2011 Toyota Rav4 Review and Prices

Last Updated: Jan 2, 2011

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2011 Toyota Rav4 Buying Advice

The 2011 Toyota RAV4 is the best car for you if you want a compact crossover with cojones – and good room, reliability, and resale value, too.  

The 2011 RAV4 beefs up options for its base model but is otherwise a carryover of the 2010 Toyota RAV4. This SUV qualifies as a crossover by blending car-type unibody construction with elevated ride height and available all-wheel drive (AWD). The RAV4 is by no means unwieldy, but it is among the largest compact SUVs and, by virtue of a kid-sized third-row bench seat, is among the few with seven-passenger capacity. It’s also available with a powerful V-6 that makes it the fastest crossover in its competitive set. RAV4’s role in Toyota’s sudden-acceleration recalls was a relatively minor one. Some 2009- and 2010-model RAV4s were recalled to replace a sticking gas pedal. But most RAV4s sold in the U.S. are assembled in Japan and were not affected by the recalls. An electronic brake-override system was phased in during production of 2010 RAV4s and will be included on all 2011 RAV4s.

Should you buy a 2011 Toyota RAV4 or wait for the 2012 Toyota RAV4? Buy the 2011 Toyota RAV4. The 2012 RAV4 isn’t likely to change significantly and will in fact represent the final year of this crossover’s current lifecycle. With an all-new RAV4 on track for launch as 2013 model, the styling and features of the 2011 RAV4 will have a longer shelf life than those of the 2012 RAV4. And with Toyota still recovering from the sudden-acceleration controversy, the 2011 RAV4 is available with generous factory incentives.

2011 Toyota Rav4 Changes back to top

Styling: The 2011 Toyota RAV4 carries forward appearance tweaks bestowed upon the 2009 RAV4. Part of a mid-cycle freshening of a design that dates to model-year 2006, the changes were subtle, confined mostly to a remolded grille, retouched tail lamps, and some new alloy wheels. The 2011 RAV4 continues in Base, Sport, and Limited models. Styling differences are subtle; the Limited has a chrome grille insert instead of a black one, for example, and the Base model comes with black door handles and steel wheels versus the other models’ body-colored handles and fancier alloy wheels. The Sport model has an option that uses run-flat tires and dispenses with RAV4’s tailgate-mounted spare tire. Speaking of tailgates, the RAV4’s is hinged on the right side and opens like a big door rather than swinging up in the “liftgate” manner of most rivals. With no change in size, the 2011 Toyota RAV4 is again larger than the other top-selling crossovers, the Honda CR-V and Ford Escape, both of which are five-seaters. The 2011 RAV4 does not, however, encroach on Toyota’s larger crossovers, the five-seat Venza and the seven-passenger Highlander. It’s also a size smaller than the 2011 Toyota 4Runner. For most drivers, the RAV4 is also more practical than the 4Runner, a genuine SUV with a truck-type chassis and serious off-pavement credentials.            

