Isn’t that ugly? I will try to avoid ranting too much about things like color. I tried to make a video of the interior. To its credit, it is very dark inside. I love that. It makes it difficult to get a decent video from my phone camera. I should buy a real camera.
I should have waited for a 2023 model. It has more features and is a little cheaper. It is not a good time to buy a car, and conditions were made worse by my cute little 2005 Hyundai finally having issues. Including the clutch going out last summer, I have spent less than $1000 in repairs over 17 years. If my new car were built in Japan, I would feel confident it could last longer than that with proper maintenance. I keep cars forever, so I look at things differently than someone who gets a new car every 3-4 years. If you keep your car for a short time, a Ford or Nissan isn’t a terrible decision - provided that you don’t care about supporting poorly made cars. If you want to keep it for a long time buying a Ford, GM, Chrysler, Nissan, Mitsubishi, Kia, most Hyundai’s and every European car is a bad idea. Most models at least. Not that every Toyota or Honda is a good buy either.
I think the 2023 Toyota Highlander is a wait-and-see car. They removed the V6 and replaced it with a 4-cylinder with a turbo. The engine isn’t a small one - smaller than the RAV4 though - but turbos are problematic and put stress on the engine. I am not an expert on cars, but that feels wrong. This is the sort of thing that Chevy, Ford, Hyundai and others do and is a huge reason why they are unreliable junk.
If the RAV4 had a turbo, I would have walked away from it.
Since I like to rant, let me get it out of my system before being more objective. I promise to add positives as well into the mix of rants.
Before I begin, the list price for the SE trim is $32,230, and good luck getting it for much under MSRP right now. Never ever pay over MSRP. That is scumbag behavior on the part of the dealership and shouldn’t be rewarded. SE is supposed to mean Sport Edition, which is pretty funny for a car like this. It has the same powertrain as all the other RAV4 hybrids with the alleged difference in suspension.
The SE trim is in the middle of the hybrid trims. The SE is a hybrid-only trim. From cheapest to most expensive, the hybrid trims go LE, XLE, SE, XLE Premium(I should have gotten this), XSE, and Limited.
It came with the weather, convenience, and “audio plus” packages. It also came with rubber mats, along with carpet mats. The price before taxes and all that is $37,004. That was pretty close to my limit. In hindsight, maybe spending a little more on the XLE Premium trim would have given me more bang for my buck. It would have really stressed me out and is a far more popular trim line. So it would have taken longer to get one. A few things I will rant about are not issues in the XLE Premium.
Rants and Raves, but Mostly Rants
Right off the bat, I was, and still am annoyed that this car was built in Kentucky. It shouldn’t make a difference, but it does.
There is a huge difference between the Kentucky factory and the Japanese factories. Toyota claims that there are only minor “fit and finish” differences, but that is not true. Many parts in the Japanese-built RAV4 will not fit my car, so it is not the same car. Even if it were only fit and finish, that is a big deal. If it rusts early, or things start coming loose and begin to rattle, these are not minor things. The Kentucky plant is known for hiring temp workers who are not well-trained.
That would not fly in Japan, and it is shocking that Toyota lets Toyota USA get away with it.
My Braun electric razor had a similar thing happen. It was a great German shaver until an American company bought it. Now the replacement blades are terrible. I replaced it with a safety shaver setup with a shaver made in Canada. The razor blades come from Germany, the pre-shave and cream are made in England, and the aftershave comes from Italy. Not sure where the badger hair brush is from. It makes a world of difference. American companies always ruin a good thing.
The worst part is that this car is effectively a knock-off. They charge the same as a well-built RAV4. Granted, it is still better than anything Ford, Nissan, Mitsubishi, Chrysler, and GM offers, but that is a low bar.
The Kentucky-built “Toyota” generally has more problems, more recalls, and lower resell values than a real Toyota. In my opinion, it comes down to the educational differences between Japan and Kentucky and the diligence and discipline that good education instills. The Toyota factory near Toronto doesn’t have the same bad reputation as the Kentucky plant, which is not surprising. The Hyundai plant in Alabama has a worse reputation and track record than the Toyota Kentucky plant. Plus, American-run businesses love to cut corners.
