Entry Price: $24,660
Price as tested: $28,589

This week, we’re reviewing the 2018 Toyota RAV4 XLE AWD, still the best selling compact SUVs in the world and winner of many notable awards along the way. Its North America history dates back to 1995 when RAV4 debuted with a nomenclature definition of: “Recreational Active Vehicle with 4WD.” Today, however, two-wheel-drive (2WD) RAV4s are as common as the 4x4s.

Now in its final year of a fourth generation design that began in 2013, Toyota has sold over 1.2 million RAV4s the last five years and looks to continue its excellent salesmanship when the fifth generation 2019 RAV4 debuts later this winter. RAV4 is also the number one non-pickup sales leader in America, a most notable achievement.

As mentioned in a few past vehicle reviews, Toyota perhaps knows better than the competition the importance of name branding over the long term. All of its model names are chosen with longevity in mind and many have years of marketing strength behind them.

Also, Toyota vehicles are free of unnecessary and many times confusing taxonomy, so you won’t be befuddled by a Toyota vehicle with a name like QX55hT Special Edition. From the Toyota Corolla that debuted in 1966 to Camry, 4Runner, Avalon, Highlander, Sequoia or Tundra, (to name just a few) you can be assured Toyota model names are selected to be around for the long term, which allows better branding and ultimate consumer confidence.

A good example of branding? Car buyers know what a Corolla or Camry is just like they do Maxwell House or Chock Full O’ Nuts coffee. It’s that simple.

Pricing starts at $24,660 for the entry LE, then escalates to the mid-class XLE at $25,750; SE at $29,040; Limited at $31,155; and top line Platinum at $35,000. If you want an AWD RAV4, you need another $1,400 added to the above prices. The AWD Hybrid Rav4s start at $29,030.

New for 2018 is an Adventure model with a base of $27,950 for the front-drive and $28,650 for the AWD. The newest member of the RAV4 family features 18-inch, five-spoke black alloy wheels, tow package, higher ground clearance, black headlight bezels, durable rocker panel guards and integrated black roof rails. This new model is perfect for those who enjoy weekends camping along the off-road trails yet still desire compact SUV dimensions.

Under the hood, all non-hybrid RAV4s come powered by a 176-horse 2.5-liter four-cylinder that produces 172 lb. ft. of torque and transfers power to the wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission. The combination delivers acceptable fuel mileage with 23 city and 30 highway the 2WD numbers and 22 and 28, respectively, the AWD EPA estimates. The hybrids are the MPG leaders with 34 city and 30 highway.

RAV4s AWD system is automatic and features Toyota’s Dynamic Torque Control component that merges with a fully independent suspension and driver activated Sport or Eco driving modes. On the road, our AWD RAV4 is fun to drive and easy to park as the ride is smooth and quiet thanks to extra insulation.

Our RAV4 XLE AWD arrived with a base price of $27,150 and included standard features like a power tilt and slide moonroof, keyless entry, daytime running lamps, privacy glass, fog lights, SiriusXM satellite, and power heated blind spot outside mirrors. Cabin notables include comfortable seating and a tilt and telescopic leather wrapped steering wheel with audio controls.

The XLE’s standard Entune Premium stereo system features a 6.1-inch touch screen and lots of goodies. Included are Entune Multimedia Bundle, AM/FM CD player, MP3/WMA playback, six-speakers, audio jack, USB 2.0 with iPod connectivity, advanced voice recognition, hands-free phone with phone book access and music, streaming via Bluetooth wireless, and integrated backup camera display with projected path static gridlines. Yep, it’s all standard on the XLE, and your Toyota dealer will fully explain all models when you visit.

Additionally, XLE models come with 17-inch tires on nice alloy wheels, room for five, split and reclining fold flat back seat, pedestrian alert, all the powers, dual zone air conditioning, privacy glass and much more.

All RAV4 models include Toyota Safety Sense and Toyota Star Safety systems that feature forward collision migration, automatic high beams, lane departure with steer assist, adaptive cruise control and more. Thanks to these standard safety items, RAV4 delivers solid Five Star overall government crash ratings and a 2018 IHHS Top Safety nod. Helping achieve excellent safety stats are four-wheel ABS disc brakes, stability control, traction control, electronic brakeforce distribution and Smart Stop technology with brake assist.
Our tester had only a few options, including a $90 Tonneau cover and a $304 Preferred Accessory package with carpet/cargo mat, cargo net and even a first aid kit. With a delivery charge of $1,045, the final retail came in at $28,589.
Important RAV4 AWD numbers include a 3,605 lb. curb weight, 104.7 inch wheelbase, 6.1-inch ground clearance, 34.8 ft. turn circle, 15.9 gallon fuel tank, 1,500 lb. tow capacity and from 38.4 to 73.4 cu. ft. of cargo space.

In summary, those who buy one of these 2018 RAV4 “leftovers” are assured two things: The new generation won’t sway too much from the current successful blueprint and pricing will be very favorable for those who know a deal when they see it. Already announced is a $2,000 cash back incentive, and there’s also Military and College Student price enticements.

If you want to wait until the 2019 RAV4s arrive for closer comparison, your buy decision either way will still assure you’ve parked a winner in your driveway.

Likes: Looks, easy to drive, owner satisfaction, reliability.
Dislikes: Acceleration not great, gas engine MPG numbers middle of the pack.
— Greg Zyla writes weekly for More Content Now and other GateHouse Media publications.