Mechanical: The 2011 RAV4 gains a brake-override system that automatically reduces engine power if the brake and accelerator are applied simultaneously. Toyota says RAV4 stands for “Recreational Active Vehicle with 4-wheel drive.” That’s quite accurate -- except for the 4-wheel drive part. About 75 percent of 2011 Toyota RAV4 buyers favor a front-wheel drive version of this crossover; front-drive provides adequate traction in all conditions. For improved grip on slippery surfaces, all RAV4 models are available with all-wheel drive (AWD). AWD is different from “4-wheel drive.” Four-wheel drive (4WD) can be defined as a rear-wheel-drive-based system that can share power with the front wheels. Moreover, engaging many 4WD systems requires the driver to activate a dashboard switch or a floor lever; the 4Runner has 4WD. By contrast, RAV4’s AWD is a crossover-typical setup that normally operates in front-wheel drive. It automatically and temporarily reapportions power rearward only when sensors detect tire slip. It requires no action from the driver, though to its credit, it goes further than most crossover AWD systems by allowing the driver to lock in a traction-enhancing 50/50 front/rear split for use below 25 mph. Still, an AWD RAV4 is not intended for rugged off-roading -- though its 7.5 inches of ground clearance is handy in deep snow and on rutted trails. The 2011 RAV4 doesn’t deviate from a powertrain roster that offers a choice of two engines in all models. Both engines can be teamed with front- or all-wheel drive. Most buyers order the 2.5-liter four-cylinder, which is rated at 179 horsepower and 172 pound-feet of torque. The 2.5 comes only with a four-speed automatic transmission and is lively enough for light-duty work but can feel strained when you’re trying to merge your loaded RAV4 onto a fast-moving freeway or ascend a mountain grade. No such worries with the V-6, which rates a robust 268 horsepower and 246 pound-feet of torque. It uses a five-speed automatic and is so potent we recommend you order it with AWD. That’s because the AWD system’s ability to quickly send power rearward offsets the torque-steer wander that often affects a powerful front-drive vehicle during rapid acceleration. Standard towing limits are 1,500 pounds with the four-cylinder engine and 2,000 with the V-6. An optional towing package for V-6 Sport and Limited models increases the limit to 3,500 pounds.  

Features: Aside from addition of the brake-override system, the 2011 RAV4’s biggest change comes in the form of a new Base Plus Extra Value Package for the Base-level model.  This option package brings many RAV4 Sport-model features to the Base version. It includes a tilt/slide moonroof, 17-inch five-spoke alloy wheels, body-color instead of black door handles, daytime running lights, roof rails, and tinted rear privacy glass. Inside, it adds a 6-CD player with satellite radio capability, steering-wheel audio controls, upgraded interior fabric, and, on models without the third-row seat, a cargo tonneau cover. Also for model-year 2011, the JBL audio system with Bluetooth and a 6-CD changer has been discontinued on Sport models, and the chrome shift knob with leather insert has been discontinued on models with the Sport Appearance package. One feature Toyota still denies the RAV4 is a USB iPod interface to supplement the basic digital-player auxiliary port; most top rivals have one. Otherwise, this is a comprehensively equipped mid-priced crossover. Antilock brakes, antiskid stability control, and traction control systems are standard to help the RAV4 stop, corner, and accelerate more safely. RAV4s equipped with the V-6 engine or the third-row seat add hill ascent and hill descent control. Head-protecting curtain side airbags also continue among the standard safety features. These curtain airbags cover just the first two seating rows but are designed to deploy in both a side collision and when sensors detect an impending rollover. The 2011 RAV4 Sport models will again have 18-inch wheels, which means they handle well but ride stiffly. In fast turns, the other RAV4 models lean more and grip less, but their more absorbent tires and suspension settings are welcome on bumpy roads. Standard equipment on all 2011 RAV4s includes air conditioning, power mirrors, windows and locks, a tilt/telescoping steering wheel, height-adjustable driver’s seat, and remote keyless entry. A power sunroof is optional. The navigation system, leather upholstery with heated front seats, and a rear-seat DVD entertainment system remain available only on the 2011 RAV4 Sport and Limited models.

2011 Toyota Rav4 Prices back to top

The 2011 Toyota RAV4 base-price range is $22,735-$29,045. That represents an increase of about 1 percent over 2010 RAV4 prices. (Base prices listed in this report include the manufacturers’ mandatory destination fee. Toyota’s fee is $810 for the 2011 RAV4. Toyotas in some southeastern states are delivered by independent suppliers and may carry different destination fees.)

The 2011 Toyota RAV4 Base model with the four-cylinder engine is priced from $22,735 with front-wheel drive and from $24,135 with AWD. The 2011 RAV4 Base model with the V-6 has a base price of $24,770 with front-wheel drive and $26,170 with AWD.

The 2011 Toyota RAV4 Sport model with the four-cylinder engine has a base price of $24,435 with front-wheel drive and $25,835 with AWD. The 2011 RAV4 Sport model with the V-6 is priced from $26,365 with front-wheel drive and $27,765 with AWD.

