By Chris Chase, Autos.ca
The Toyota RAV4 debuted in 1996, making it one of the originators of the “cute-ute” compact SUV segment, along with the Suzuki Sidekick and Honda CR-V. Through its first two generations, it was indeed compact, but the third generation, underwent a significant transformation into a vehicle verging on mid-size crossover territory.
This seemingly steroidal upgrade brought a number of firsts to the RAV4, including a V6 engine and three-row seating. The basic RAV4 was powered by the same 2.4-litre, four-cylinder engine found in the previous generation, its 166 hp/165 lb.-ft. of torque proving adequate, but not amazing, in its new, heavier host. The optional 3.5-litre V6 was a more satisfying choice with its 268 hp/246 lb.-ft., but a jumpy throttle made it feel almost like too much motor. All-wheel drive was standard, as were automatic transmissions; the four-cylinder got a four-speed, and the V6 was mated to a five-speed.
As with any vehicle, the RAV4 received a number of running changes as the model years progressed. In 2007, Toyota made side/side curtain airbags standard (they were optional in the top-end Limited in 2006), and in 2008, the tiny, cramped third row seats were dropped (they were only offered in the priciest Limited V6 model anyway).
In 2009, a front-wheel drive model was added that could be ordered with either engine, styling was updated ever-so-slightly, and the 2.4-litre four-cylinder was replaced with a stronger, smoother and more efficient 2.5-litre motor. Its 179 hp/172 lb.-ft. power specs helped narrow the gap between the old, slightly underpowered base engine and the athletic V6. This was also the first year for RAV4 production at Toyota’s Woodstock, Ontario plant.
For 2010, the only change was the addition of a Sport Appearance Package that removed the spare tire from the tailgate. It was an attractive option as it both cleaned up the look of the back end considerably and make the swing-out tailgate lighter and easier to open and close. The downside was that the package included run-flat tires, which, while arguably necessary, are expensive to replace and ride harshly on rough roads. Seven-passenger seating returned in 2010, as an option on V6 4WD models.
For 2011, the front-wheel drive option was limited to four-cylinder RAV4s, making all V6 trucks 4WD.
In early models (all of which were 4WD), fuel consumption ratings for the two engines are surprisingly close, at 10.1/7.7 L/100 km (city/highway) for the four-cylinder and 11.1/7.8 for the V6. 2009′s new four-cylinder was more efficient, rated 9.7/7.2 L/100 km with 4WD, and 9.4/6.9 with the also-new two-wheel drive-train. The V6 2WD model’s numbers were 10.7/7.4 L/100 km.
Consumer Reports names the RAV4 to its “good bet” used vehicle list. Four-cylinder models are rated higher, though, with V6 versions from 2006 and 2007 earning only average reliability scores, thanks for a couple of problems specific to six-cylinder models.
A whining noise in RAV4s with the five-speed transmission, which means all V6 models, is apparently normal. Toyota issued a TSB covering 2006 through 2010 models that instructs dealers to install noise-attenuation measures, and if that doesn’t cut it, a secondary procedure that involves “honing” the differential gears will be performed. Click here to see a copy of the TSB. There’s a lengthy thread about it at RAV4World.com, too.
The 3.5-litre V6 used in the RAV4 – known also by its 2GR-FE engine code, and shared by a wide range of Toyota and Lexus models – is known for a rubber oil line, which supplies oil to the variable valve timing system, that is prone to rupture as the vehicle ages. Read about it here and here. Toyota began manufacturing the 2GR-FE with a new metal oil line in either 2008 or 2009, depending on who you ask.
A clunk from the steering is most likely caused by a bad intermediate steering shaft. This is covered in this Technical Service Bulletin, which involves replacing the faulty part with a redesigned component. No recall has been issued (though one might think it prudent to do so, given that this could be viewed as a potential safety problem), but the parts will be replaced under warranty, if any coverage remains. The TSB covers 2006 through 2008 models, which indicates that 2009 models should have been manufactured with the improved part(s).
There’s a common problem with the RAV4′s stereo display showing gibberish. Read about it here.
The RAV4 was subject to the two recalls related to last year’s unintended acceleration fiasco, one about floormats and the other dealing with sticky throttle pedals.
A used 2006 base four-cylinder RAV4 is worth $16,300, according to Canadian Black Book, and a 2010 Limited V6 4WD with leather carries a value of $30,500. (Used values for 2011 models weren’t available at publication time.) A 2009 RAV4 Sport four-cylinder 2WD – with the newer, 2.5-litre motor – is worth $22,625. RAV4 values are, predictably, similar to those for the Honda CR-V, and the almost-as-reliable Hyundai Santa Fe’s values come surprisingly close. Nissan’s Rogue is a little less expensive, and the Mazda CX-7 tends to be pricier.
To find significantly lower prices, you’ll have to shop for the Toyota’s domestic competitors, like the Chevrolet Equinox/Pontiac Torrent and Ford Escape. The Chrysler Group didn’t have a direct competitor until the 2009 Dodge Journey arrived in early 2008, and its resale values are lower, too.
You won’t find many bargains on used RAV4s, but if you’re okay with the price, a four-cylinder model is a good choice. A V6 version is slightly less so, but its problems are well-documented. A once-over by a mechanic is always a good idea, and make sure the truck you want has had the steering shaft problem addressed.
Black Book Pricing (avg. retail) March, 2011:
|Year||Model||Price today||Price new|
|2010||RAV4 Sport 4WD four-cylinder||$27,725||$30,540|
|2009||RAV4 Sport 4WD four-cylinder||$24,375||$30,165|
|2008||RAV4 Sport 4WD four-cylinder||$21,975||$30,750|
|2007||RAV4 Sport 4WD four-cylinder||$20,450||$33,590|
|2006||RAV4 Sport 4WD four-cylinder||$19,000||$32,990|
The forums at RAV4World.com split up discussion according to generation, and are full of useful topics. The RAV4 section at ToyotaNation.com is a rich source of information too, though there, all generations are lumped in together. You might also find what you need at ToyotaOwnersClub.com and ForumToyota.com.
Transport Canada Recall Number: 2010012; Units affected: 273,050 (includes other models)
2009-2010: On certain vehicles, accelerator pedal movement may become rough, slow to return, or the pedal may stick in a depressed position. This could result in a loss of throttle control and a vehicle crash, causing property damage, personal injury or death. Correction: Dealers will install a steel reinforcement bar to the accelerator pedal assembly. With this reinforcement in place, the excess friction that can cause the pedal to stick is eliminated.
Transport Canada Recall Number: 2011082; Units affected: 115,600 (includes other models)
2006-2010: On certain vehicles, the accelerator pedal may become stuck in the wide open position due to an unsecured or incompatible driver’s floor mat. A fully depressed accelerator pedal may result in very high vehicle speeds and make it difficult to slow or stop the vehicle. This could result in a crash causing property damage and/or personal injury. Correction: Dealers will modify or replace the accelerator pedal. Note: This is an expansion of recall 2009290 for vehicles not previously included in the campaign.
Crash test results
Used vehicle prices vary depending on factors such as general condition, odometer reading, usage history and options fitted. Always have a used vehicle checked by an experienced auto technician before you buy.
For information on vehicle service bulletins issued by the manufacturer, visit www.nhtsa.dot.gov.
For information on consumer complaints about specific models, see www.lemonaidcars.com.