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When SUV’s first became a mass market icon in the 80’s and 90’s, it was the kind of vehicle that allowed for an outdoorsy kind of lifestyle while also being a suitable family, errand runner. As the years moved on, gas prices soared, and the idea of these utilitarian concepts got expensive to build and maintain. Therefore, the solution were crossovers, a unibody, car based platform, like this, the Toyota RAV4. More designed for the grocery run and school drop off, the idea of being an adventurer of sorts was never in its chemical compound.

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Seeing this is the last year for this generation RAV4, why not go out with something beyond its average customers forte – with a new Adventure trim level. We like the idea of an “adventurous” crossover, like a mini 4Runner. But like every other RAV4, just because it comes standard with All-Wheel Drive and half an inch higher lift doesn’t exactly make this RAV4 trail ready.

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The RAV4 Adventure is essentially an aesthetics upgrade to remind us this isn’t our typical Mom crossover with beefier gray cladding lower body panels that mimic skid plates, black 18” wheels, black headlights, mirrors, grille, roof rails and hood decal. It also gets fitted with more heavy duty, all-weather floor plans, more durable, stain resistant cloth seats and funky interior accents that almost look like tire treads, or carbon fiber – we can’t tell.

Like any typical all-wheel drive system, the RAV4 Adventure is always in AWD mode – sending 90% of its power to the front wheels during normal driving conditions. Once off the pavement or during slippery conditions, the all-wheel drive detects which wheel is slipping and sends power the other wheels with the most traction. The Adventure also comes standard with a locking torque module that can deviate its power evenly through all four wheels at the same time – kind of like a locking center differential.

While all of this is nice on something that may see a paved dirt road from time to time, the RAV4 isn’t exactly peaking in terms of its performance. Using the same 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine found in most Toyota products, the RAV4 continues to spool 176-horsepower from a six-speed automatic transmission. Despite the aggressive Adventure stamped plate on the tailgate, the RAV4 never makes any claims to be something its not. While taking a slow 8.5 seconds to get to 60, the RAV4 is quiet, smooth and compliant – it just does the job it was designed to do.

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Compared to other crossovers on the market such as the Honda CR-V, Mazda CX-5 or Kia Sportage, the RAV4 isn’t as fuel efficient or fun to drive. Despite a Sport mode, the RAV4’s weighted steering is a bit dreary and unmemorable. We only averaged 20 mpg over the course of 400 miles with mixed city and highway. And while suspension is smooth and cooperative over rough terrain at high speeds, it carries a lot of body motion and lean in the corners.

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Toyota is doing their best with what they currently have by implementing their new Toyota Safety Sense system (Forward Collision Detection with Autonomous Braking, Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Departure Warning with Lane Keep Assist and Automatic High Beam Assist) as a standard feature. Something that is only available as an optional extra on higher trim levels of its competition. But that’s where the latest technology stops and we’re reminded how long ago 2013 really was with its small, limited functionality touch screen infotainment system – it matches the same size of iPhone X screen.

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After adding in options like the $1,060 Cold Weather Package that adds in Heated Seats, a Heated Steering Wheel and Power Adjustable Driver Side Seat, $395 optional red paint, and $40 mud flaps we start to see this base price of $28,400 pass $30-grand.

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Since we’ve started working in this industry, the Toyota RAV4 has always held a special place in our hearts – it was the first vehicle we had reviewed in 2013. After our last and final look, we’ve come to the conclusion that the Adventure isn’t  quite our taste of RAV4, we’d much prefer the sportier queues of the SE for the same money. But if it was really up to us, we’d wait for the next iteration of the 2019 RAV4 with more aggressive design queues, updated technology, and better performance attributes.

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Vehicle Specifications:
2018 Toyota RAV4 Adventure All-Wheel Drive: $28,400
As Tested (including Options & Destination): $30,860
Performance Specs:
2.5-liter Four-Cylinder – 176-Horsepower, 6-Speed Automatic Transmission – 0-60MPH: ±8.5 seconds
EPA MPG: 22/28/25 (City/Highway/Combined) – SSB Average: 20 MPG’s – Fuel Range: ±325 Miles