2016 Toyota RAV4 XLE AWD review: Can’t buy a thrill

2016 Toyota RAV4 XLE AWD

2016 Toyota RAV4 XLE AWD

Here’s the deal. There’s one thing you can’t get in a 2016 Toyota RAV4: excitement. That seems a common thread in our RAV4 reviews, including the 2015 RAV4 Limited, the 2014 RAV4 XLE, and the 2013 RAV4 Limited of the current generation.

That, really, is how it has been for the past 18 years. The first RAV4 was small with a four door/five-passenger and a two-door/four passenger version. The latter had—get this—a folding rear soft-top.

2016 Toyota RAV4 XLE interior

The 2016 Toyota RAV4 XLE interior is well constructed and laid out for use, but has changed little from last year. (click to enlarge)

Certainly things have changed. The Toyota RAV4 has grown in size, power and sophistication, with up until 2012 an optional V-6 and three-row seating. The six cylinders and seating for seven went away with the introduction of the fourth generation for the 2013 model year.

Three years later, it’s time for a mid-cycle updating. Toyota added a sportified RAV4 SE model, and for going green, a hybrid RAV4 for the first time (although a full battery-electric RAV4 was built from 2012 to 2014). But exciting? Not.

2016 Toyota RAV4 XLE engine

The engine of the 2016 Toyota RAV4 XLE makes only 176 horsepower. Acceleration is less than blazing. (click to enlarge)

Which doesn’t mean it’s not a worthy consideration among its segment of the crossover market, with which it shares the top three slots with the Honda CR-V and Ford Escape.

The lineup for 2016 starts with the styled steel wheel-equipped base RAV4 LE, at $24,350 with front-wheel drive. The XLE trim level is a mid-level market for the RAV-4 with a $26,270, and the RAV4 Limited, at $31,510. And then there’s the SE, which splits the difference pricewise between the XLE and the Limited. But the SE label means sportier equipment, including “sport-tuned” suspension, paddle shifters, special paint treatment and such, at a $30,665 msrp. All-wheel drive is available on all trim levels. Just tack on $1,400 for all-wheel drive. Then for all trim levels and equipment for the RAV4, add $885 for delivery.

2016 Toyota RAV4 XLE cargo area

The 2016 Toyota RAV4 XLE cargo area is spacious and has an almost flat floor with the rear seatback folded. (click to enlarge)

Our test 2016 Toyota RAV4 XLE AWD came with a base price of $27,670, with standard features including 17-inch alloy wheels, a height-adjustable power liftgate, a power moonroof, rear spoiler, power heated outside mirrors and foglights, along with dual-zone climate control, Entune Audio Plus with a 6.1-inch touchscreen, navigation and satellite radio. Our tester also came with a technology package that duplicated much of what’s already in the XLE trim level, but it still adds a larger seven-inch touch screen, which includes a split-screen display for audio and navigation, and much more. See the window sticker in the specifications for a full listing.

Actually, the RAV4 LE comes moderately well-equipped for a base trim level, but it takes moving up to the XLE to get Scout GPS Link as a navigation app for Android phones (sorry, iPhone users). Satellite radio is standard on XLE, SE and Limited.

2016 Toyota RAV4 XLE AWD

2016 Toyota RAV4 XLE AWD (click to enlarge)

The 2016 RAV4 introduces Toyota Safety Sense (TSS). Foundationed on automated pre-collision braking it’s standard on 2016 RAV4 Limited and an option on XLE and SE grades. TSS combines Pre-Collision System (with Forward Collision Warning and automatic emergency brake), Lane Departure Alert, automatic high beams, Pedestrian Pre-Collision System and Dynamic Radar Cruise Control in a single package. Also available is Bird’s Eye View Camera with Perimeter Scan.

All that’s covered by a facelift of the mid-cycle refresh. In the case of the 2016 RAV4, the front end has been honed and given a sharper edge, the headlights—even without the optional LED combo of headlights, daytime running lights and Hi-Lo Headlights, are narrower and sharper. It’s not enough to change the look, but enough to change the look. In other words, it still is clearly identifiable as a RAV4, but it would take a RAV4 owner to notice the differences unbidden.