

So, what’s the bottom line here? Given the depth and breadth of the competition — including dominant players such as the CR-V, Nissan Rogue, Ford Escape and Mazda CX-5, et al — I can’t honestly say the RAV4 is the best of the lot. Still, as Tim Cain, Driving.ca’s resident number cruncher, notes, the RAV4 is tracking toward a seventh consecutive year as Canada’s best-selling SUV, the first three months of 2022 showing a 26-per-cent margin over its nearest rival, with the hybrid and plug-in hybrid versions pressing the advantage. And even though the AWD gas model’s fuel economy average of 8.4 L/100 km combined is reasonable, there’s less than a $2,000 bump to get into a hybrid model of the same trim, which will pay for itself with significantly better fuel economy (6.0 L/100 km combined).

Ultimately, with a choice of 16 variants of this model, it’s hard not to find one that will satisfy your needs.

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