And The Last Shall Be First...Or Maybe Third: 2015 Toyota RAV4 Limited AWD

Side view of 2015 Toyota RAV4 Limited AWD
The 2015 Toyota RAV4 Limited AWD.
It is hard to believe, but this fall will be 20 years since the Toyota RAV4 came on the scene.  Tiny, tinny and underpowered, many people in America wondered what it was for, at what possible market segment it could be aimed.  It and the competitors that followed were dubbed "cute utes".

But the RAV4 (and competitors) grew, became refined and now...improbable as it seemed in the fall of 1995...they make up one of the hottest segments in the automotive industry, the compact crossover SUV.

Side view of 2015 Toyota RAV4 Limited AWD with another RAV 4 in background
2015 Toyota RAV4 Limited AWD.
The RAV4, despite major improvements of late, found itself in third place in the sales race at the end of 2014, behind the Honda CR-V and the Ford Escape.  Still, only those three move more than a quarter-million units per year each, and third in a crowded segment of more than two dozen nameplates is no shame, so it can absolutely be considered a success.

Our test vehicle was the Limited AWD. For a base price of $29,850, you get a 178-horsepower 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine with a six-speed automatic transmission, all-wheel drive, 18-inch alloy wheels, a height-adjustable power liftgate, electronic vehicle stability control, traction control, anti-lock brakes, electronic brake force distribution, brake assist, smart stop technology, a power moonroof, automatic headlights, dual-zone climate control, a premium Entune audio system with navigation and a 6.1-inch touchscreen display, backup camera, leather-trimmed steering weel with audio and Bluetooth controls, Softex-trimmed 8-way power driver's seat, heated front seats, reclining and fold-flat second-row seats, smart key with pushbutton start, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and a cargo area cover.

That is a very nicely equipped vehicle with an EPA fuel economy estimate of 22 city/29 highway and you could stop right there.  But, of course, the Toyota press fleet people didn't.

Interior view of the 2015 Toyota RAV4 Limited AWD
2015 Toyota RAV4 Limited AWD interior.
In fact, there was almost another $3,000 worth of options added to our test vehicle.  $785 bought an upgraded Entune/JBL premium audio system with HDRadio and the Entune app suite.  $725 added the Technology Package (blind spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert, lane departure alert and auto high beams).  $315 went for roof rack cross bars, $499 for a remote starter, $185 for an interior light kit and $225 for carpeted floor mats and a cargo mat.

With $885 delivery processing and handling fee, the as-tested price came to $33,489. That puts it within $111 of the Honda CR-V Touring Michael reviewed last month, which has seven more horsepower (not enough to feel) but which also gets four more miles per gallon both in the city and on the highway...and which uses somewhat more upscale materials in the cabin.  While it hasn't been that long since the RAV4's upgrade, another one might be in order as soon as possible if Toyota wants to top the sales charts in this intensely competitive segment.