I have no confidence that it will last 17 years like my Elantra, even if I keep up on the maintenance, something I failed to do with the Elantra. I am determined to keep up with it, so we will see. I want this to be my last car. I fear I will have to buy another because I didn’t wait for a Japanese-built RAV4.
Perhaps I should take advantage of the insane used market to make a profit and try again.
At least the amazing, yet simple E-CVT transmission was built in Japan. That makes me feel marginally better. I could rant forever about this.
Automatic transmissions are just awful. This, along with other features and misfeatures, ensures that a person can’t drive the car. It drives you.
Surprisingly, it came with decent tires: Michelin Primacy. I was expecting very low-quality tires that would need to be immediately replaced, especially since it is winter.
It comes with a full-sized spare, which is rare these days. Heck, it is rare to get a spare tire at all.
Because of the spare, there is not a lot of space to store my window scraper, portable starter, first aid kit, and other things that are good to have in your car in case of an emergency.
It does have a 10-year trial with something called safety connect. On the ceiling, by the lights, there is an emergency button to call for help if you need it. That is nice.
There is a shortage of parts to make the key, so I only have one, and it is like $700 to replace it if needed. At some point, I am supposed to get the second key. It took a little while to get used to keyless entry. I don’t even have to touch my keys. Grabbing the handle unlocks it, and I set it up so that when it is dark, the interior lights will turn on when I get close to it with the keys in my pocket. It works most of the time.
Ignoring the awful color. The paint looks cheap like it won’t last. My Elantra had a moonlit blue paint that looked black in the sunlight and was a deep, gorgeous blue in the dark. It also stood up amazingly well over 17 years. Something I am worried about with the RAV4. Hope I am wrong.
Unlike some hybrids - like the Hyundai Santa Fe - this does not have a traditional starter or generator and has no alternator. That means that there are fewer parts to break. I haven’t noticed any belts under the hood, so that is another worry gone. Supposedly, it has a timing chain, not a belt, another plus.
It also means they can get away with a smaller battery in the engine compartment. It is charged via a DC-to-DC converter from the large battery under the back seat. It is essentially used to turn on the computer to do self-checks before the big battery is brought online. One effect of that is that hybrids that are built like that cannot jump-start non-hybrids. Gas-powered cars can jump a hybrid car. I carry a portable car starter that can start my car and even large trucks. The charger also has USB charging ports, which is nice.
It has regenerative braking, Which is used to slow the car down and charge the battery, and also traditional brakes. That makes it possible to go a long time without brake service. The thing is that my 17-year-old Elantra with a manual transmission never needed brake pads. A manual transmission gives you some advantages of a hybrid at a fraction of the cost and complexity. A hybrid with a manual transmission would rock!
Speaking of USB ports, it has 5. It has a USB 3 port for data. You have to plug your phone in to use the maps feature. Bluetooth doesn’t work for mapping programs. But it does for calls, texts, and music over Bluetooth. I keep a USB drive in it with tons of music. I tried to set it up with multiple folders to work like CDs. I am weird, but sometimes like songs in a specific order.
It also has 4 USB-C ports for charging, which is annoying because it is different from the data port.
Even with random play turned off, it still plays songs randomly and not in the order I set. The USB playback is not great. It will randomly decide to not let you browse folders.
The “infotainment” system looks and acts like it was developed 10 years ago. The 2023 model has finally been updated.
The stereo does not sound great. The sound is worse than my Elantra’s Blaupunkt Laguna with the speakers that came with the car, which are not a high-end stereo and unsurprisingly, neither are the stock speakers.
The SE has no upgraded audio options. Why?
The interior looks and feels cheap. Toyota is the Yugo of interiors. Mostly hard plastic and little storage space. This video shows the SE, along with others. The SE has a black interior with blue stitching. The cloth fabric looks nice as you can see in the video. It doesn’t feel like it is built to last though.
There is a shelf above the glove compartment, but it is worthless. Everything slides around on it, and it is not very deep. There is a small storage space between the front seats but only one compartment. The storage space in the doors is tiny. It is not really designed to hold things. For a moderately-sized SUV - some claim it is a crossover but whatever - it lacks space.
Leg and headroom seem very good, at least.
