New Car Review of the 2006 Toyota RAV4 Compact Sport Utility Vehicle
Base MSRP Range: $20,300 - $25,870
Base Invoice Range: $18,778 - $23,540
MSRP As Tested: Not Available
Versions: Base, Sport, Limited
Vehicle Category: Compact Sport Utility Vehicle
Engine Location: Front Engine
Standard Engine: 2.4-liter, Dual Overhead Cam, 16-valves,
166 -horsepower at 6000 rpm and 165 lb-ft torque at 4000 rpm.
3.5-liter, Dual Overhead Cam, 24-valves,
V-8, 269 -
horsepower at 6200
rpm and 246 lb-ft
torque at 4700 rpm.
automatic, Five-speed automatic.
Fuel Economy (city/hwy): Four-speed automatic 23/28, Five-speed automatic 21/28.
Standard Safety Features: Dual front airbags,
">Antilock 4-wheel disc brakes, Brake assist, Antiskid system, Hill ascent/descent control (V6), Tire-pressure monitor.
Competition: Ford Escape, Honda CR-V, Jeep Liberty, Kia Sportage, Mazda Tribute, Subaru Forester.
In 1996, Toyota hit a home run by doing something no other car company had
done before: it built an SUV on a car platform. It seemed an odd move - is
it a car or an SUV? But as it turned out, America was more than ready for
a vehicle that offered the styling and roominess of an SUV in a smaller,
more fuel-efficient package. And the people who wanted the convenience of
a small SUV were also very happy that they no longer had to suffer the
ride and handling of a truck. In fact, the RAV4 spawned a whole new
market segment - the crossover -- which continues to gain popularity
Ten years have gone by since the first RAV4 was introduced, and it’s still
a popular choice across a broad demographic of buyers (though Toyota is
targeting young, single professionals, especially women.)
The completely redesigned 2006 model, which comes in three trim levels of
Base, Sport and Limited, continues to improve upon the RAV4’s already stellar reputation. With more power, spiffy interior features, the choice of two- or four-wheel-drive and the option to upgrade to a V6 engine, the third-generation RAV4 is sure to turn heads - without turning out the lining in your wallet.
The standard engine on the RAV4 is borderline-adequate for driving around town or commutes, but not for any form of off-roading. A 2.4-liter, this inline-4 is sluggish on the acceleration, though not atrocious. Both this and the V6 are automatics (the I-4 is 4-speed and the V6 is a 5-speed). Putting out 166 horses, the four-banger improves upon last year’s engine by 5 ponies. The 165 lb.-ft of torque (at 4,000 RPM) leaves this engine a little under-powered, which explains that acceleration problem.
Or upgrade to the V6 engine, which we’d recommend purely because it’s so much more fun to drive. It lives up to Toyota’s sales pitch as a fun, “recreationally-active vehicle” (hence the “RAV” in RAV4). It packs one hefty punch with a class-leading
3.5-liter engine that roars with 269 horsepower (at 6,200 RPM) and 246 lb.-ft. of torque (at 4,700 RPM). Toyota claims it can jump from 0 to 60 MPH in under 7 seconds, and although we don’t have our own numbers, it certainly seems an accurate estimate.
Both engines are equipped with Variable Valve Timing with intelligence (VVT-i), which further helps to improve the efficiency by which fuel is consumed.
The RAV4’s suspension system has been improved upon as well, with
McPherson struts in the front and double-wishbone in the rear. The Sport
model adds sport tuning to the suspension for a tighter feel. Rear shock
absorbers are angled diagonally, which allows for a bigger (and lower)
cargo deck. The 2006
also includes a solid stabilizer bar. Disc brakes grace the front and rear
Choose from two- or four-wheel-drive on all three models. The
four-wheel-drive is electronically controlled, moving the power from the
back two wheels to all four. A switch flips up to keep the SUV in the
two-wheel-drive mode, so if it is off, the RAV4 will go continuously from
two- to four-wheel-drive as driving circumstances dictate. This helps
improve fuel economy and makes the SUV easier to handle.
