Racy RAV: The 2016 Toyota RAV4 SE AWD

Front 3/4 view of 2016 Toyota RAV4 SE
The 2016 Toyota RAV4 SE.
Toyota, like its cousin Lexus, is on a campaign to make its vehicles seem more exciting.  For Lexus, that involves (for some models) substantial upgrades to engine power and chassis dynamics.  For Toyota, it largely involves cosmetics.

2016 Toyota RAV4 SE.
Case in point, the 2016 Toyota RAV4 SE.  Equipped with the same 2.5-liter, 178-horsepower engine as any other RAV4 save the new Hybrid, it drives about the same as its siblings, and gets a bit lower mileage than the plainer models---22 city/29 highway, the same as the similarly-loaded Limited.

It's a well-optioned RAV4, but equipped differently than the one-step-down XLE or the top-of-the-line Limited.  The base price for the RAV4 SE AWD is $30,665 and that brings standard equipment that does include a sport-tuned suspension the others don't have as well as 18-inch machined alloy wheels with black painted accents, LED headlamps, taillights and daytime running lights, a power moonroof with roof rails and a rear spoiler, power heated outside mirrors, privacy glass, dual-zone climate control, a touchscreen audio system with SiriusXM satellite radio, Toyota's Entune app suite, a backup camera, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, leather-trimmed seats (the front ones are heated and the driver's is an 8-way power seat) and smart key with pushbutton start.

Interior view of 2016 Toyota RAV4 SE
2016 Toyota RAV4 SE interior.
You can put even more into the RAV4 SE through extra-cost options, and Toyota did just that with our test vehicle:

  • Advanced Technology Package (Birds-eye view camera, front and rear parking sonar, Toyota SafetySense, pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, automatic high beams, dynamic radar cruise control, an upgraded JBL audio system with voice recognition, HD Radio, HD Predictive Traffic and Doppler radar weather overlay) $3,030.
  • S-Code paint treatment (Silver metallic painted front and rear lower bumper, rocker panel, over fenders and side mirrors with black rear skid plate garnish) $600.
  • Mudguards. $129.
  • Paint protection film. $395.
  • Roof rack cross bars. $315.
  • Interior light kit. $185.
  • Remote start. $499.
  • Wheel locks. $65.
  • All-weather floor liners and cargo tray. $239
With $900 delivery, processing and handling fee, what is perhaps the most well-equipped RAV4 of all time came to an as-tested price of $37,022.  That is easily the highest price for a small SUV we've tested that isn't a luxury brand, and a bit more than $2,000 higher than the well-equipped and more powerful 240 horsepower Ford Escape Titanium with EcoBoost Michael reviewed three months ago. That's a tough value argument to make, but if your loyalties lie with Toyota and its legendary reliability, it may be a price difference you're willing to pay.