It has a comfortable power seat - but only the driver’s seat. It can go up and down and back and forth. It gives you a lot of space. I can set it to where I can barely see over the steering wheel and barely touch the pedals. It has comfortable lumbar support settings, and the front part of the seat can independently move up and down. My damaged knees really appreciate that feature.
The gas tank is supposed to be 14.5 gallons, but with about 25 miles to empty, the warning light comes on, and I can put in about 11.5 gallons. I need to bring it in. Either they put the wrong tank on it, or the computer is messed up. Not a huge deal, but it is very annoying. I hate going into the dealership, but now I have to.
It has a standard rearview mirror that you flip to deflect headlights. It doesn’t have an automatic dimmer. It is the same mirror that has been in cars for decades. There isn’t a button you can pair with your garage door opener, and the thick sun shade makes it hard to fit on the garage door opener. The side mirrors do not have automatic dimming, which absolutely sucks. Every other make and model in this price range has it. The lack of these features adds to the feeling of cheapness.
Toyota lies about the required oil change frequency. They claim 10k miles, which is malpractice. Always change your oil at 5k or 6 months, whichever comes first. Unless you don’t mind paying thousands for a new short block by 150k miles.
Since I do not trust the build quality, I changed the oil at 1000 miles to start it off right and will do it every 6 months because I don’t drive a lot.
One of the few good YouTube channels says to do it, so I did. He knows Toyota inside and out. He changed the oil three times on a Kentucky-built Camry within the first 5000 miles. He also claims there is no difference between Japanese and American made Toyota’s but showed a ton of bad differences in the Camry video. No one is perfect. He owns his own shop. That makes it easier and cheaper for him to change his own oil. I need to get the equipment to do it myself.
Toyota care, or whatever it is called, helps a bit. They have free maintenance for 2 years or 24k miles. They will only change your oil for free every 10k miles. I used one of the oil changes for the 1000-mile change since I will never get to 20k miles in 2 years. Every 5k miles, they do other checks and rotate your tires, so it is not totally worthless. If you buy a Toyota and the first oil change is at the 10k mile service, your engine will already be damaged. Don’t do that - to any car.
There is no front camera, and the back camera only works in reverse. Why can’t there be a button to turn it on? Why would I need either? Well, I am still getting used to the larger car and always have to get back in to move it a bit forward or backward in parking spots. Yeah, that is facepalm worthy.
Underneath the car, almost everything is well-covered and protected from the elements. That is a good thing.
Of course, the catalytic converter can’t be covered, but they route it close to the non-driver side. I guess to make it easier for thieves to access it.
There is no remote start - but you can pay $80 a year and do it on your phone - but the engine doesn’t need to warm up, and it has an electric heater, so it has little value. The phone app will give you the location of the last place your car is parked. It will notify you if the windows are rolled down, or if the doors are unlocked. It will alert you to any factory recalls, and tell you the pressure of your tires, the mileage, and any upcoming maintenance. It’s nice but isn’t worth $80. Why put a button on your key when you can charge $80? At least they aren’t threatening to charge a monthly fee for heated seats like BMW. At least not yet…
It is very cheap to insure. It is $51 for full coverage - minus the optional medical payments - with $500 deductibles, including a mechanical breakdown policy. There is a discount because my daughter’s Mazda is on the policy, and I have never gotten a speeding ticket or been the cause of an accident.
The car sounds like a ghost when the gas engine is not running and going in reverse or driving slowly. It is required to make a sound, for some reason, but the sound choice is annoying and eerie. The grandkids love it.
Okay, I feel better now. Let’s get on with it.
First and foremost, I was looking for an SUV. The Elantra is too small for taking the grandkids fishing and whatnot, even if it were not slowly dying and needing far too much work where the cost could not be justified. The most important attribute is the gas mileage. I wanted something close to my Elantra, or better: 35-40 MPG. Just as important is reliability. I own cars for a long time, so obviously, this is important. Safety features are also important, so as many as possible.
The gas efficiency requirements narrowed it down to hybrid since full electric cars are too expensive. Plug-in hybrids are also too expensive. Toyota has been in the hybrid game for a long time which immediately put them at the top of the list.
The only other real possibilities were Honda, Subaru, and Mazda, with Hyundai being an outside option. I looked at others to feel more confident. Even makes that I would never buy like Ford, VW, Kia, Chrysler, or Nissan - the Chrysler of Japan. None are worth talking about in any detail. I was expecting little from them, and they barely met that expectation.