Ride and Handling
One drive in the V6 and you’ll be hard-pressed to wipe that shocked
damn-this-thing-can-move grin off your face. The agile, responsive
Electric Power Steering system (EPS) requires no time to get used to; it
is very responsive and easy to manage.
That longer wheelbase also serves the double-purpose of style and
function, keeping the vehicle more stable for a gentle ride. It beats out
the competition in
overall stability, in fact, and doesn’t feel like it will roll over around
corners like most SUVs do.
All three RAV4’s are equipped with the Toyota Star Safety System, which
features Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS), traction control (TRAC), Brake Assist
Brakeforce Distribution (EBD) and Vehicle Stability Control (VSC). Working
together, these components are quite effective in maintaining vehicle
control, helping make the most of the abundant braking power and keeping
you going in the direction you intended regardless of road conditions.
Also standard is the uphill-downhill shift assistant, which helps avoid
rolling backward in inclines and limits speed while driving on a steep
decline. It also
helps you get going from a stop when facing uphill. Rest assured that in a
crash situation, the RAV4 will crumple in specially designed areas that
impact of the collision and keep it away from your passengers. Headrests
come on all seats, as well as three-point safety belts. Front belts have
force limiters and pretensioners.
Dual front airbags come standard, and are multi-staged to deploy at a rate
appropriate for the collision’s intensity. Ad occupant classification
system can tell
whether there’s a front passenger, and deploys that bag accordingly.
An upgrade is available that provides front side airbags and curtain side
airbags (which protect the first- and second-row passengers’ heads.) The
tire pressure monitor inside the vehicle is extremely useful; the
information it feeds the driver helps prevent irregular tire wear and
helps maintain the best possible gas mileage by alerting the driver when
tires are under- or over-inflated.
The high-tensile steel RAV4 is built upon a new platform, and is a Unibody
- meaning it’s stronger, lighter and safer.
Sharper lines and a wider, longer stance make for an agile-looking compact
SUV that doesn’t compromise looks for value. The side rear windows follow
a smartly-angled curve that echoes much more expensive SUVs like Lexus.
The trapezoid-shaped front grille adds to this feel.
The 2006 RAV4 has increased its length by 14 inches, and is 3 inches
wider, as well. That makes for a stronger exterior presence and a more
comfortable interior. The optional rear spoiler boosts RAV4’s style factor
in a huge way, as do the fender flares, fog lights and smoked headlamp
trim found on the Sport and Limited models.
Base RAV4s wrap P215/70 R16 tires around 16-inch steel wheels; you can
also upgrade to P225/65 R17 tires. The V6 model has 17-inch rims. The
Sport trim level adds P235/55 R18 tires with 18-inch aluminum alloy
wheels. All have a color-keyed spare tire cover that is mounted in the
rear. The Limited edition comes with enhanced and more sophisticated
The rear door (which sports a storage bin) opens to the right, providing
plenty of room to access your cargo - vital during those Costco shopping
The cloth seats (which can be upgraded to leather) feel like they’re made
for you alone, complimenting the overall relaxed feel of the cabin. It’s
comfortable inside, with a wide windshield that provides plenty of
visibility. Same thing with the
rear windshield - it’s big and practical, and has a defroster and
The optional third-row seating is definitely not for bigger passengers -
though little kids will find it comfortable - and even Toyota doesn’t
recommend it for long trips. Like a spare tire, says Toyota, it is there
if you need it, and can be removed if you don’t.
Design meets purpose in the way the roof and windows are shaped - even on
the sunniest of days, glare is kept to a minimum, and the sun visors
actually do their job (unlike so many other similar vehicles).
