2021 Toyota RAV4 XLE impressions

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Dec 23, 2020
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We're currently on vacation in the southwest US. We rented this RAV4 for over a week and have been driving it every day. I will be comparing it to our 2018 CR-V.

Exterior:
The styling is okay. Our rental was this cool Lunar Rock color. We thought it was beautiful and different, but then we started seeing this exact model/color EVERYWHERE. The icing on the cake was when we got to my mother's house in CA, the neighbors across the street owened this exact model/year/color! We've probably seen close to 10 that would be this car's twin in the past 5 days. I do like the thought that went into the plastic mouldings on the doors to protect the paint from scratches when opening them. And the rear hatch has full-on handles for closing compared to our CR-V's shallow handles that you can't get a good grip on. Oh, the side mirrors on the RAV4 suck. They vibrate terribly while driving! Major annoyance. On the plus side, the hood is solid and steady at speeds unlike our CR-V, which vibrates at high speeds and in high winds.

Interior:
We love the storage cubbies in the front dash, especially on the passenger side. Wallets and phones can be thrown in there and the front lip keeps them in. The seats are noticeably more comfortable than our CR-V's, which is a huge deal for my wife with back issues. Overall it is roomier than the CR-V, even the rear storage area.

Driver Features:
We hate the auto engine stop. But yesterday we decided to embrace it and leave it on for the day. We kinda started to get used to it. I can't help but wonder if related components will wear out much faster on these vehicles over time. When it starts up after you let up on the brake, it's not as smooth and seamless as I'd like. It's kind of abrupt and scared the tar out of us the first few times it happened. Oh, you can't permanently turn it off. Each time you start the vehicle you must manually turn it off. We figured out how to game it by just not holding the brake pedal in as much. The cruise control is comparable to the CR-V (follow distance, responsiveness, etc). The LCD display juts out of the dash while CR-V's is integrated in nicely. Everything else is pretty comparable.
edit: Except for the oil life monitor. No OLM on the RAV4! In fact, if you google RAV4 OLM, the results basically say "pull out the dipstick and check the level and condition of the oil."

Engine/Transmission:
2.5l naturally aspirated vs. the CR-V's 1.5l turbo. Honestly, the CR-V feels more responsive, especially off of the line. But a lot of that perception is tied to the transmission. The 8 speed auto in the RAV4 is laggy, with downshifts slow enough that the driver and passengers are pulled forward just before acceleration begins. The CVT in the CR-V may not be as exciting, but the response is instant. The RAV4 engine is noisy, especially when first started (not sure why it's such a racket until it warms up) and sounds unrefined compared to the CR-V. Some people might prefer the growl but for an SUV it comes off as unrefined IMO. BTW, I did check the oil level (0W-16 is spec'd) and it was about 1/4 qt above the full mark. Oil looked clean as if it had been changed in the last 500 miles. One area the RAV4 excels at is highway fuel economy. On a level drive at 75 MPH it has no problem maintaining 40+ MPG. We had the cruise control set to 85 at one point (traffic was moving at 85-90) and it was still maintaining 35 MPG. At 80 MPH in 8th gear it runs 2000 rpm; 7th gear is 2500 rpm; 6th gear is 3000 rpm; 5th gear is 3500 rpm. I found at 4000 foot altitude, the thin air made the RAV4 stay in higher gears most of the time. It just couldn't maintain speed in 8th even on a level drive. The CR-V does not do as well with highway MPG, topping out in the mid-to-high 30's. However, it does much better in city driving. Typically it averages 27ish MPG while this RAV4 is closer to 23-24 MPG. Combined MPG, I'd guess if you drove enough highway miles (50/50 or more), the RAV4 would win, but the CR-V would win if more city miles were driven. For acceleration, it feels like the CR-V would win easily 0-60, they'd probably be pretty even in the quarter mile. I could be wrong, but that's how it feels to my ass.

That's all I've got time for right now. Off for some hiking adventures in Arizona!

edit: I do like the manual shift mode on the RAV4! It's not something I'd use very often, but it was fun the couple of times I drove with it. It's nice to see exactly which gear you're in and get a feel for that gear and it's RPM characteristics.