Hyundai was interesting because their hybrid SUV has an honest-to-goodness normal transmission. It was also cheaper and offers more features. If I were likely to get one made in Korea, I would have considered it more seriously. The cars they make in Alabama have an atrociously poor record. I think the reason I had good luck with the Elantra is that it was Korean-built.
My sister has a non-hybrid Honda CRV - a gutless wonder. That would have been okay, except it gets worse gas mileage than the RAV4, so what is the point? Plus, it has a CVT transmission which the RAV4 doesn’t have. At least Honda doesn’t use the Jatco(Nissan) CVT transmissions like Nissan and a bunch of awful American-made cars. That transmission just might possibly be the worst ever.
Subaru makes good cars, especially if you live in a snowy area like me. They have one hybrid SUV that I could find, a plug-in. That would be so awesome. It was a little too expensive(cheaper than the RAV4 plug-in, but the RAV4 is bigger), and they only seem to have one model that uses a hybrid system. That doesn’t fill me with the hope that it is well done or reliable.
I couldn’t find anything that fit the bill from Mazda, at least not yet. If I could have waited another year or so, it would have been worth a closer look. Still, they are new to hybrids and while Mazda is a very good brand, buying the first year of any model is risky.
The RAV4 fit my criteria the best, and it wasn’t close. That is super sad and an indictment of the state of the auto industry.
This has a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder dynamic force A25A Atkinson cycle engine with direct injection. It has mitigations to remove the downsides of direct injection. Supposedly that mitigation is that it also has port injection that washes the areas where direct injection can cause carbon buildup. I would think a quality cleaner every 10k miles might be in order.
It can produce 203 HP. The EV system outputs 118 HP.
The lithium-ion battery has 259 volts.
It has 3 electric motors: motor-generator 1 & 2(MG1, MG2), and MGR for the rear wheels when in all-wheel drive.
The all-wheel drive is annoying. You cannot explicitly turn it on, but there is an off button. It activates when it feels like it. If you shut it off, sometimes it ignores you and activates itself again. Besides, MGR is kind of weak. It would have probably been better to connect the rear wheels with the transmission.
As I said, this car drives you, and it is a constant theme. This car is not designed for people who like to drive cars.
This transmission is an amazing machine that seems like witchcraft to me. It is an electronically controlled continuously variable transmission(E-CVT). It doesn’t really have any gears like a normal transmission, so you won’t get any of the herky-jerky feelings when a normal transmission shifts. It has the standard park, reverse, drive, and neutral positions. Happily, it is not just a collection of buttons, but an actual stick. There is also “S-mode” where you can up or downshift, sort of. There are no gears, but it simulates it. The only thing I have figured out that it is a good use for is going down steep hills. It is not a manual transmission and shouldn’t be used all the time.
Don’t confuse it with the awful CVT transmissions from Jatco(Nissan) that Nissan and too many other companies use. Those have a metal belt that can slip and break, among other issues. There is no such belt in the E-CVT. Here is the best explanation I have ever seen that covers what is inside the E-CVT, how it works, and how the gas engine and MG1 and MG2 interact with the transmission.
Just going through the video, you get a good idea why it is very reliable, unlike most CVTs.
It does have a button for the parking brake. It automatically engages when you put it in park. Ensure you don’t release the manual brakes until the parking brake engages to reduce wear and tear. The problem with an electronic parking brake is that it also serves as an emergency brake. If you lose your brakes and the power system you have no backup. That is an unlikely scenario but possible, and you are in serious trouble if it happens. There is inexplicably no mechanical hand brake.
As mentioned, it has a backup camera and features cross-traffic alerts which are nice. The 2023 model also has cross-traffic and pedestrian alerts in the front of the car.
It tracks how many miles you have until empty, but as I mentioned in the rants and raves section, it might not be accurate. It also gives you your average MPG since the last time you reset it. There is a trip odometer, but from what I can tell it resets whenever you stop and shut it off, like when you get gas.
I could be wrong. I am still learning how everything works. If that is the case, it is going into the rants sections. Laughably, it will give you an efficiency grade and grade you on your stops and take-offs. That has some value when learning to drive this thing, but it is still funny.
