As road trippers, we’ve heard those infamous words, “I know a short cut”. And before you know it, the pavements ended, the GPS has lost its signal, and your snacks have blemished from that last fuel station. It’s that moment you stop and think “I should have gotten the All-Wheel Drive” – actually probably not, but we’re here just in case you do. See, here in Arizona, we find it a laugh when we hear “All-Wheel Drive.” Unless you live in the North, the worst we see is a dust haboob engulfing our golf courses forcing us to drink our Margaritas inside – and that’s pretty much all year round.
So to find out if All-Wheel Drive is worth the investment, we went in search of a “short cut” – which didn’t take long since we are technically the desert. To take it one step further, there are so many types of vehicles on the market that offer All-Wheel Drive, so we met up with a few other automotive testers who were willing to put their vehicles to the test.
First, we met up with Automotive Blogger Tyson Hugie from Drive To Five, he was showcasing the 2015 Acura MDX, a luxury family hauler. Then a couple of Nissan’s Product Testing engineers, arrived in a pre-production version of the 2015 Nissan Murano. And then there’s us…. and we opted for the 2015 Toyota RAV4. We also recruited a Ford Expedition to be there just in case things went wrong.
While the Murano and MDX are part of the journey, we are focusing our attentions onto the 2015 Toyota RAV4 – after all, this was our choice out of all the city-designed crossovers.
There were two reasons why we opted for the RAV4. First, based off our first drive in 2013 we quite liked it – it was comfortable to drive, sufficient power from the 2.5-liter engine, and spacious for our passengers. Second, the 4Runner wasn’t available – which was clearly our first choice. Cautiously, Toyota loaned us a feisty looking RAV4 Limited that features a new package for 2015, but we’ll get to that later.
On the forefront, nothing has aesthetically changed since our last review from two years ago. Compared to our 2013 sampled business-like Magnetic Gray tester, this Hot Lava paint certainly spices things up a bit and expresses curves we didn’t quite capture before.
Like any road trip, there were some highway bits before reaching the WARNING NO ROAD AHEAD sign – that’s when the RAV4 is best behaved. The standard 2.5-liter four-cylinder is sufficient for any basic driving needs. 176 horsepower gets to 60 mph in just over 9 seconds using a six-speed automatic transmission. Because we have the All-Wheel Drive system, the RAV4 is a little heavier than the front-wheel drive; however, this extra weight adds to the driving dynamics. The AWD RAV4 feels a little more planted than the FWD – it handles and corners more tightly.
The true test of the RAV4’s chassis lies ahead. The route chosen for our All-Wheel Drive course consisted of a 50 mile long terrain through the deep redneck desert known as Bloody Basin Trail. To be frank, we were under the impression this was going to be a walk in the park – but as the course got deeper we encountered rough rocky terrain, rivers, and a steep mountain to climb – a true test for All-Wheel Drive capabilities.
No matter the conditions, the RAV4’s AWD system is constantly active which meant all we had to do was drive and let the RAV4 sort out which wheel needed traction. 10 miles into our 50 mile conquest, we were quite pleased with the RAV4’s chassis – the suspension was rough and bouncy but not unbearable even on our 18″ wheels . During the course, there was never any signs of hesitate or slippage – even over some rough rocky areas the RAV4 handled like a breeze. We did endure a slight obstacle which lead us up a very steep hill – engaging the Dynamic Torque Control, increases the amount of torque being delivered to each wheel and adjust the power delivery depending on slippage – thus the RAV4 didn’t even break a sweat on its upward climb.
As the day got longer, the temperature outside gets hotter, we were keeping cool inside and enjoy the RAV4’s contemporary designed interior. Again, there is nothing truly different over the 2013 model – our tester here was handsomely equipped with our industry favorite Entune Navigation and JBL Audio system which is only a $785 upgrade. New for 2015 introduces the Technology Package for $725, with that you get Blind Spot Monitoring with Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Lane Departure Alert, and Automatic High Beams. And before you ask, yes the Lane Departure Alert did work on the dirt road.
Two years after our initial opinion, we’re still pleased with the Toyota RAV4. Our AWD drive test may have been a little ridiculous since really it’s designed around snow and ice. That said, seeing how the AWD works in rough conditions makes the RAV4 a fairly good all-rounded utilitarian for whatever life’s little mishaps or “short cuts” may bring.
|Price (As Tested):|
|2015 Toyota RAV4 Limited AWD:||$29,850|
|Interior Light Kit:||$185|
|Carpet Floor Mats/Cargo Mat:||$225|
|Roof Rack Cross Bars:||$315|
|Entune Premium w/ JBL Audio & Navigation:||$785|