Dub Richardson Toyota in Oklahoma City got one in today. I drove straight over there and test drove the vehicle. The model they had in was a base front wheel drive, with various $3-$500 options like an automatic dimming mirror. It did not have upgraded wheels and the standard wheels only look okay up close.
The criteria that I set was that this vehicle had to be as quick as my 1993 Honda Accord Ex model that also has a four-speed automatic. This vehicle weighs about 2900 pounds and puts out 145 hp. I can tell you that is really pretty quick, especially from stoplight to stop light. The thing I like about my car is the ability for it to "shoot the gap" when I'm trying to turn into traffic and there is a long line of cars moving at a quick pace and I want to get in between a couple of them. This does not require V-8 or even a V-6. But it does require a good relationship between the amount of torque available at low RPMs (especially in an automatic transmission vehicle, not so critical in a manual) and the weight of the vehicle. In my opinion the RAV4 does not meet this criteria. It is fairly close, may be 90% of the way being there. But in between my Honda and the RAV4, I would feel much more comfortable merging into this type of traffic situation with my current vehicle. I feel that this could have been alleviated if Toyota had chosen to use their five-speed automatic instead of the four-speed.
On the other hand if you're not concerned with this type of traffic situation, you'll be pleased to know that it shouldn't have any problems merging into Highway traffic. To shift from fourth to third gears in the automatic transmission, all you have to do is move the stick from left to right or vice versa. Putting the vehicle into third gear at about 20 miles an hour and stomping on the accelerator moves you to 75 mph really quickly!
As far is the noise issue goes, I did not detect any wind noise whatsoever. There was however a fairly considerable hum coming from the muffler. And I am talking about the muffler at the very end of the car. For some reason, probably inadequate insulation, the noise from the muffler seeps into the cabin a little bit more than one would like. But it is not enough to keep someone from purchasing this vehicle.
The braking and handling appear to be as advertised, very good! The news isn't nearly as good with respect to the ride. Once I got off the highway and into a local neighborhood I started to travel over some broken pavement.
Just areas in the street where the concrete had become cracked and a little bit more elevated than the surrounding pavement. When the RAV4 went over these patches, the springs in the suspension adequately absorbed the impact. Afterwords however, the vehicle continued to jounce. You get that feeling when you're traveling in a vehicle that has as high as center of gravity as this one of a mini-" woops".
The reason for this is, Toyota in its ultimate wisdom, decided to save about $20 per vehicle by putting in some cheap shocks. I would say that I find this to be outrageous, but I find it all too familiar. When I was working in my father's Kawasaki motorcycle shop in the early 70s, we were shocked to find out (no pun intended) that they were using fish oil in their shocks to save money. The good thing about this is, if you really like this vehicle you can easily upgrade your shocks if you're willing to spend the money.
The ergonomic features of this vehicle are really outstanding. The backseat area is absolutely huge. I can't imagine how big a person would have to be to be cramped back there. The ability to pull one lever near the back door and have the rear seats fold absolutely flat is really cool. The pushbutton upper glove box is really neat too, but it did not always work without a hitch. The front seats are very comfortable and supportive. The Tilt and telescoping steering wheel operated very smoothly. One thing that I did not understand and the salesman could not explain was a button on the dash just to the right of the steering wheel. It said "auto-LSD". Can somebody please explain to me what this is?
As I think of other things, I will report them back. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask. As of right now, I don't know if I would purchase a four-cylinder. I definitely would not like one with four-wheel drive. Maybe a K & N air filter or some other modifications would help the low end acceleration. I know that vehicle would have a much better ride with a change in shocks. I also think that the noise intruding into the cabin could probably be alleviated with some strategically placed fiberglass near the rear muffler.