You get alerts asking you if you need to stop and rest by displaying a steaming cup of coffee in the dashboard. When you turn off the car, if it detects weight in the back seat it will remind you to check it in case you left your kids. The phone app does the same.
Drive modes are covered in the driveability section.
Supposedly, it can detect if you fell asleep and will try to pull off the side of the road. I really want to test this without actually sleeping. It would be surreal and anxiety-inducing to wake on the side of the road.
It can help keep people like me between the lines.
The otherwise pointless cruise control - more on this later - has radar, so it will slow down if you approach a slower car in front of you. You can set the distance.
It doesn’t have fog lights, even though it has a place for them and no option to add them. I am not sure if the wiring exists to make it possible to do it yourself. For even a light off-road vehicle this feels like an oversight. The SE is not the base model. I think the XLE Premium is the first trim to offer fog lights and a quality sound system. Why? Neither of those is that much more expensive.
The heater and AC have dual controls, so no fighting between husband and wife over the temperature. The heater in the back can be turned off if it is not needed. Ragnar insists that I turn it on.
The climate control system has an economy mode to save power and gas. The electric heater is just okay, but it is better than nothing. It gets really nice when the engine warms up. The engine warms quickly.
Apparently, there is no need to warm the engine before driving. Supposedly the transmission needs to warm up but takes a minute or so.
It has blind spot alerts, but the 2023 model has more safety alerts.
It has excellent automatic lights, headlights, and high beams. I set it once and never need to think about it. The high beams will even automatically shut off with cross traffic, but won’t if the only other lights are streetlights. Honestly, the normal lights are so bright and cover a large area, so it makes the high beams redundant, and they don’t seem to bother other drivers.
The SE comes with very nice-looking black wheels, which is part of the reason that light blue looks awful. They are 18” wheels. Most of the trim lines are 17”. I am not sure that there is a big advantage, but the SE is lifted higher.
Many reviews claim the cabin is noisy, but I have not noticed. It might be the nice tires it came with, the larger size or my Elantra was quite loud and this is much better. It doesn’t have the sound dampening that Lexus has, but I think it is okay. There are videos on how to lower the noise yourself on YouTube if you don’t mind taking apart the interior.
As already mentioned, it comes with a full-sized spare tire. It is hidden under the back cargo area.
The SE has a “sport-tuned suspension.” What exactly does that mean? No idea. That is all I can get from Toyota, so it is likely just marketing fluff. It is not even remotely sporty and doesn’t really like curves. My Elantra, with its Porsche-designed suspension, along with a manual transmission made that small car as sporty as possible and is more sporty than this clunky thing.
I know using sporty to describe a Toyota is goofy, but it is the term that they use.
It has no built-in map program, but allegedly that is a good thing. I haven’t set up anything beyond playing music and taking phone calls without touching my phone. I need to plug in my phone to use maps. I haven’t set up Android Auto yet since I haven’t needed any of the features that require plugging in. It is also very cold in my garage. Perhaps when it is warmer I will set it up.
The windows are well-tinted, and in the back, there is a retractable privacy cover to hide things of value. I am not sure that the cover isn’t a signal to would-be thieves.
It came with three option packages, one of which was unwanted.
Weather package: This is nice. It comes with rain-sensing wipers, so I never have to touch the wiper controls. When it rains, it runs. It also has a heated steering wheel, which is kind of nice. It is not the entire wheel, which is a drag. It covers from about 2 o’clock to 5 o’clock and 7 o’clock to 10 o’clock. The heater vent on the left side blows on it also, which makes it somewhat redundant but is really nice to start with. A problem is that the button to turn off the heated steering wheel is on the dash, obscured by the steering wheel and right next to the liftgate button. Hopefully, the liftgate won’t open when the car is moving. It has heated seats with the driver’s and front passenger seats. It has a low and high setting. It does take a little while to feel it, but it is very nice. The last feature is a wiper de-icer, which is especially nice if you have to park it outdoors.
