2015 Toyota Rav4 Review and Prices

Last Updated: Jul 30, 2013

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2015 Toyota Rav4 Buying Advice

The 2015 Toyota RAV4 is the best SUV for you if you want a popular compact crossover on the cusp of some potentially advantageous changes.

The 2015 Toyota RAV4 should remain little different than the redesigned model that debuted for 2013. That means a roomy five-passenger wagon that emphasizes styling, fuel economy, and upscale cabin décor, but one also saddled with an underwhelming four-cylinder as its sole engine. If Toyota follows past RAV4 lifecycles, the RAV4 would get a midcycle freshening for model-year 2016. It would include slightly revised styling and, more important, the welcome possibility of a turbocharged four-cylinder-engine option.

Should you wait for the 2015 Toyota RAV4 or buy a 2014 Toyota RAV4? There’s not apt to be much difference between a 2014 and 2015 RAV4. Toyota could juggle features availability among trim levels or introduce a new color or two. But the looks and powertrain won’t change. So waiting for the 2015 RAV4 instead of buying a 2014 would put you one year closer to the potential 2016 refresh. That means a shorter shelf life for the styling and a quicker resale-value hit. You’d also face the higher prices that almost inevitably come with each new model year.

2015 Toyota Rav4 Changes back to top

Styling: The 2015 RAV4’s styling will repeat the look introduced with the 2013 redesign. Creased bodywork and a traditional cargo liftgate – pre-2013 RAVs had a side-hinged cargo door – will again set the theme. 

It’s far from a radical shape, but the 2015 RAV4 will again stand out visually enough in a category that includes the Euro-look Ford Escape, unadventurously aerodynamic Honda CR-V, comely Mazda CX-5, and the latest redesign of the Nissan Rogue.

This fourth-generation RAV4 will again be among the more spacious compact crossovers, with particularly generous rear-seat room. Discontinued in the 2013 redesign was the optional, child-sized third-row seat. Toyota won’t change the 2015 RAV4’s dashboard, continuing a modern layout that incorporates a 6.1-inch-diameter central screen for climate, audio, and available navigation displays.

Critics probably will remain mixed on the quality of the cabin materials. But we believe they’re a highlight -- a blend of nicely padded and solid plastic surfaces complemented by French-stitched seams on the instrument panel and seats.

Expect the 2015 RAV4 model lineup to continue base LE, volume-selling XLE, and top-line Limited versions. Trim details and wheel designs should remain the main visual differentiators. The XLE and Limited, for example, probably will again have standard fog lights and body-colored turn-signal mirrors. The 2015 LE probably will return with 17 inch steel wheels with wheel covers, the XLE with 17-inch alloys, and the Limited with 18-inch alloys.

Mechanical: The 2015 RAV4 should continue with road manners that won’t match the class-leading Escape and CX-5 for sportiness. Toyota would do well to address steering that overreacts to subtle inputs at highway speeds and to reconsider suspension settings that make the ride uncomfortably firm over ruts and big bumps.

The 2015 RAV4 almost certainly will continue with one engine, a 2.5-liter four-cylinder carried over from the third-generation RAV. Expect it to repeat with 179 horsepower and 172 pound-feet of torque (think of torque as the force that gets a vehicle moving, horsepower as the energy that keeps it moving). That output would be competitive with the entry-level four-cylinder engines in most rivals, although lack of direct fuel injection would continue to put Toyota’s 2.5-liter a tech step off the class pacesetters.

The 2015 RAV4 likely will continue with a single transmission, a six-speed automatic with a shift-lever that can be toggled for manual-type gear control. Select rivals will have advanced to transmissions with more gears; the new Jeep Cherokee will have a nine-speed automatic, for instance.

But the 2015 RAV4 probably will remain slightly heavier than most compact crossovers and continue to provide only marginal acceleration, especially during merging or passing. By contrast, the third-generation RAV4 offered a V-6 engine with robust power. The return of a six-cylinder doesn’t seem to be in the RAV4’s future. But a turbocharged four-cylinder probably is. Several rivals offer turbo fours of 200-260 horsepower, including the Escape, Subaru Forester, Kia Sportage, and Volkswagen Tiguan.

Toyota is developing a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder; it’ll likely appear in a model-year 2017 freshening of the IS sport sedan from the automaker’s premium Lexus division. Reports suggest the turbo four could also become available as part of the RAV4’s model-year 2016 update.  

No change would be needed to RAV4’s all-wheel-drive system, which should remain the choice of about 65 percent of RAV4 buyers over standard front-wheel drive.  Available on all three models, the system is called Dynamic Torque Control. Typical of compact-crossover AWD systems, it operates in fuel-conserving front-wheel drive until sensors detect tire slip, whereupon power automatically is shuffled front-to-rear until grip is restored.

Dynamic Torque Control, however, is also designed to enhance handling by reapportioning power during acceleration and cornering. And while the 2015 RAV4 won’t suddenly turn into a serious off-road 4x4 (virtually no compact crossover is), its AWD system will continue to include a button to lock in a 50/50 front/rear torque split for maximum low-speed traction.

Expect the 2015 RAV4 to also continue with a dashboard button that activates Sport and Eco modes. Sport dials back power-steering assist, quickens throttle reaction, and delays upshifts. On AWD RAV4s, it also remaps front/rear torque distribution to further bolster handling and control. Eco mode is intended to save fuel by softening throttle reaction, recalibrating shift points, and dialing back on air conditioning.

