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A solid and pleasing package, if a tad bit small.
More room, more power, improved styling, whiplash injury-lessening seats.
No V6 engine option, engine makes power too high in rev range, most desired equipment is optional.
Completely redesigned, RAV4 grows in size and gets a more powerful engine, along with edgy new styling.
Back in 1996, the term "cute ute" was coined when Toyota released the RAV4, an acronym for Recreational Activity Vehicle with 4WD. While Suzuki had been plying these waters for years with the Sidekick (and its Chevy Tracker twin), it wasn't until the car-based RAV hit the market that small SUVs became popular.
For 2001, Toyota has redesigned the RAV4. Available in five-door wagon configuration, the new RAV is taller, wider, longer and heavier than the original flavor, which results in more cabin space. To offset the weight gain, a new, all-aluminum, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine is under the hood, mated to either a five-speed manual transmission or a four-speed automatic driving the front or all wheels.
Making 148 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 142 foot-pounds of torque at a lofty 4,000 rpm, a front-wheel-drive RAV4 with a stick shift should accelerate from zero to 60 mph in about 10.5 seconds. Adding weight, in the form of 4WD, passengers, cargo or an automatic transmission, will slow the already sluggish RAV in the stoplight drag race. Toyota needs to offer more power. Despite the inclusion of variable valve timing with intelligence (VVT-i), the new, larger, and heavier RAV4 has difficulty getting to speed. But, on a positive note, the RAV4 is certified a low emission vehicle.
Exterior styling takes cues from the existing RAV4, and melds them with a dash of Lexus RX 300 here and Infiniti QX4 there, which is entirely a good thing. Inside, overtones of Celica can be seen in the gauge cluster, steering wheel, and metallic trim pieces. Overall, the RAV has been nicely tidied up, while still adhering to the tenets of the cute ute philosophy.
Standard equipment is sparse, with most of the good stuff like antilock brakes, aluminum wheels, air conditioning, remote keyless entry and a power sunroof optional. An option package bundles power windows, doors and locks with A/C, cruise control and a six-speaker sound system with both cassette and CD players. Upgrade to the "L" package and you get these goodies plus heated exterior mirrors, floor mats, dark tinted glass, fog lights, and special exterior trim. The "L" package is also your ticket to leather upholstery. A limited-slip differential is a stand-alone option on 4WD versions.
New whiplash-preventing seats, combined with added passenger room, make the RAV more comfortable. Cargo area has also grown, to a maximum of 68.3 cubic feet with the rear bench seat removed (space measures 29.2 cubic feet with the back seat in use).
Five new colors are available: Titanium, Impulse Red, Vintage Gold, Rainforest Mica, and Spectra Blue Mica. They complement carryover colors Natural White and Black, and all can be mated to either Gray or Oak (or both) interior hues.
Equip one with leather, and you just might confuse it with a Land Cruiser -- from a distance. On second thought, naaaah.
Laura's old car was costing her a small fortune every month for gas and repairs. She didn't even want to drive her kids to the park any more. But buying a new Kia Soul changed all that.