Convenience package: This has two items. The first is the reason I wanted it. A power liftgate. My shoulders are messed up, and liftgates sometimes hurt me. It works via a button in the car, on the remote, and on the liftgate itself. Of course, you need your key nearby. It is slow and noisy and hopefully won’t break. It can be set to open to various heights, and the bottom of the liftgate has a close button. The other item is something my grandkids love, and I don’t care either way. It is a moonroof that can open all the way or open a little in the rear to air out the car. I believe the XSE has an optional full panoramic glass roof which would be cool.
Audio Plus: This one sets me off. It lists a bunch of things. It is mostly stuff that comes standard, like the various service trials. The only thing it comes with that isn’t standard is a 9” infotainment screen which costs $1100. The standard screen is 7”. That is hardly worth $200, much less $1100. The 2023 models dropped this absolute scam. Every car that came in had this option, so it really isn’t an option is it?
I also ordered all-weather liners to make it easier to keep the floors clean. I had to wait a month for it to arrive.
There are lots of other features. They can be found here for the 2022 SE if anyone is interested. I think they have switched to the 2023 models, but I am sure there are a few 2022 models available that dealerships have jacked up the price.
Grade: Other cars in this class and price range offer more features, but the Toyota hybrid system and the transmission is solid and the best in the business. I will give it a C overall. A for the powertrain and F for everything else.
The selling point of most hybrids is better gas mileage, so how does it fare so far?
This is not a plug-in hybrid, but I wish it were. They cost quite a bit more. Electricity, where I live, is significantly cheaper than the national average, and not derived from coal-fired plants, which is why it is so cheap. When I stay in town, I would rarely use any gas. That would have been great.
Supposedly the emission system is outstanding and outputs few pollutants.
The first thing to note is that it must be driven differently than a normal car to get close or occasionally exceed the rated mileage. The goal is to run on battery power as much as possible. The longer you can charge the battery while moving, the more the electric motor will be used, at least in theory.
The method is called “pulse and glide”. Slowly accelerate, remove your foot from the gas, and glide. This will charge your battery. Be careful not to get a ticket or tick off everyone else on the road. Drive like a grandpa. No fast acceleration or anything like that. That is not a problem for me since I have been told that I started driving like a grandpa when my first daughter was born.
Cruise control on the highway cannot be used without getting worse mileage than what the non-hybrid RAV4 is rated at. I am not kidding, but I wish I was. Not using cruise control hurts my knees after 30 minutes or so. The cruise control should be tuned to automate the “pulse and glide” nonsense. I don’t think it would have been difficult to do or unsafe since it has a radar cruise already, so you don’t get too close to the car in front of you.
I think the cold weather is negatively impacting mileage since it has a lithium-ion battery. It is getting better now that I have driven it a bit. For the first 500 miles, it was impossible to get it over 37 MPG. In town, I can now get it to 45 MPG sometimes, occasionally over 50. Short trips on the highway are about 38 on a good day. I have yet to average 37 MPG on longer trips, and that is going to my mom’s which has a few big hills but is mostly downhill. On the way back, 31 is difficult to hit. That is flat-out awful. Maybe it will improve with warmer weather. Perhaps this car is only useful for people living where it never gets cold or very hot. I am not sure.
When the gas engine and battery are powering the car at the same time, the mileage often drops under 15 MPG at 35 MPH! That is abysmal and inexcusable, and I wish I knew why that was. The gas-powered RAV4 has the same, or close enough, engine, so that should never happen.
The system seems to be tuned for speeds under 65. Once you get to 70, it is difficult to keep the gas mileage at 30. That makes it fairly useless if you take a lot of long trips.
I think the computer that manages the EV system might be a lot stupid. When the battery is fully charged, the engine will often keep running, charge the battery and power the car. Why? There is no way to tell it to knock it off. If I can get 1 minute of constant EV-only I am doing well. It should have some manual controls for the driver with an override to keep the battery from getting too close to 0.
That would mean that Toyota would have to give permission to the driver to actually drive the car, and we can’t have that, can we?
Grade: I think I am still adjusting to it, which is part of the problem. Driving it like a normal car should produce mileage at or near its rating, but it doesn’t. It earned an F because of that.
Drive Modes: It has five drive modes, all of which are controlled by software, and I see little need for having more than two, although I have not tested them all yet.
It initially seems that EV mode is pointless. What it does is force it into electric-only mode. It only works under 20 MPH if the battery is fully charged or close to it. The only use is that the computer is dumb, and when the conditions are right, you can force the engine to shut off. It should work at any speed. That would cure a lot of the mileage issues.