Features: The 2015 Toyota RAV4 should sustain a relatively simple approach to features in which even the base LE includes with an attractive selection and no model has an extensive options list.

All 2015 RAV4s will continue with USB-iPod and Bluetooth hands-free mobile-phone and music-streaming connectivity. Standard as well will be cruise control, a six-speaker CD audio system with satellite radio, and a backup camera that displays on the dashboard screen.

Unlike less munificent automakers, Toyota is likely to continue offering a navigation system not just on the top-line RAV4 Limited model but also on the XLE. The system would again be part of the roughly $1,100 Display Audio with Navigation and Entune option. This combines voice-activated navigation with Toyota’s Entune infotainment interface. Entune connects with an onboard smartphone to access mobile apps, including Pandora and iHeartRadio and the Bing search engine. It all works well, but Toyota ought to consider fitting navigation-equipped 2015 RAV4s with a larger, higher-definition screen than the standard 6.1-inch dashboard display. 

The 2015 XLE and Limited models should continue with dual-zone automatic climate control, a sunroof, and specially bolstered front seats among their standard equipment. RAV4’s 2013 redesign brought this SUV’s first power liftgate and Toyota might find it competitively expedient to expand that feature beyond the Limited model, where it’s been standard. The automaker could take a similar approach to the leather-wrapped steering wheel, power driver’s seat, heated front seats, and keyless entry with pushbutton ignition that have also been Limited exclusives.

More important, it should reconsider making the blind-spot monitor with rear-cross-traffic alert available not just on the 2015 RAV4 Limited but on the XLE, if not the LE. This safety system warns of unseen vehicles in adjacent lanes or approaching from the sides when backing from a parking space.

2015 Toyota Rav4 Prices back to top

Prices for the 2015 Toyota RAV4 were not released in time for this review but expect a base-price range of roughly $25,000-$30,100. (Estimated base prices in this review include the manufacturer’s mandatory destination fee. Toyota’s fee for the RAV4 was running around $850. Toyotas in certain Gulf and Southeastern states are delivered by independent suppliers and may carry different destination fees.)

Estimated starting price for the 2015 Toyota RAV4 LE is $25,000 with front-wheel drive, $26,500 with AWD. Base price for the 2015 RAV4 XLE is an estimated $26,000 with front-drive, $27,500 with AWD. Estimated base price for the 2015 RAV4 Limited is $28,900 with front-drive and $30,100 with AWD.

2015 Toyota Rav4 Fuel Economy back to top

EPA fuel-economy ratings for the 2015 Toyota RAV4 were not released in time for this review. Barring powertrain changes, however, expect the 2015 RAV4 to rate 24/31/26 mpg city/highway/combined with front-wheel drive and 22/29/25 with AWD.

Those ratings would again place the RAV among the more fuel-efficient compact crossovers of similar power. Note that EPA ratings are not calculated with the Eco mode activated. Toyota says pressing the Eco button improves fuel economy slightly in real-world driving.

2015 Toyota Rav4 Release Date back to top

The 2015 Toyota RAV4 should reach showrooms during the fourth quarter of 2014.

What's next for the 2015 Toyota Rav4 back to top

If Toyota follows recent RAV4 lifecycles, this fourth-generation RAV4 will indeed get a freshening for model-year 2016 and be fully redesigned for model-year 2019 or 2020.

The 2016 midcycle redo would include minor appearance and trim revisions. Underhood, a 2.5-liter four-cylinder upgraded for additional power would be welcome. But Toyota probably considers the turbocharged 2.0-liter the better way to improve performance at little or no loss of fuel economy.  It would likely be an extra-cost alternative to the 2.5-liter.

Toyota has pledged to offer a gas-electric hybrid version of each of its models. Whether a hybrid RAV4 arrives during this generation’s lifecycle is conjecture.

By the way, RAV4 stands for “Recreational Active Vehicle with 4-wheel drive” and the original RAV4 helped kick off the compact-crossover class when it debuted for model-year 1996. A crossover uses a unified body-and-frame design typical of automobiles. Before 1996, virtually all SUVs employed truck-like, separate body-and-frame construction.

2015 Toyota Rav4 Competition back to top

Ford Escape: Based on a global platform, Escape boasts European-grade road manners but suffers tight rear-seat room and prices that can get quite steep. Ford’s working to improve the MyFord Touch infotainment interface and offers one of the widest range of four-cylinder engines in this class, including two with turbocharging.

Honda CR-V: This roomy, easy-to-live-with crossover battles the Escape for compact-SUV sales leadership. It’s less flamboyant than the Ford, and meets the RAV4 head-on for passenger and cargo room. It rides and handles better than the Toyota, and vies with the RAV4 for top rankings in customer satisfaction and resale value.

Nissan Rogue: The Mazda CX-5 gets our vote for the best-driving compact crossover of all, but Nissan’s Rouge far outsells it and should continue as the No. 4-seller in the class on the basis of a model-year 2014 redesign. More exciting looks are on tap, but an emphasis on passenger room, fuel economy, and competitive pricing will remain its principal selling points.

2015 Toyota Rav4 Next Steps