Toyota RAV4 Essential Expert Car Review

The first crossover utility might still be the best

What you need to know

The Toyota RAV4 was the best-selling non-pickup truck in America in 2017, and for the 2018 model year Toyota has added yet another trim level to the line to enable you to choose a vehicle that most closely matches your needs. The five-passenger crossover caters to a very broad clientele with rugged all-wheel-drive versions, commute-friendly front-drive choices and the availability of a technically fascinating hybrid with electronic on-demand all-wheel-drive.

Driving Today Expert Rating

Poor | Good | Better | BEST

New for 2018

With the addition of the new dual-use Adventure grade for 2018, the RAV4 is offered in six trim levels with LE at the bottom and Platinum on top, and Toyota has surprised some in the industry by making Toyota Safety Sense P standard across the entire line. That means Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection, Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist, Automatic High Beams, and Dynamic Radar Cruise Control are all standard RAV4 features. Also, standard is Toyota’s superior reliability and resale value

Driving it

All but hybrid Toyota RAV4s are powered by rock-solid, efficient 176-horsepower 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine with dual variable valve timing. (Don’t worry; it works.) Channeled through the standard six-speed automatic transmission, power is more than adequate for heavy loads and even moderate towing. Driver-selectable operating modes let you tailor the driving experience to your tastes. Eco mode delivers max fuel economy. Sport mode delivers sharpened shift timing, throttle response, and steering feel, and on models with Dynamic Torque Control All-Wheel Drive, it also alters torque distribution to suit conditions. The 2018 Toyota RAV4 offers good visibility; predictable steering response, and it’s easy to park thanks in part to the standard rear-view camera system.

Key competitors:

Nissan Rogue, Honda CR-V, Ford Escape, Chevrolet Equinox, Mazda CX-5, Jeep Renegade

Price range:

Base:  $25,500

Fully Equipped: $32,000

Typically Equipped: $27,000

Best feature:

Class-leading quality, reliability and dependability


We like the Toyota Entune infotainment interface, but Toyota resolutely refuses to offer Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration.

Typical buyer: (estimated)

Male/Female – 51/49 percent   Married/Single – 60/40 percent

Median age – 38   Median Household Income – $78,000


NHTSA Crash Test Ratings:

Overall 5-star     Frontal 4-star     Side 5-star     Rollover 4-star

Electronic Stability Control, Forward Collision Warning, Lane Departure Warning, Crash Imminent Braking, Dynamic Brake Support

IIHS: Top Safety Pick

Fuel Economy (EPA miles per gallon city/highway/combined)

Lowest: 22 / 28 / 24          Highest: 34 / 30 / 32

Predicted Reliability

Poor | Good | Better | BEST

Predicted Cost-to-Own (versus key competitive vehicles)

Poor | Good | Better | BEST

About Tom Ripley 54 Articles
Born in Boston, Tom Ripley has been writing about the automotive industry and the human condition for more than a decade. He's a frequent traveller but nominally resides in Villeperce, France.