Normal mode is the only one that really makes sense.
There is little to no difference in performance or mileage between normal mode and eco mode. The car is supposed to favor efficiency over performance in eco mode. The gas engine runs as much, and there is very little difference in gas mileage.
There is sport mode which is supposed to favor performance over mileage, but the performance is pretty poor and uses a lot more gas for no real gain.
The last is trail mode, which is for off-roading. I haven’t taken it off-road yet. Yes, it can go off-road, but if you are inexperienced like me, anything beyond light off-roading is likely not a wise thing to do. It can tackle some difficult terrain though I don’t know how much it prematurely wears down the car.
If you plan on going off-road a lot, make sure you get the mudguards, which of course are not standard.
The bottom line: If you want to do some serious off-roading, look elsewhere.
All-wheel drive: I haven’t tested it much. The car seems to ignore me when I turn off the traction control. It is no better in the snow than my Elantra so far. I should note that I haven’t driven to my daughter’s house yet. I need to cross two very nasty mountain passes to get there. One nearly reaches 5000 ft. But, my Elantra went through passes in the 6000-7000 foot range in the winter with no issues. We will see.
Is it a smooth ride? Yes, mostly. The car shudders a little, at low speeds when the gas engine turns on or off. I don’t know if it is the inferior build or just normal. The transmission has no gears, so you never feel the gears shifting. Honestly, I am still not used to that. It is a little weird.
Is it quiet? Pretty much. Reviews say it is noisy, but I don’t think so. It might be that I got lucky and got good tires. They don’t always ship with the same tires. If silence is important to you, maybe try the Mazda CX5, but the RAV4 is fine in this department.
Is it fun to drive? No! It is partly the fault of the lack of a manual transmission and the E-CVT transmission. I would bet my house that I could get far better mileage if it came with a manual transmission and would be more fun to drive. Part of it is that I am not used to driving something this large. I feel unstable up so high off the road. Despite the “sport-tuned” suspension, it is not great on curves. Even slow, easy curves like a roundabout.
Weird problems encountered so far
I am not sure if it is because I am an idiot that doesn’t understand everything or if it is a true oddity.
One time I got in my car and pressed the brakes, and hit the start button, but the car wouldn’t start. A message popped up to touch the key to the button, and that solved it. No idea what that was about.
The analog speedometer is about 3 MPH off. The analog gas gauge is about 1/8 of a tank off.
Way out in the desert, I stopped at a gas station. The touch locks on the driver’s side did not work. The touch locks on the passenger side did. My scary-looking dog was in the car anyway. By the time I returned, it worked normally. Something to pay attention to. Edit: Yup, the drivers side touch locks broke, and I have to bring it in for a repair. It was a minor problem, nothing needed to be replaced. The problem was that the wiring was installed poorly - shocking - so some wires came loose.
If the rest of this write-up doesn’t make it clear - don’t buy cars made in the USA.
The blind spot monitor sometimes doesn’t always work(bad because it is difficult to turn your head and see clearly -lots of blind spots) - if you can’t trust the safety features there is no point to them.
If these are real issues and not user errors, they are all computer problems. There are too many computers in cars these days, and they certainly make repairs more expensive, despite helping with diagnosis. Repairs often cost thousands more than they should.
My last car cost $13,500(in 2005), so I was expecting a lot more from the RAV4. The most important features are mostly solid - minus the stupid computer - but its build origin makes it suspect. The electronic features are lagging in quality and quantity compared to similar cars in their price range.
I do regret getting this car. If this is the best SUV hybrid in this price range, I would have been far more upset at getting something else. So either way, I lose.
I wish I could afford to buy the Venza. A Lexus in Toyota clothing, and like the best and most important Lexus and Toyota models, these are only built in Japan - that says it all.
I give it a D grade. Knock $10k off the price - $5k for the lack of features and $5k for where it was built, and it would be a solid C. Perhaps I am being a little harsh, but my old 2005 Hyundai Elantra comparing favorably in several areas is concerning, to say the least.
It only has 1000 miles on it so far. Let’s see what changes in the car and my attitude about it at 5000 or 10,000 miles as I learn more about it.