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First Drive: 2016 Toyota RAV4 SE AWD


In High School, you have your diversity of Jocks, Plastics, Nerds, and then there’s us… the norms. The average B, C students that floated through doing nothing extraordinary but just struggling through another rough teenage life. The Toyota RAV4 is just that in the compact crossover world. You got Mazda trying to develop the best handling crossover with the CX-5, Hyundai trying to top everybody at everything with the new Tucson, and Ford just being a Jock with the Escape. But then there’s Toyota with its RAV4, just doing its own thing, coasting through, average at everything, per-say.

Since its redesign in 2013, it was time to freshen things up, add some modern appeal, and Toyota did just that, but with a new twist for 2016. Besides some new head and taillights, Toyota added a whole new trim level to the RAV4’s line-up. The SE is that of the “Sport Edition” adding in more flair and drama to an already controversial refresh. For something that has always hidden in the shadows of its rivals, the refresh done here looks really good. I’d say its turned into a fairly snappy drama queen.

Our sampler here arrived as said SE wearing a two-tone paint color that we honestly could just not justify – the paint is coded as Electric Storm Blue, that pops out in any parking lot – but the added $600 S-Code Paint Treatment, which brings in the silver trimming at the bottom is just a N.O. from us! However, everything else is a thumbs up. The SE brings in these new standard 18-inch wheels and LED head-, tail,- and daytime lights as well as some new facial features and black garnish around the back.

If it’s not broken don’t fix it, right? That’s Toyota’s moto! The standard 2.5-liter naturally aspirated four cylinder carries over with this refresh but that’s not to say there isn’t a new powertrain in the mix. A new Hybrid has been introduced for 2016, but we’ll cover that at a later time. However the 2.5-liter found in the RAV4 is a modest engine – it’s good for 176-horsepower and gets up to a good rate of speed in about 8.5 seconds. For this 3800lb crossover, it carries itself well – it’s not quick by any means and its six-speed autobox does the job, but only just.

Over any other trim, the SE here gets some drama added to its suspension and electric steering system to make the driver believe they’re having a more “enhanced” driving experience. The reality is the suspension is stiffer which makes the ride a tad uncomfortable and the steering is heavier at lower speeds but still overall has a very vague nonchalant feel – regardless of the “Sport” button, which only holds the gears for a bit longer while you climb up a hill.

At least the stiff ride helped distract us from this very odd color combo, black on brown interior we had that just did not seem fitting to our blue on silver tester. However, the SoftTrex leather, same kind used in Lexus, is extremely comfortable. And with the SE being a higher trim, it does bring in heated front seats, power adjustable driver seat, moon roof and a power rear lift tailgate.

Technology is a big upgrade for 2016 with the addition of the Advanced Technology Package that adds in a Bird’s Eye View Camera with a full rotation 360-degree view, the latest in autonomous adaptive cruise control, steering assist, lane departure warning and pre-collision warning with pedestrian detection as well as the usual navigation system with Toyota’s Entune software. But technology comes with a price, and it’s a hefty one, $3030.

At least for a crossover, fuel consumption isn’t terrible averaging 22 miles to the gallon on regular fuel with roughly just over 300 miles to bear. And that’s with our sampled All-Wheel Drive. With this SE AWD coming in at just under 31-grand, we say that’s not half bad – but then once you tack on the $3030 Advance Tech Pack and the gaging $600 S-Code Paint Treatment along with the $1827 in useless options, our tester came in over $37,000, and at the end of the day, that’s just ridiculous.

The Toyota RAV4 is a good crossover – you don’t expect much out of it and it doesn’t do anything more than it should – it drives well, has comfortable features, and looks halfway decent. Just don’t be fooled by all the dealer add-ons like our sampler and whatever you do, don’t get the S-Code Paint.

Price (As Tested):
2016 Toyota RAV4 SE AWD: $30,665
Destination: $900
Performance Specs:
2.5-liter 4-Cylinder – 176-horsepower/172lb-ft of torque – 0-60 MPH: ±8.5 seconds
EPA MPG: 22/29/25 (city/highway/combined) – SSB Average: 23 MPG’s | Fuel Range: 310 miles
Featured Options:
Wheel Locks: $65
Mudguards: $129
Interior Light Kit: $185
All Weather Floor Liners and Cargo Tray: $239
Roof Rack Cross Bars: $315
Paint Protection Film: $395
Remote Start: $499
S-Code Paint Treatment: $600
Advanced Technology Package: $3,030
Grand Total: $37,022









  1. Gotta hand it to Toyota for venturing out there with the color themes on this one, both inside and out. I though the camera tech was pretty cool, especially that 360-degree view. Clarity of the infotainment screen seemed above average and the LED tails were sharp looking at night.

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