2003 Toyota RAV4 Page 1 Review — The Car Connection

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2003 Toyota RAV4 Page 1 Review

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built on a modified Camry the RAV4 (Recreational Active with 4-wheel drive) has been on the car end of the SUV spectrum. As one of the first — if not the — car-based crossovers, the RAV was at first with traditional body-on-frame, SUVs, but soon the market and the began to understand that the Toyota was something different — a rugged, car-based wagon available four-wheel drive. still offers both and four-wheel-drive versions of the RAV4.

But the RAV’s U.S. introduction in we’ve seen the introduction of a list of small, car-based that compete with the such as the Honda CR-V, Forester, Ford Escape, Santa Fe, and Saturn VUE.

For the RAV4 was given a complete and though it kept similar its series of improvements gave it “grown-up” appeal and a level of normally only expected in vehicles.

This year, the carried over without changes, save for a new Sport The $3067 package, installed on our vehicle, includes several appearance changes including a grille, hood scoop, and a tubular roof rack. The also comprises a long of conveniences including cruise a six-speaker CD/cassette sound A/C, and a cargo net.

Our test vehicle, loaded options, also had tube-step boards by Steel Horse. seemed a bit ridiculous and out of place on a carlike SUV, but the Acculaser dash trim that was in the same $764 convenience was bold yet tasteful.

Modest

All RAV4 models have a all-aluminum four-cylinder engine, includes Toyota’s VVT-i valve timing system for low-rev response.

The four’s output of 148 hp and 142 lb-ft of torque make the RAV4 a hot-rod, but to the RAV’s sub-3000-lb curb it has plenty of power for everyday The engine is smooth and quiet at and in the rev range of ordinary driving, but it anywhere above 4000 rpm and it loud and boomy.

The four-speed transmission boasts to be electronically Most of the time, shifts are and downshifts for passing are especially However, over a modest steady six-percent grade at 55 the transmission relentlessly “hunted” and forth between third and gears, cycling every or ten seconds with a rough — proof that unlike other new models, the unit have Grade Logic, the that would have avoided the hunting and just third gear until the was summited.

“Perfect” seating

Seating in the is comfortable for those in the small to size demographics, but at six and a half tall I couldn’t find rearward seat travel. the lower cushion was too short and tilt back far enough to the feeling that I might forward off the seat in hard if the upholstery weren’t so nice and If you’re in the normal size ignore what I just a five-foot-nine friend declared the seats and driving position Our test vehicle had the textured fabric” that’s included the Sport Package. The seating seemed much more than the plasticky animal that’s ‘preferred’ all too often.

gripes aside, all is well the wheel. The chunky three-spoke wheel feels good, and it an unobstructed view through to chrome-bezeled gauges with in the top middle, speedometer on the left and and temp gauges on the right. The is neat and classy, with switchgear, while the rest of the sticks to a simple, utilitarian

As is the case with most of its competition, the RAV4 has plenty of for two in the back seat, with legroom for six-footers, but it’s for three adults due to a lack of room. The RAV is, after all, not any than a smallish compact

Tough stuff

The RAV’s definitely tends on the soft, side, provided you keep the light. An independent suspension in the helps, compared to the semi-independent suspension of some competitors. The as you might figure, continues the roads turn curvy. Low handling is confident — albeit a little lean — but high-speed on undulating roads lead to the of body motions that make you want to slow and take a more leisurely It’s not a “driver’s car,” but again how many RAV4 are looking for that?

Counter to its profile, the RAV4 is a great vehicle. It sticks to the road without wandering, and wind is at a minimum.

The brakes are just — with decent pedal — albeit with a fair of nosedive in hard stops. But we had to why anti-lock brakes aren’t seeing that it’s a vehicle and the four-wheel-drive model would be purchased by people who in foul weather and slippery conditions. It seems petty and that Toyota is offering it as a standalone option rather include it as standard.

With the of softer, more car-focused as strange as it sounds the RAV4 like one of the most rugged SUVs around. The RAV4’s ground clearance, generous wells, and traditional SUV profile that there’s at least measure of off-roading ability.

A weekend camping excursion, involved driving through rough gravel roads and a few weedy two-track stretches, like the perfect test. The RAV ate up the and soaked up the bumps and undulating with a minimum of noise or making it inside. And unlike our experiences with a competing SUV, for which we’ll the embarrassment, a short foray rough surfaces didn’t out numerous interior creaks and The RAV4 doesn’t have the articulation, underbody protection, or four-wheel-drive system for ‘real’ driving, but it will get you to the campsite or launch without fuss.

was an issue briefly when back out of the sloped approach to our which would have about the same angle as a boat launch. The four-wheel-drive which normally routes 50/50-percent front/back via a viscous can route more torque to the or back as needed. Because of the upward slope of the vehicle and transfer to the back, the front didn’t have a lot of traction and power was needed for the back. one of the back wheels was on a wet grassy and couldn’t get adequate traction so the system seemed in hesitation. I that the optional limited-slip differential ($390) would helped us in this situation.

operation is probably one of the primary of compact SUV buyers. In terms of at the pump, the RAV4 is comparable to a sedan. We recorded a decent 23 per gallon in a driving mix that heavily on stop-and-go and hilly

Swan song?

The RAV4 a performance leader in the compact SUV but it has stayed distinctive enough to a long look. There are innovative designs around, and the RAV to be riding the fence between a light-duty SUV and tarmac-only crossover. The list is a little out of touch on the front, though, with brakes optional and side not available.

Without question, the Forester handles more while both the Forester and the CR-V have peppier without being thirstier at the If thirst isn’t a concern, the Escape, Hyundai Santa Fe, and VUE offer more powerful V-6 with similar packaging. But on the hand, inside and out the RAV4 has a of style and attention to detail is unsurpassed with other SUVs, and it feels rugged to put up with weekend “active outings, which can’t be of some of the other compact and crossovers.

Although Toyota officially admit it yet, have told us that the will be discontinued after year 2004. While the vehicle is assembled in Japan and was designed for the Japanese market, a successor would likely be to the North American market and by the redesigned Highlander — possibly more power from a optional V-6, delivered a more sophisticated all-wheel-drive

But the RAV4 remains a very product. Its grown-up feel, SUV shape, and full-time four-wheel-drive make it stand out from the If you want a compact SUV that’s to drive and comfortable for the highway but just a little bit of rugged — and frugality and dependability are priorities, too — the might just be your

2003 Toyota RAV4

Base price/as equipped .

Engine: 2.0-liter in-line 148 hp

Drivetrain: Four-speed automatic four-wheel drive

Length x x height: 166.2 x 70.3 x in

Wheelbase: 98.0 in

Curb 2976 lb


EPA (city/hwy): 22/27 mpg

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