The Toyota RAV4 has grown through the years. For 2019, the smaller Toyota SUV can now be called a family hauler for people with two kids. It is a far cry from the original RAV4 introduced back in 1994, with its spare tire mounted on the back of the tailgate.
There have been upgrades through the years, but the most impressive one is Toyota’s Safety Sense 2.0 that is standard on all models. This is mind-blowing to a lot of car shoppers because it means you get Toyota’s Full-Speed Range Dynamic Radar Cruise Control in the basic RAV4 LE that starts at just $25,000. Going all-out to the Limited package adds lots of niceties but $10,000 to the price. For those who must slog in traffic, dynamic cruise control can be a godsend. The car will automatically creep along in traffic without you having to operate the pedals. The driver can choose from three settings – close, medium or far – to maintain a preset distance from the car in front. Although it will not make a traffic jam as serene as walking along a quiet mountain trail, it certainly helps take away the induced stress inherent with traffic. If you opt for all-wheel drive, that system has settings for snow and mud as well as a trail mode that can help you get unstuck by applying brake pressure to a spinning wheel and automatically redirecting the torque to a wheel with traction.
Another standard safety feature is the pre-collision system with pedestrian protection. The vehicle will alert you and automatically apply the brakes if you do not act quickly enough. Additionally, lane departure alert will let you know if you are veering from your lane and help nudge you back into the correct one. It works by analyzing the lines on the road through a built-in camera system. That same camera system can also perform Road Sign Assist that can detect speed limit signs, stop signs and “Do Not Enter” signs. The RAV4 takes the information and displays it on the instrument cluster as you pass the signs. It’s a nice gentle reminder of the legal speed limit. Some of these feature sets can be added in the aftermarket, but we are not at the point yet where aftermarket components can take control of the steering or the braking systems. Yet …. In other words, it is very possible to add Advanced Driver Assistance Systems, or ADAS, to your older car. However, they can only give you visual and audible alerts. The new Toyota system can even take over the brake pedal if it senses an imminent crash.
So, this leads to an interesting question for the RAV4. If you are on a budget, is it better to purchase the base model with all the safety features and add what you like in the aftermarket a la carte, or go for the Limited? For people shopping for specific features with a safety suite built-in, the basic LE makes a case for itself. Then down the road, you can add heated seats, leather upholstery, and even a killer sound system. You’ll always have the advanced safety suite from the get-go.
But the Limited also makes a strong case with its “get it all right out of the box” approach. All models feature a 2.5-liter four-cylinder coupled to an eight-speed automatic transmission. The Limited gets 19-inch wheels, memory seats and a power liftgate. Toyota took a page from Cadillac and introduced the Gentex digital rearview mirror. It can function as either a digital or a conventional mirror at the flip of a switch. A high-mounted, wide-angle camera on the rear of the vehicle generates a greater field of view compared to a conventional mirror. For people who want to pack the RAV4 full of cargo all the way to the ceiling, the digital rearview mirror can be a savior. This option is already available in the aftermarket and should be a mandatory upgrade for those who carry a lot of cargo. Check with your local mobile electronics retailer for more info. (Bonus: It also is available with HomeLink garage door openers.)
On the multimedia end, every RAV4 comes with WiFi powered by Verizon. The standard system uses a 7-inch touchscreen, and the better models utilize an 8-inch screen. My tester featured the 11- speaker, 800-watt JBL sound system. Surprisingly, the system had decent bass and stereo imaging. But you must move up to the higher-grade models to get the better audio system.
So, the consumer’s choice is this: Go basic and upgrade later, or get all the bells and whistles from the factory. Either way, you’ll have a safe and capable SUV loaded with the latest safety features. And the first time you are stuck in traffic with the active cruise control, your feet and sanity will thank you.