The Owners Manual:
Toyota knows how to write an owner's manual! It is thick and detailed and puts Honda's to shame.
 
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Joined
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Thanks for the review. I bet if you adjusted the hood pads on either side of the hood on your CRV the hood flutter would disappear. (They screw in and out so as to make firm contact with the inside/front of the hood.)
 
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You have covered one of the pet peeves I have with my wife's CR-V, the seats, which are VERY uncomfortable. Regarding the other 3 pet peeves that I have with the CR-V, how does the new RAV4 compare when it comes to the ride, interior noise (primarily road and wind noise), and very high on-center straight line steering sensitivity? IMO, I have found that all 4 of these contribute to very tiring long distance travel in the CR-V.
 
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Your statement about the transmission being issue with the off the line power is not quite the reason.

A CRV has full torque at 2000 RPM while you have to "wind up" to nearly double the RPM at 4100 RPM for full torque on RAV4. There is a reason automakers use small turbo engines, superior and flat torque curves starting at lower RPMs. Torque matters starting a vehicle.

Our Tiguan feels very snappy off the line because of peak 221 ft-lbs at 1600 RPM. Once moving though the HP is weak for weight in our VW.
 

himemsys

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Dec 23, 2020
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Your statement about the transmission being issue with the off the line power is not quite the reason.

A CRV has full torque at 2000 RPM while you have to "wind up" to nearly double the RPM at 4100 RPM for full torque on RAV4. There is a reason automakers use small turbo engines, superior and flat torque curves starting at lower RPMs. Torque matters starting a vehicle.

Our Tiguan feels very snappy off the line because of peak 221 ft-lbs at 1600 RPM. Once moving though the HP is weak for weight in our VW.
Good point about the torque bands on the two vehicles. My comment on the tranny was related to the delayed shifts that cause passengers to lean forward for a good half second, compared to the CR-Vs near smooth shifting CVT. That makes the CR-V feel faster and more responsive during sudden acceleration.

You have covered one of the pet peeves I have with my wife's CR-V, the seats, which are VERY uncomfortable. Regarding the other 3 pet peeves that I have with the CR-V, how does the new RAV4 compare when it comes to the ride, interior noise (primarily road and wind noise), and very high on-center straight line steering sensitivity? IMO, I have found that all 4 of these contribute to very tiring long distance travel in the CR-V.
I think road noise is better in the RAV4, but engine noise is much quieter in the CR-V. The ride is pretty comparable, I didn't feel a noticeable difference, but the RAV4 does have a firmer on-center straight line in its steering.

One thing we learned near the end of our time with the RAV4 is the Sport Mode not only disables the engine auto-stop feature, but it seems to lock out 8th gear as well as firm up the shifts more noticeably than I expected. So you probably don't want to keep it in Sport on long highway drives, as you'll lose the fuel economy benefit of cruising in 8th gear.

I snapped some photos of the vehicle, I'll try to find some time to upload them.
 
Joined
Sep 20, 2018
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California
The RAV4 Hybrid would take care of your engine / drivetrain concerns. The electric motors add quite a bit of torque where the gas engine lacks. The CVT really works well.
And the fuel economy is really good. Not hard to get 45 mpg.
Our 2019 uses half the fuel of the 2009 V6 Venza it replaced.
I am very happy with the eCVT, and very happy all around with my Lexus UX 250h.

It has the hybridized 2.0L version of the RAV4 and AWD.

The small electric motor helps create an all around feeling of perfect balance and a "magic carpet ride experience," @ 40mpg.

Thanks for the reports, (OP too) as I have/will very much be considering 2022+ HRV, as, additionally, cargo area is crucial for myself at work.
 

himemsys

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Dec 23, 2020
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Here’s some photos. Pro tip: everyone thinks this is a great color. I’ve seen so many RAV4s in this color! If you’re bothered by that, pick a different color. 😊
 

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Every single person who drives the 2.5L four complains about NHV. My 5.7L V-8 and 3.6L V-6's are both very smooth and refined. It's hard to believe Toyota put so much time/effort into what is now one of their mainstream engines and the end result is constant complaints about NHV.
 
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