The 2011 Toyota RAV4 Limited model with the four-cylinder engine is priced from $25,725 with front-wheel drive and from $27,115 with AWD. The 2011 RAV4 Limited model with the V-6 is priced from $27,645 with front-wheel drive and $29,045 with AWD.

Among 2011 Toyota RAV4 options, the navigation system adds $1,556 to Sport models and $1,240 to Limited models. Leather upholstery is a $1,930 add-on and the moonroof a $900 extra for Sport and Limited models. The third-row seat costs $750-$940, depending on model.

The newly available Base Plus Extra Value Package costs $1,610 on Base four-cylinder models and $1,490 on Base V6 models, though these options were introduced with factory discounts of up to $120.

2011 Toyota Rav4 Fuel Economy back to top

Mileage ratings for the 2011 Toyota RAV4 are unchanged. The 2011 RAV4 four-cylinder rates 22/28 mpg city/highway with front-wheel drive and 21/27 with all-wheel drive. These figures beat some four-cylinder rivals that have ostensibly more fuel-efficient five-speed automatic transmissions.

A 2011 Toyota RAV4 equipped with the V-6 also continues among the more fuel-efficient crossovers in its competitive set. Its EPA ratings remain 19/27 mpg with front-wheel drive, 19/26 with all-wheel drive. Both RAV4 engines use 87-octane gas.

2011 Toyota Rav4 Release Date back to top

The 2011 Toyota RAV4 went on sale in August 2010.

What's next for the 2011 Toyota Rav4 back to top

We hold out hope Toyota will upgrade the four-cylinder RAV4 with a five-speed automatic transmission before this third-generation design is retired. The extra gear would enhance performance and fuel efficiency and raise the four-cylinder’s viability as a V-6 alternative. Toyota could also come up with a special-edition model to mark the end of this successful RAV4 run. More likely, the automaker will keep today’s powertrains intact while simply liberalizing availability of some features and options throughout the lineup.

There’s some debate about when exactly Toyota will introduce the next-generation RAV4. Our sources are confident it’ll be a 2013 model, others insist it’ll be a 2012. Whenever it arrives, look for this crossover to continue with styling that leans toward traditional square-rigged SUV rather than new-age sculpted jelly bean. The fourth-generation RAV4 probably won’t change in size, but could drop availability of a V-6 engine in favor of a four-cylinder powertrain that’s more powerful yet more fuel-efficient than today’s 2.5-liter/four-speed-automatic combo.

2011 Toyota Rav4 Competition back to top

2011 Honda CR-V: Saddled with an occasionally overtaxed four-cylinder as its sole engine, this five-seat crossover can’t beat the RAV4 for acceleration. It doesn’t feel quite as substantial on the road, either. But the CR-V handles very well and counts Honda reliability, assembly quality, and resale value among its assets. Fuel economy is 21/28 mpg (city/highway) with front-drive, 21/27 with AWD. Base price range is roughly $22,300-$30,500. The current-generation CR-V dates from model-year 2007 and will be fully redesigned for model-year 2012.

2011 Subaru Forester: A model-year 2009 redesign elevated this five-seater from compact-wagon cramped to compact-crossover roomy. Forester is more car-like than most in this class but the payoff is outstanding road manners that beat any crossover in its price range and some that cost more. Particularly capable AWD is standard. So are four-cylinder engines. The base engine is adequate and rates 20/26 mpg with the four-speed automatic transmission; the available turbocharged four is very lively and rates 19/24. Base price range is some $21,000-$29,400. Forester won’t see significant change until model-year 2014 or so.   

2011 Volkswagen Tiguan: Maybe not the first alternative that comes to mind, but one with appeal for RAV4’s demographic. A genuine German driving feel, lively turbo-four-cylinder power, and a roomy five-seat cabin are balanced by VW’s subpar reliability ratings. Still, Tiguan is too cool to be dismissed without a test drive. Tiguan is available with front- and all-wheel drive. Either way, fuel economy is 19/26 mpg with manual transmission, 18/24 with the six-speed automatic. Next full redesign is expected for model-year 2013 or 2014.

*UPDATED BY TIM HEALEY