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2015 Toyota RAV4 XLE FWD is a likable Ute

August 17, 2015
The front of this CUV is aggressive - Anne Proffit photo

The front of this CUV is aggressive – Anne Proffit photo

When first introduced in 1995, Toyota’s RAV4 was a very small crossover vehicle and quickly found its niche in that category. Since then it’s had many challengers but still remains one of the best values in the American market for those needing a bit more space than a similarly-sized sedan and not needing a larger SUV-type ride.

Originally offered as both two- and four-door elevated hatchbacks (with a covered spare hanging off the side-opening rear), the 2015 Toyota RAV4, now in its fourth iteration, is available solely with four doors and an unadorned (spare now under-floor) hatch closing down at the rear. As its grown, the RAV4 has received mechanical and comfort upgrades; it’s now quite the worthy vehicle for both around town and over the road experiences.

Its rear hatch is a bit of a tough reach

Its rear hatch is a bit of a tough reach

During the year of May in Indianapolis, we had the opportunity for an extended visit with the 2015 Toyota RAV4 FWD in XLE trim. As a front-wheel-drive vehicle, this RAV4 doesn’t have much off-road capability (only drove it through the muck of Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s “media parking” bog) but it sure does well in nasty weather, something we experienced throughout our time together. With its Hot Lava (orange) exterior accompanied by cloth charcoal interior, this RAV4 is certainly easy to pick out in a crowd.

Toyota says this vehicle is “stylish, smart and adventurous” and gosh, it sure wants to be all of that. Handsome to the point of being luscious in this newest version, the RAV4’s corporate front end is similar to that of both Camry and Corolla and easily identifies the vehicle. The upswept snout, bold shoulders and wheel arches, smooth sides and sassy rear light treatment make the Toyota RAV4 XLE truly attractive. At least to me.

There’s a single engine available for this vehicle: it’s a capable 2.5-liter inline four-cylinder with 176 horsepower at 6000 rpm and complementary 172 lb-ft of torque at 4100. With its redline at 6200 rpm and weight of 3435 pounds, the RAV4 FWD XLE scoots pretty well, aided by its well-geared and shiftable six-speed transmission. Suspension is independent all around with struts at the front and double wishbones for the rear. Steering is power rack-and-pinion for precision and brakes are discs at all four corners. This particular RAV4 has Continental 225/65R 17-inch rubber mounted on handsome five-spoke rims.

The "office" of the RAV4 is all business - Anne Proffit photo

The “office” of the RAV4 is all business – Anne Proffit photo

The 2015 XLE FWD Rav4 model has a list price, including freight of $26,135. There are two options on this CUV, a package that includes premium audio with navigation (and an app suite), the high-resolution touchscreen with split display and the integrated backup camera, a six-speaker audio system that includes a CD player and Sirius/XM satellite radio (the customary 3-month trial), HD radio, full Bluetooth capability for both the phone and for music streaming, USB and auxiliary jacks for $585 and full floor/cargo mats for $225, bringing the total to $26,935.
gauges

Everything in front of the driver is easy to see, except for the small, blue LED at the base of the gauge cluster

Everything in front of the driver is easy to see, except for the small, blue LED at the base of the gauge cluster

In order to get the requisite 24/31/26 mpg (regular unleaded is fine) from the 15.9-gallon tank, I kept the transmission in Eco mode, although my heart wanted to work in Sport, which is a heck of a lot of fun. When you’re putting on lots of miles, economy rules. I find the RAV4 an easy car to live with ergonomically, having cupholders in all four doors and two in the central tunnel, a good hatch cover, comfortable manual front seats and elevated rear seats so that anyone brave enough to ride along can see where we’re going.

There’s some fake carbon fiber trim on the doors and in the central console; it’s pretty nice looking. The driver has well-hooded instrumentation; a small pale-blue LED display at the base of the speedometer also gives temperature for the engine, outside, gear and odometer readings, but can be tough to see in some light. The phone pairing is simple and effective, with controls on the right side of the steering wheel together with the trip computer; audio controls are on the left and Toyota uses its dedicated stalk for cruise control.

There’s plenty of storage, open at the bottom of the central stack for the USB and auxiliary buttons, while the central tunnel has closed storage. That latter has okay carpeting but is mostly hard plastic; there is a lot of hard plastic in this cabin.
front seat

The front and rear seats are commodious and livable - Anne Proffit photos

The front and rear seats are commodious and livable – Anne Proffit photos

While I have to admit I’m in the five percentile when it comes to height, I usually don’t have much trouble reaching hatches. This Toyota RAV4 was an exception as I’d have to stretch extensively to reach it. There is a 60/40 fold to the rear seats that accommodates added cargo space, going from an original 38.4 cubic feet to a massive 73.4 cubic feet. Trips to certain big box stores certainly were easy.

Now this is an easy color to find in a crowded parking lot - and it's well nuanced, too - Anne Proffit photo

Now this is an easy color to find in a crowded parking lot – and it’s well nuanced, too – Anne Proffit photo

During our week and a half together, the 2015 Toyota RAV4 FWD in XLE trim gathered about a thousand miles, going to and from the racetrack, then to Detroit for another race, then back to the barn in Chicago. Mileage was an excellent 30mpg for the duration, helped by my regular use of that Eco setting. While it does sap a bit of acceleration, changing to Sport is easy on the fly if the driver needs to show some musculature.

Many Toyota vehicles have morphed into appliances for the road-going public and the 2015 RAV4 is no exception. While it’s capable over the road and the build quality is solid, even over Michigan and Indiana’s washboard road surfaces, there seems to be some soul missing here. Maybe it’s just me and I like cars with more personality, as Toyota appears to be selling quite a few of these vehicles. If I were a few inches taller, maybe I would not feel this ennui, but I do.

Words and Photos by Anne Proffit

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