More pleasant surprises come once you climb inside. Thirsty? The interior
features 10 - yes, ten - cupholders. Need power? There’s three outlets
inside. How about room for 7 passengers? Upgrade to include a third-row of
seating and there you have it. Have lots of stuff to haul? Drop down that
third-row seating (which can also lay flush on the cargo floor) and you’ve
got a whopping 26.4 cubic feet of cargo room. Without the third row
option, you’ll find under-floor storage in the rear and a second row of
seating that not only lies flat (and folds 60/40), but also moves back and
forth and can recline. The comfortable seats come in dark charcoal on the
Limited and Sport models (Limited buyers can opt for leather seating.)
You’ll also find sophisticated touches like metallic-accented controls,
steering wheel spokes and door trim. Optitron gauges and controls which
are large, and have easy-to-read numbers. Convenience is abundant in the
2006 models, with cruise control, air conditioning, digital clock, outside
temperature gauge, remote keyless entry and power doors and windows. The
second row has a fold-down armrest with two cupholders, and the front
seats have storage compartments built in the back. More storage can be
found all over the car, from the dual glove compartments (one on top of
the other) to the all-plastic sunken storage areas that sit behind the
rear wheels in the cargo area. These are ideal for milk or water jugs that
can spill. But even if they do spill in the cargo area, fear not; the
water-repellant foldable deck board will keep it from raining down on
stuff stored below.
The RAV4’s sound system is decently equipped with a typical AM/FM/CD/MP3 jack and six speakers. The Limited adds an in-dash JBL 6-disc CD changer with nine speakers (including subwoofer), and also has a vehicle immobilizer and leather-wrapped steering wheel. Options include a sunroof (Sport and Limited editions only) and heated front seats, rear DVD entertainment system and navigation system (all available in the Limited only.)
Though there’s some wind rush from the base of the windshield, the RAV4 has reduced its coefficient drag from .35 in 2005 to .33 in 2006. Translation? This helps minimize the overall wind noise and enhances fuel economy (which is rated at 24 MPG in the city and 29 MPG on the highway for the I-4 and 20/28 MPG for the V6.)
The V6 models can be upgraded with a tow package, which can haul 3,500 lbs.
It would be nice to have a manual transmission option, and the top glove
compartment lid feels a little cheap, but aside from those minor
are few things wrong about the 2006 RAV4. In a world that demands we burn
the candle at both ends, the RAV4 is a great vehicle that puts together
the best features from the best cars - and adds in pleasant little
surprises along the way -- along with Toyota quality. Definitely go for
the V6, the four-wheel-drive and the Sport editions.
Consumer Guide rates the 2006 RAV4 as “one to watch.” We rate it as “one
PROSFun, responsive vehicle, with surprisingly plush interior that won't break
the bank. Lots of storage nooks and crannies. Additional length perfect
for hauling stuff and people comfortably. Second row seats recline. We
love that the Toyota Star Safety
System comes standard. 4-cylinder engine is very fuel efficient.
CONSThe 4-cylinder has sluggish acceleration, and passing can be difficult.
Optional third-row seat use eliminates most of the cargo space, and only
very small people can sit there. A little too much wind noise on the
highway, (but nothing the sound system can't drown out.)
- Style: 7
- Performance: 5 (I-4); 7 (V6)
- Price: 6
- Handling: 7
- Ride: 8
- Comfort: 8
- Quality: 7
- Overall: 7
Where Built: Japan
Major Options: Tow Prep Package. Front and 2nd-row curtain side airbags, Daytime running lights, Power sunroof, Leather upholstery, Heated front seats, Rear-seat DVD entertainment system, Roof rack, Alloy wheels. Postproduction options are also available.
Number of Rows: 3
Length in Inches: 181.7
Warranties: 3 years/36,000 miles Bumper to bumper, 5 years/60,000 miles Extended powertrain, 5 years/unlimited miles Corrosion protection, 3 years / 36,000 miles Free roadside assistance.
Weight in Pounds: 3444 lbs.
Cargo Capacity in Pounds: 901 lbs. - 1144 lbs.
Gross Maximum Vehicle Weight in Pounds: Not available.
Towing Capacity in Pounds: 1500 lbs - 3500 lbs.
Gas Tank Capacity in Gallons: 15.9
Destination Charge: $605