See link for lots more.....Gas cost half what it does today, V8 engines were increasing in popularity, and Ford ruled the smoking-hot SUV segment with its popular Explorer when Toyota introduced the first RAV4 for the 1996 model year. Small, powered by a fuel-efficient four-cylinder engine, and made for driving on the road rather than off of it, the RAV4 duked it out with the Subaru Outback for the honor of creating the â€œsoft-roaderâ€ segment, though the term â€œcute uteâ€ clearly referred to the original RAV4â€™s tidy, emasculating design and not the Outbackâ€™s butched-up station wagon getup.
Fast-forward a decade, and the soft-roaders, the cute-utes, the sport wagons, the crossovers â€“ whatever you call them â€“ represent the fastest-growing market segment in America. Fordâ€™s Explorer, still a fine SUV in its own right, is almost flat-lining, living on the life-support of big rebates and low-interest financing, while the RAV4 and the Outback have been joined by dozens of competitors from every corner of the globe. Yet, despite a surge in segment interest by consumers, the original crossover SUV, the Toyota RAV4, has been virtually invisible to every American short of sorority girls, single female professionals, and divorced moms. Thanks to its cheeky design, conservative horsepower rating, and small size, the Toyota RAV4 became the ultimate chick truck â€“ despite the fact that it was fun to drive, a smart buy, and a terrific value.
That explains why the redesigned 2006 Toyota RAV4 is bigger, more aggressive looking, and equipped with an optional V6 engine that makes almost as much horsepower as the V8 engine in a heavier Ford Explorer. Men are figuring out that a V8 and a low-range transfer case donâ€™t actually make up for any perceived shortcomings, and do, in fact, create them in the form of a lighter wallet, a rougher ride, and a lower resale value. Know anybody shopping for a used Dodge Durango R/T in this day of three-buck unleaded? Neither do we. Toyota couldnâ€™t have known what would happen to the price of oil when it embarked on the RAV4â€™s redesign several years ago, but its timing for this new sport-ute couldnâ€™t be any better.